The Evolution of Cooperation

Robert Axelrod, May 20, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

From the perspective of game theory, Robert Axelrod asks, "Under what conditions will cooperation emerge in a world of egoists without central authority?" Cooperation can develop even among people with competing agendas (as in, for example, a war). "Cooperation can get started, evolve, and prove stable in situations which otherwise appear extraordinarily unpromising." Axelrod suggests (and I disagree) that cooperation requires conditions of reciprocity among people likely to meet again: "The foundation of cooperation is not really trust, but the durability of the relationship." (I disagree because cooperation can occur altruistically, in a community of strangers).

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