The Evolution of Cooperation

Basic Books (1984)
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Abstract

The 'Evolution of Cooperation' addresses a simple yet age-old question; If living things evolve through competition, how can cooperation ever emerge? Despite the abundant evidence of cooperation all around us, there existed no purely naturalistic answer to this question until 1979, when Robert Axelrod famously ran a computer tournament featuring a standard game-theory exercise called The Prisoner's Dilemma. To everyone's surprise, the program that won the tournament, named Tit for Tat, was not only the simplest but the most "cooperative" entrant. This unexpected victory proved that cooperation - one might even say altruism - is mathematically possible and therefore needs no hidden hand or divine agent to create and sustain it. A great roadblock to the understanding of all sorts of behavior was at last removed. The updated edition includes an extensive new chapter on cooperation in cancer cells and among terrorist organizations.

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