virus: Altruism and the Prisoner'sDillema

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 29 Apr 1997 12:06:40 -0400 (EDT)

From: Martz <>
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 1997 22:02:03 +0100

On Mon, 28 Apr 1997, "Wright, James 7929" <> wrote:

>>You weren't listening. In the example given, the fact of reality that
>>one /cannot/ capture the gazelle alone was a premise, and you can't
>>change that.
>Want to invoke the Reed principle? I *AM* arguing the premise; you CAN
>catch a gazelle, all by yourself, it just takes lion tactics, or a snare,
>or a couple of different other methods (archery, etc.)

Fine. It was an example, that's all. A thought experiment. If you feel
inclined to deal with the *essence* of my argument instead of the
specifics then perhaps you might try to imagine something (*anything*
for chrissake) that one person alone cannot do where two or more may
succeed. Surely that's not so difficult?

Perhaps the problem here is the analogy vs. the essence. The "Stag Hunt"
version of the "Prisoner's Dillema" type game is described in terms
of the mythical cave-persons, which is not neccesarily an analogy
each of us takes a shine to.

When discussing what a single individual is capable of it is important
to remember that this "self-power" has changed dynamically and
dramatically over human history. Killing a deer is easy today, even
for someone with their bare hands and no "physical tools".

It is the MENTAL tools of culture which make people so powerful
as individuals...and this power is an expression of our cooperative
abilities. what one person is incapable of doing "alone" will always
be "to learn the state of the art in X". If the state of the art in killing
is spontaneous sun-fired annihilation you need other people to
learn how to do's called The Manhattan Project.

Now, what you DO with such power is a moral/ethical issue. With
great power comes great responsibility.

I propose that anyone who believes that they can accomplish their
goals without cooperating has either set their sights abysmally low
or hasn't reflected enough on exactly how the infrastructure of
human society supports and PERMITS their existence.


Reed Konsler