Re: virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Priso ner'sDillema

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 13:13:41 -0700 (PDT)

> >In a computer simulation the idea is clearer: ....<
> This wanders even farther from the original argument, and also begs the
> question of garbage in, garbage out - the results of any computer
> simulation will depend heavily on the weighting given various factors in
> the program.
> Lee, I never said cooperation wasn't a good thing - were you paying
> attention to the original discussion? We were discussing whether
> self-interest was sympathetic or antagonistic towards cooperation - and
> economics had no part of the original discussion. I am not being
> obstinate, but it seemed like you brought a whole new set or parameters
> to the discussion, while complaining that I had no appreciation of the
> point of view you brought with them.

Axelrod's simulaion is exactly on point, and 100% relevant, and if you'd
just read the result for yourself you'd see that. The primary point
was that the design of each underlying program in the simulation was
hard-wired, inescapably, selfish. It had /no other goal/ but maximizing
its own benefit. They were automatons with no ability to think about
cooperation, or even know about others wealth. They simply followed
their programs mechanistically. The simulation showed that programs
wired to exhibit behaviors we, as humans, might judge to be "cooperative"
did better than those wired more naively, even though the programs
themselves had no way to know anything but their own benefit, by design.

Frankly, having any discussion about self-interest and cooperation
without knowing intimately about Axelrod and Prisoner's Dilemma and
basic econonomics and game theory is like having a discussion about
quantum mechanics with someone who doesn't know what the Michaelson-
Morley experiment or the EPR paradox or Bell's inequality are.

Lee Daniel Crocker <>  <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC