There are 5 ways in which elements of the universe, from amoebas to humans co-operate;

  1. direct reciprocity – vampire bats which go hungry beg from others and remember who was good to them.
  2. spatial selection – cooperating in groups to defeat other groups
  3. kin selection – i will jump into the river to save 2 brothers or 8 cousins and keep my genes going
  4. indirect reciprocity – i’ll scratch your back if someone scratches mine. Toyota gained an advantage in the 80s partly because of a good rep amongst suppliers.
  5. selflessness – a group that knows the others will die for them will win as a group over one that won’t

The Prisoner’s dilemma is a game theory model for exploring co-operation and defection. Two prisoners are interrogated separately from each other and offered to confess or stay quiet. If they confess and the other doesn’t they get 1yr and he gets 4yrs. If they both confess they both get 3yrs. If they both stay quiet the both get 2yrs. The better option is always to confess. Why then would we develop methods for co-operating? Because we can talk to each other.

A public goods dilemma – The tragedy of the commons. Overgrazing of a shared resource. Cow farmers sharing pastures will overgraze common land even though it is partly theirs.

The €120 environment game – give authoritative advice and allow public displays of being good e.g. gas bills comparing your consumption to your neighbours and the best neighbours. This game shows how to encourage co-operation in a public goods game where the best option is usually to defect and use the resources yourself. You start with €40 and know that other players are playing too. If you can raise €120 in the combined and secret pot after 10 rounds then everybody keeps their remaining money. If not, everybody gives everything back. If people are given extremely convincing advice about the effects or can donate in public, they will give more.

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