Re: poly: Altruism?

From: <>
Date: Fri Nov 13 1998 - 20:34:01 PST

In a message dated 11/13/98 2:13:08 PM, wrote:

>[[ Also being re-sent. -- Damien S. ]]
>> The gene's sociobiological self-interest is always to copy itselves
>> better than competing alleles in the population. The highly cooperative
>> nature of humans, IMO, results from that fact that by cooperating with
>> everyone you meet, you compete better against those you don't meet.
>> It's still competition, just a pleasant kind. True altruism doesn't
>> work for the replicator, unless it ends up as part of a mating ritual
>> or some such.

>I think this is slightly off-mark, and the difference matters:
>Another way for a gene to succeed is to go to a new unoccupied place and
>found a new population. I.e., Pilgrims, Hawaiians, and long ago, Siberians.
>The colonizers cooperate to reproduce rapidly in the free niche-- it's
>(temporarily) a better strategy than competing against each other.

No; it's the same thing. Some "alleles" (in quotes since you're discussing
memetic analogues) outcomplete others for the new habitat resource.
Those that succeed have more copies.

>This seems like a rare, almost trivial, exception to the competition rule.
>But real life isn't usually static: the currently occupied niches expand
>and contract due to external circumstances like weather, disease, disasters.

It's exceedingly common in biology. Many species occupy transient niches
and repeatedly colonize new versions of the niche as old ones disappear.

>Innovative genes (or technology) also make new niches livable. (Space?)
>The fraction of the time when cooperation makes sense might well be > 50%.
>This will affect the frequency of cooperative (vs competitive) genes.

In the wrong way, however. The evolution of cooperation demands reciprocity.
Aggressive colonizing species generally have less reliable interactions
(you never know who else is there with each colonization) and tend to have
cooperative interactions only when essential for colonization. It's the
long-term residents which tend to have complex interactions. This shows
up in the tendency for higher violence, less education, etc. in frontiers.
Received on Sat Nov 14 04:37:27 1998

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