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Friday, May 8, 2015

How Goodness Arises from Evolutionary Competition

By Martin A. Nowak
Big Ideas from Slate.com

Here is an excerpt:

In the human sphere, cooperation means helping each other. In some contexts cooperation can imply “being good.” And suddenly the conundrum disappears. The moral imperative of world religions and philosophical systems seems to make sense.  It simply asks us to be true to our cooperative heritage, to cooperate and not only to compete.

The evolutionary process among humans is not only genetic but also cultural. We have language. We write books, articles, and emails, come up with ideas, replicate knowledge. A group of humans learning from each other instantiate a cultural evolutionary process with mutation and selection. And cooperation.

What makes cooperation a possible strategy among humans? The answer is repetition and reputation. Most of our crucial social interactions occur repeatedly with the same people or in situations where we are known, where actions can be observed by others, and thus affect our reputation.

The entire piece is here.