The Evolution of Cooperation

Jenny Mackness, Feb 04, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Cooperation is a topic of interest to me - especially insofar as it differs from collaboration, which is something very distinct. So the notes from Howard Rheingold's class on the literacy of cooperation are of interest to me. This summary from Jenny Mackness covers the history or evolution of cooperation. "If Darwinian processes favour successful competitors why does cooperation exist?" The answers appear in earnest as soon as you begin to think about it:

  • molecules catalyze each other to higher levels of complexity
  • co-operators benefit from each other through mutual relationships
  • a group which was comprised of cooperators reproduced more effectively
  • people can achieve by collective action what they never could do alone
  • primates pick parasites off each other

Note that none of this resembles collaboration (much less competition). It occurs at a midway point, where there is interaction and exchange, but not a melding into a single unity. Cooperation - not collaboration - is where we should trace the future of learning online.

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