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Science

Game Theory Calls Cooperation Into Question 249

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Quanta Magazine: The physicist Freeman Dyson and the computer scientist William Press, both highly accomplished in their fields, have found a new solution to a famous, decades-old game theory scenario called the prisoner's dilemma, in which players must decide whether to cheat or cooperate with a partner. The prisoner's dilemma has long been used to help explain how cooperation might endure in nature. After all, natural selection is ruled by the survival of the fittest, so one might expect that selfish strategies benefiting the individual would be most likely to persist. But careful study of the prisoner's dilemma revealed that organisms could act entirely in their own self-interest and still create a cooperative community.

Press and Dyson's new solution to the problem, however, threw that rosy perspective into question (abstract). It suggested the best strategies were selfish ones that led to extortion, not cooperation.

[Theoretical biologist Joshua] Plotkin found the duo's math remarkable in its elegance. But the outcome troubled him. Nature includes numerous examples of cooperative behavior. For example, vampire bats donate some of their blood meal to community members that fail to find prey. Some species of birds and social insects routinely help raise another's brood. Even bacteria can cooperate, sticking to each other so that some may survive poison. If extortion reigns, what drives these and other acts of selflessness?"
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Game Theory Calls Cooperation Into Question

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  • Theory vs Empericism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wonko the Sane ( 25252 ) * on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @03:20AM (#49072001) Journal
    Why isn't this headline, "Game Theory Called Into Question for Failing to Predict Observed Examples of Cooperation?"
    • by reve_etrange ( 2377702 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @03:28AM (#49072029)

      Why isn't this headline, "Game Theory Called Into Question for Failing to Predict Observed Examples of Cooperation?"

      Unfortunately this test is all too often ignored.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In other news, some people believe economic theory.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @05:30AM (#49072315)

          It has been proven over and over that the only people who always behave according to game theory are economists and sociopaths.

          Naturally we have a whole economic system based on this. People wonder why nobody's happy with it, and yet we have a population that is dumb enough to quite literally go to war for it.

          • Well please find an economic system that deals with the issue of sacristy, and insures its contributers exceed its detractors. At the same time insuring personal liberity.
            We go to war over economic systems because the other will affect the haves vs the have nots, or drasticly change the liberties you are accustomed to.

            • by tburkhol ( 121842 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @07:52AM (#49072645)

              Well please find an economic system that deals with the issue of sacristy, and insures its contributers exceed its detractors. At the same time insuring personal liberity.

              The Kula Ring [wikipedia.org] in the Trobriand Islands, where the residents of different islands developed a tradition of exchange of 'gifts,' distinct from barter-like trade. There are a number of other 'gift economies' among isolated, pre-industrial cultures. Participation is managed by social expectation and taboo, so one can argue that these systems will necessarily break down once you have enough sociopaths. One can also argue that such communities are better at recognizing and isolating sociopaths so they can't propagate their genes/behavior.

              Nor is 'free market' an especially good way to deal with scarcity. If it were, then you wouldn't need social support programs. Or maybe you're going to tell me that anyone receiving social security of SNAP is not truly participating in the economy...

              I don't even know where you're going with 'personal liberty.' The economic system has so little to do with what you're allowed to say, which god you're allowed to worship, or how you spend your free time as to be completely orthogonal.

              • by Sun ( 104778 )

                What game theory has to say about that is to point out that these systems only work so long as the number of participants is small enough. Once the number of participants gets too large, it is impossible to effectively punish the leachers, and the entire system falls apart.

                I guess we need to add to GP's original question the criteria of "works on a large scale"

                Shachar

                • by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @08:15AM (#49072715)

                  What game theory has to say about that is to point out that these systems only work so long as the number of participants is small enough. Once the number of participants gets too large, it is impossible to effectively punish the leachers, and the entire system falls apart.

                  I guess we need to add to GP's original question the criteria of "works on a large scale"

                  Shachar

                  This is a lie often peddled in states with this system.

                  There are several concrete counter-examples that prove it false, ranging from Nordic countries (which view consensus and cooperation as primary tools of both political and economic systems) as well as much bigger Japan which has more of a top down system but where bosses initially even committed honourable suicide when they had to let workers go because it was considered such a significant loss of face.

                  These systems exist on large scale. What they require however, is a culture that promotes selflessness rather than selfishness. In the Western countries, such culture exists in Japan and Nordics. And to a lesser extent in Germany and Scotland. All of these are functional states (with exception of Scotland) where people routinely vote for and say in polls that they are willing to pay more taxes so that those who are not viable humans can live a decent life.

                • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

                  That's why you cannot apply small scale economics to large-scale economies. What works and is "plainly obvious" when you do stuff with your friends doesn't work on a large scale. (Pay attention the next time someone proposes changing some law or some other economic thing - or "why doesn't the government tax these guys it's so obvious". No it isn't. In fact, it can lead to the opposite result than desired (see prohibition - works in small communities, fails in larger ones. Likewise, communism.).

                  It's why econ

              • By personal liberty. Means a system that does things like tell you what job you should be doing. If you want to make a living writing bad poetry you should be allowed too, however free market sates that you probably will not get a lot money out of it, as there is such a low demand for bad poetry. Systems where say by the time you are a teenager places you in a career path, based on whatever tests that are popular at the time, and forces people to do what they are told. That is personal liberty. Not Relig

          • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @08:49AM (#49072805) Journal

            It has been proven over and over that the only people who always behave according to game theory are economists and sociopaths.

            I don't know who you are, friend, but that's the most insightful thing I've read on the internet so far today.

            Of course, it's only 6:48am and I've been up for 45 minutes, but you are correct.

          • It has been proven over and over that the only people who always behave according to game theory are economists and sociopaths.

            Yes indeed! What's more, economists and psychopaths (sociopath isn't a recognised term in psychology) require the cooperative aspects of the rest of the population in order to take advantage of them. All mamals, from birth, by definition are cooperative and altruistic in nature. Otherwise young wouldn't get nutured, fed, and protected. Anyone recall Maslow's hierchy of needs?

            I do with these idiotic game theorists would refine their claim that their hypotheses describe only competitive and/or psychopathic be

    • Why isn't this headline, "Game Theory Called Into Question for Failing to Predict Observed Examples of Cooperation?"

      To prove that Slashdoters act selfishly to draw interest to their submissions, just as Game theory predicts.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      game theory extended into multiple rounds and provides an obvious solution....

      the whole paper is crap and the "winner" is still a loser if both die on some of the defecting rounds.

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @06:21AM (#49072425) Homepage Journal

      The Prisoners' Dilemma is a two-person example of a market failure [youtube.com] - a term from economics which basically means that one actor can benefit from doing a thing that is bad for the group. Friedman's go-to example is people burning coal to heat their homes in 18th century London. Each homeowner _correctly_ calculated that coal was their personal best option, but it wasn't the best option for everybody, in aggregate. People who block intersections to avoid waiting for the next green are a more modern example - they save a little bit of time and make everything worse for everybody else.

      The follow-up insight is that in natural systems, when rules result in a market failure, the rules slowly wind up changing to eliminate that scenario because those scenarios aren't good for the group (which is needed for reproduction/continuance) and (in the case of evolution) are selected against or (in the case of economics) are driven out of the economy.

      Iterative plays resulting in extortion aren't going to be good for the group either and would tend to be eliminated. To be fair, we suffer broadly from the impact of psychopaths and they're only 5% of our population, so even if trends are good, local mischief isn't out of the question.

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        Is suffering always bad?

        Suffering in the short term perspective may pay off as beneficial in the long term perspective.

        Some people think outside the box, and maybe the group suffers because of this - until the group has reformulated itself. If there were nobody that challenged the system then no progress would be made.

      • Unfortunately the psychopaths are the ones making the rules.

    • ..."Scientists Still Trying To Determine Who Exactly Was On First".

      It's an imaginary problem involving perfectly rational actors. Humans are NOT rational. End of story.
      Trying to "solve it" with humans is like trying to calculate a joke.

    • Why isn't this headline, "Game Theory Called Into Question for Failing to Predict Observed Examples of Cooperation?"

      /. would cough having such a long title to digest.

    • by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @09:49AM (#49073093)

      The phrase that makes me roll my eyes is "survival of the fittest." That's not what natural selection is. It's a gradual increase in variation with the death of the unfit. An organism doesn't have to be "the fittest," it just has to find an unoccupied niche. Thus the various "strategies" different organisms will take for survival -- be it cooperation, selfishness, or some combination of the two -- will vary depending on the organism.

      Ants are pretty cooperative. Big cats are pretty selfish and territorial. But wild/feral horses are an interesting combination of the two. They have herds of mares with a few stallions. The stallions attack any other stallion that comes near and once a young stallion grows to a certain age they banish it from the herd. The stallions act pretty selfishly while the mares act rather cooperatively (however, they have a hierarchy so there's some selfishness involved, too).

      I think the problem is trying to theorize a formula for understanding the behavior of organisms, or a most successful behavior, in general. There's just way too much diversity in nature for something like game theory to cover all its ground. Perhaps it works when you pigeon-hole it into capitalist economics, but I don't think it's a very comprehensive theory for explaining how animals do or ought to act.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        You misunderstand Game Theory. Game Theory is, AFAICT, always correct. Unfortunately it's usually too difficult to calculate outside of simplified toy examples. Which is why it's used in capitalist economics, and artificially over-simplified description of how people interact. When Game Theory makes a prediction about what action will happen in capitalist economics, it's not a prescription. It merely says that if this doesn't happen, then the model you are using isn't a correct description of reality.

  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @03:20AM (#49072007) Homepage Journal

    Real Life isn't Spherical Cows. They need a better model.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      It is now, Americans are overweight.

      • Perhaps, but with the increased production of lower fat hamburger, the cows are getting skinnier. (Maybe that's just skinny, they were just fattened cows before.)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @04:46AM (#49072213)

      They need a better model.

      Yes, in order to get their result they put constraints on the payoffs - and they also implicitly assume that the players can't ever stop playing.

      In real life, there's typically three choices: cooperate, betray, or end the relationship. Typically as people get to know each other they increase their level of cooperation up to a level that both are comfortable with. But then if there's a betrayal the other person will often permanently end the relationship - either by walking away or by hitting the other person over the head with a large rock and hiding their corpse in some bushes.

      And often there's someone else waiting eagerly to cooperate with the person who got betrayed - who will help the person who got betrayed end the relationship with the betrayer - with a rock to the head if necessary.

      There are probably some situations out there in nature where their model does apply. And where cooperation doesn't happen. But it would be silly to assume that their model applied to every situation in human relationships.

    • Real Life isn't Spherical Cows. They need a better model.

      Of course not. Real Life is Fractal Cows: http://mndl.hu/2008-02-01-frac... [mndl.hu]

  • co-operation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes the 'fittest' thing to do is to help your community because having a strong community helps you more than going it alone.

    • So I read through the paper, and it was certainly above my maths, but it seems the most important point was actually left out. If I understood it correctly the "extortionate" idea simply seems to be you can arbitrarily cheat, then enforce a tit-for-tat strategy until your opponent decides to give you another chance. As the modern "evolutionary" play styles seem to be built around cooperation and avoiding falling into long negative spirals, you gain an advantage. Certainly realistic, as I (as have we all)

  • The Selfish Gene (Score:5, Informative)

    by flyhigher ( 643174 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @03:25AM (#49072021)

    The selfish gene theory popularized by Richard Dawkins states that evolution works on genes, not on individuals. Any gene which gives rise to behavior that will cause more copies of that gene to survive, will increase its percentage in the gene pool at large.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

    • The problem is that at least in recent history (last couple thousand years) people care more about if their IDEAS are passed on. This is why there is so much propaganda from all sides. Who cares about genetics when you can get control of kids for 12 years of their lives. It's pretty easy to override any genetics.

  • Nature includes numerous examples of cooperative behavior...If extortion reigns, what drives these and other acts of selflessness?"

    Any individual benefits of altruism aside, the potential for cooperation improving the fitness of a species is clear.

    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      Fitness of a species is not relevant. It's all about fitness of individual genes. Read The Selfish Gene.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Wasps, bees, ants, etc etc all prove you false. Reality is cooperation is genetically inherent within many species, together as a group they survive and all genes associated with that collective group survive. So with cooperative species it is not about individual genes but the shared genes within individuals that provides for the advantage of cooperation.

        The entirety of you genes are absolute not unique it would be impossible to breed if that were true. So there is only a minor variability in genes with

  • Did he read it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @03:31AM (#49072041) Journal

    [Theoretical biologist Joshua] Plotkin found the duo's math remarkable in its elegance. But the outcome troubled him. Nature includes numerous examples of cooperative behavior. For example, vampire bats donate some of their blood meal to community members that fail to find prey. Some species of birds and social insects routinely help raise another's brood. Even bacteria can cooperate, sticking to each other so that some may survive poison. If extortion reigns, what drives these and other acts of selflessness?"

    I'm not sure Joshua Plotkin read the paper. [nih.gov] It does not claim (as I understand it) to represent every scenario, merely a special case of a specific scenario. Explicitly, it requires the organism to have enough intelligence to remember what happened in previous games, so a bacteria without memory is not covered under this model. The strategy requires multiple rounds be played.

    Also worth mentioning that 'good for the individual' is not the same as 'good for the species,' and nature selects the latter

    I know almost nothing about vampire bats (except don't get bit, you'll need rabies shots!), but if someone understands how it relates to the prisoners' dilemma, I'd be interested in hearing it.

    • It does not claim (as I understand it) to represent every scenario, merely a special case of a specific scenario.

      Freeman Dyson wouldn't be bombastic and exaggerate, would he? "Prisoner's dilemma has been solved!"

      For actually intelligent strategies (and the point of strategies is that they should be intelligent), the folk theorem [wikipedia.org] is the relevant solution, not this. For that matter, this seems like a weak, specific case of the folk theorem.

      • Freeman Dyson wouldn't be bombastic and exaggerate, would he? "Prisoner's dilemma has been solved!"

        I don't see anyone using that description other than you.

      • by taustin ( 171655 )

        Freeman Dyson wouldn't be bombastic and exaggerate, would he?

        Statistically speaking, the odds are about a hundred billion to one that the person who wrote the article didn't understand what they were told, probably third or fourth hand, by someone who also didn't understand the paper, written by a physicist and a computer geek who don't understand biology or evolution.

    • by janek78 ( 861508 )

      Also worth mentioning that 'good for the individual' is not the same as 'good for the species,' and nature selects the latter

      Are you sure about this? Even though there are people who argue this is the case, saying that nature selects species and not individuals is a bit misleading. Selection of individuals is still probably the most commonly used level ("survival of the fittest" refering to individual organism), but if anything, the shift is downwards - to genes, or even beyond - to information and context.

    • by naasking ( 94116 )

      It does not claim (as I understand it) to represent every scenario, merely a special case of a specific scenario. Explicitly, it requires the organism to have enough intelligence to remember what happened in previous games, so a bacteria without memory is not covered under this model. The strategy requires multiple rounds be played.

      Irrelevant. Genes that survive are the "memory" and successive generations are the rounds. If cooperation were an optimal solution to the iterated prisoner's dilemma, then it wou

  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @03:50AM (#49072083)

    It's that simple. They have a neat mathematical model which is interesting, but if it doesn't make accurate predictions when applied to a more realistic scenario then it's missing something.

    • I think the disconnect is in expecting evolution to produce optimal solutions. Biology is full of make-do solutions.

      • I think the disconnect is in expecting evolution to produce optimal solutions. Biology is full of make-do solutions.

        Actually, it sounds like the real disconnect is in expecting one-size-fits-all solutions. Too many people think that There Can Be Only One True Way. The Universe is bigger than that, Horatio.

      • by kuzb ( 724081 )

        I'm not sure I'd agree 100% with this statement. I feel it might be more accurate to say "guided randomness". Guided in that it is statistically more likely to select traits which are beneficial, but random in that beneficial traits are not always selected 100% of the time. Saying "make-do" means that something is making a compromise, when in fact, evolution has no notion of the concept.

    • The model is only as interesting as "prisoners" are defined simply by X and Ys. What if a prisoner X has a reputation for having 'defected' in similar situations? what if prisoner Y has a reputation as being a stand up guy, "honor among theives" type?

      Trying to extrapolate social behavior, reasoning and evolution from such a simple model is like trying to build a house with nothing but circles and squares. It can be done, but nature observes triangles. Add a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh p

    • by Boronx ( 228853 )

      From reading the actual paper, I think it describes reality pretty well. For people that want to just get by with out thinking too hard about it and just naively optimize their own gains, they'll find a cooperative strategy is better. For those who want something a bit more, they'll think about it and realize that exploitation of the cooperators is the fast track to success.

      • exploitation of the cooperators is the fast track to success.

        But what happens when the cooperators figure out together what the exploiter is up to? I am thinking concretely here about Greece and the Eurozone. Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, a Marxist economist and Valve consultant, and a Game Theory expert, as well, is trying to extort the other Eurozone countries for money. If Greece doesn't get what it wants, money, with no strings tied, it will go bankrupt and be forced to leave the Eurozone. This will of course disrupt the international financia

  • "Well, I don't know if I believe anyone is 100% a dick..." Rhomann Dey
  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @03:58AM (#49072107) Homepage Journal

    It's about procreation and the survival of the genetic line. Individual survival is irrelevant, especially once one has procreated. (Though even those who don't contribute to the survival of the genetic line of their family - the person who has a sibling willing to sacrifice themselves to save the family enhances the chances the family will procreate.)

    This kind of confusion is what happens when people try to do research outside of their expertise. If you want to understand biology, ask a biologist, not a physicist or a computer geek. (Though a lot of biologists make the same mistake, of course.)

    • by kuzb ( 724081 )

      " Individual survival is irrelevant, especially once one has procreated. "

      This is only true in cases where offspring are able to fend for themselves before the parent has perished.

  • WTF. The examples with cooperating organisms are irrelevant since evolutionary pressure acts on genes foremost, and not individuals. The question is whether the outcome with extortion would be as worrying if you apply it to genes instead.
    • Evolutionary pressure ultimately acts on genes; but (especially among species where 'horizontal gene transfer' is a weak sex joke, rather than a routine genomic reshuffling strategy), a lot of selection happens to organism-level bundles of genes, with all of them going down with the ship at the same time.
  • Cooperation (Score:5, Funny)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @04:35AM (#49072189) Homepage

    The physicist Freeman Dyson and the computer scientist William Press [..] have found a new solution to [...] the prisoner's dilemma

    So... what you're saying is... these two guys have cooperated to call cooperation into question...

    Riiight...

  • If extortion reigns, what drives these and other acts of selflessness?"

    All the cooperating ones use Richard Stallmans GPL

  • I wonder if this has any relation to the role of 'spite', which is sort of altruism's barbed cousin: (for my purposes, 'spite' in the sense of 'inflicting injury on someone else without benefit, or even at direct cost, to oneself')?

    Spite is hardly a directly rational response, especially if you are inflicting injury as a reprisal for something that somebody has done to a third party, rather than to you; but it is clearly something that humans do(or, even if they don't, they often fume indignantly and wis
    • Re:Spite? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @06:06AM (#49072391) Homepage Journal

      Spite often benefits the group over time - the individual sacrifices a little bit to increase the group benefit (which should be returned to him in aggregate as a non-zero-sum game). It can also benefit the individual by trading one thing of value for another in order to alter an adversary's value equation (like the legendary nuns who cut off their noses to avoid being raped by the marauders). Sometimes the costs are quite high but it's always a lesser-value for greater-value trade (as far as the individual values those things).

  • The researchers were going to publish the study, but they wouldn't cooperate with the publishers.

  • Their model isn't necessarily inadequate. Perhaps the cooperative strategy was simply easier to arrive at through evolution. The extortion strategy might be in a hard-to-reach part of behavioural state space. It's taken these brilliant mathematicians a good while to find it, after all. If evolution finds a suboptimal, but still beneficial strategy, it can be hard to subsequently jump out of that local minima to reach an even better solution.

  • TFA lost me at the first sentence:

    When the manuscript crossed his desk, Joshua Plotkin, a theoretical biologist at the University of Pennsylvania, was immediately intrigued.

    Remind me again why I care about some dude's reaction.

  • It's wrong to consider prisoner's success alone. If we have two pairs of prisoners and in first pair prisoners did not cooperate and in second pair they did then the second pair of prisoners gets huge advantage: later they can overpower single prisoner from first pair. Thus prisoner PAIRS are going to compete, if we test enough prisoners. After many iterations only cooperative prisoners are going to remain...

    Actually we see this in the history: non-cooperative societies, built on violence and slavery gave

  • Evolution can only occur in a non--zero-sum environment -- energy.in > energy.out for an organism or collection of organisms, if only by a hair, otherwise you get stasis, and ultimately death, when a more dynamic organism begins to farm you. Cooperation is a strong strategy, and Dawkins' insight that selection operating at the gene level can account for altruistic behavior (altruism being the ultimate cooperative behavior) at more macro scales was nothing short of brilliant. This paper pretty much prov
  • In the iterative prisoners dilemma problem the tit-for-tat strategy won big in the first tournament, back in 1988, U Mich, conducted by Axelrod, won by Anatole. The biggest breakthrough of that research is to show that "it is possible for islands of cooperation to emerge in the sea of selfishness". That is all it showed, It did not show that tit-for-tat is the best under all circumstances, nor the islands of cooperation could not be snuffed out if the pay outs changed. It is also very well known it is not an evolutionarily stable strategy. It will never drive selfishness to extinction. There will always be islands of selfishness even after the population is dominated by cooperating members.

    All this paper shows is, once tit-for-tat establishes a beachhead and converts the population to a largely cooperating one, other strategies will emerge that will exploit the naive cooperators. Big deal. It is very well known.

    Within two generations of eradicating most viral diseases, the anti-vaccination people are back, showing that once something becomes the common wisdom, there will be incentives to be a contrarian.

    • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @03:47PM (#49074827)

      The advantages of tit-for-tat are that it will stay cooperative against cooperative opponents, maximizing the total gain, and that it will not lose to its other player by more than one defection. It isn't necessarily the best strategy, but it has some provable advantages.

      Therefore, if this strategy, whatever the heck it is, plays against tit-for-tat, it will come out ahead by a small amount. No extortion is possible against tit-for-tat, since it has a very short memory. Any serious attempt to hurt it hurts the opponent almost as much. The outcome of the game will be determined by the opponent, but it isn't clear to me that this is good for the opponent.

      In a series of games, with players changing algorithms, tit-for-tat is not particularly susceptible to extortion, since it fundamentally yields the opponent one extra defection/cooperation win. Any attempt to extort it into more than one will fail in a competitive environment, since, if tit-for-tat is trashed the opponent is trashed almost as much. Tit-for-tat against itself, or any other strategy that won't defect first, will get straight cooperation rewards, while defect-first strategies have to accept some mutual defections, lowering the total score.

      So, while I'm willing to concede that the mathematics is correct (it's been a long time since I read a mathematical paper, so I haven't checked it out fully yet), it doesn't look like it's going to make much of a difference in final score.

      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @04:18PM (#49075125) Journal
        The telling thing about the description, (I could not get the math) is that the strategy with longer memory loses! They are using a concept of "strategy with a theory of mind". Basically it tries to predict if the other person is rational. If they think the other one is, then it pays to be irrational. It is basically a game of chicken and the player who is reckless will win against the one who is prudent.

        There is some real life applications for this. Since I am a bleeding heart liberal I see the Republicans being reckless with government shutdowns and pushing the envelop on filibusters etc as this "I will first show you I am reckless then let us play chicken". (If you are a Republican you might strongly disagree with this example).

        I also see this as the explanation for being reckless revenge and disproportional response. Typically in India riots would erupt on the rumor Some boys of set A teased some girls of set B. The sets could be caste, religion, language. In the over the top response for something minor the riot inciting group suffers as much damage as all others. It is totally irrational. But the purpose is to set the stage for others for all future interactions, "Malabar Muslims or Dharavi Tamils or Biharis are known to be violent. Be more careful around them".

        Or like John McEnroe's tantrums in the tennis matches is to intimidate the line judges into giving him the benefit of doubt in the future calls.

        So the theory is not without its merits. But, as usual, the title is more provocative than warranted.

  • Using the prisoner's dillemma doesn't account for the other prisoner's shanking you if you get to be too big of a prick
  • It is not that difficult. Being selfish is always the best for the individual, and short term sometimes entire species. The biggest lifeform on the planet is the Oregon Armillaria ostoyae, which unlike much of its fungus cousins kills its hosts. It has a huge advantage against not only other fungi but pretty much all other life. Long term when the forest it feeds off dies it will not fair nearly as well, that is why fungus as a whole is so benefaction, because a species that causes its own huge natural disa
  • Some species of birds and social insects routinely help raise another's brood. Even bacteria can cooperate, sticking to each other so that some may survive poison. If extortion reigns, what drives these and other acts of selflessness?

    Lacking a human ego, the species in question naturally accept that they are all one and part of a larger whole. Therefore self sacrifice is innate because it leads to the survival of the whole.

  • Dyson is one of my science heros. cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    He is a notable subversive and a joker. He was once commissioned to write a paper for the US DOD regarding the use of nukes in Vietnam. He is pointing something else out in this paper (already three years old - not news), and it appears the irony is being missed.

  • by Livius ( 318358 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2015 @05:49PM (#49075969)

    In real life, which so many experts seem uninterested in, the participants in the prisoner's dilemma need to keep quiet until they've talked to a lawyer.

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