Cooperation emerges when groups are small and memories are long, study finds

Katherine Unger Baillie,, Jun 04, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The headline is probably overstated, but this model does provide a good answer to the 'tragedy of the commons' scenario. For those who are unfamiliar with it: the idea of the tragedy of the commons is that a resoruce held in common is owned by no one, so there is a temptation for people to take and not to give back or care for the resource, which gradually leads to the degradation of the resource. The response here is that if people can remember who the cheaters are, they can take action to protect the commons. "Stewart and Plotkin used computer simulations that allowed the memory capacity of players to evolve alongside the strategies themselves. They found that not only were longer memories favored, but the evolution of longer memories led to an increase in cooperation."

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