March 24, 2013

Evolutionary theorists: Migration bad for evolution of cooperation

The "selfish gene" paradigm of evolution raises a lot of fascinating conundrums about how human beings got so cooperative. If you look at chimpanzees, for example, mothers are nice to their children and members of the same group will reciprocate in picking lice off each other. But, that's about it. Their general attitude toward helping their fellow ape is: "We're chimps, not chumps." 

How could altruism evolve under the rules of natural selection? Did it? Well, taking a broad view of "altruism," dogs seem more altruistic toward humans than wolves do. Of course, that probably was the result of artificial rather than natural selection. But then how do we know that humans didn't get artificially selected for being nice, just like their dogs?

Anyway, I'm not the one to work out the ultimate theory of this. So, here's the latest game theory of how an instinct for friendliness could evolve. 

From Nature:
How Natural Selection Can Create Both Self- and Other-Regarding Preferences, and Networked Minds 
Thomas Grund, Christian Waloszek & Dirk Helbing 
Biological competition is widely believed to result in the evolution of selfish preferences. The related concept of the ‘homo economicus’ is at the core of mainstream economics. However, there is also experimental and empirical evidence for other-regarding preferences. Here we present a theory that explains both, self-regarding and other-regarding preferences. Assuming conditions promoting non-cooperative behaviour, we demonstrate that intergenerational migration determines whether evolutionary competition results in a ‘homo economicus’ (showing self-regarding preferences) or a ‘homo socialis’ (having other-regarding preferences). Our model assumes spatially interacting agents playing prisoner's dilemmas, who inherit a trait determining ‘friendliness’, but mutations tend to undermine it. Reproduction is ruled by fitness-based selection without a cultural modification of reproduction rates. Our model calls for a complementary economic theory for ‘networked minds’ (the ‘homo socialis’) and lays the foundations for an evolutionarily grounded theory of other-regarding agents, explaining individually different utility functions as well as conditional cooperation. 
... In conclusion, we offer an over-arching theoretical perspective that could help to overcome the historical controversy in the behavioural sciences between largely incompatible views about human nature. Both, self-regarding and other-regarding types of humans may result from the same evolutionary process. Whereas high levels of intergenerational migration promote the evolution of a ‘homo economicus’, low levels of intergenerational migration promote a ‘homo socialis’, even under ‘Darwinian’ conditions of a survival of the fittest and random mutations. The significance of local reproduction for the evolution of other-regarding preferences is striking and may explain why such preferences are more common in some parts of the world than in others.
Our modelling approach distinguishes between the evolution of individual preferences and behaviours. This makes cooperation conditional on the level of cooperation in the respective neigh-bourhood. Hence, when a few ‘idealists’ are born, who cooperate unconditionally, this can trigger off cooperation cascades, which can largely accelerate the spreading of cooperation33. Our model can also serve as a basis to develop an economic theory of other-regarding agents. The advantage is that it does not need to assume certain properties of boundedly rational agents—these properties rather result from an evolutionary process. In fact, our model naturally explains the evolution of individually different utility functions, as they are experimentally observed (see Figs. 3 + 4), and also the evolution of conditional cooperators9, 34. 

I'm not going to offer an opinion on whether their entire theory works or not. But it sounds like a game theoretic version in reverse of Stephen G. Bloom's book Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America. Even though the New York media devotes a lot of effort to telling us all the time about Hate in small towns, you might start to suspect there's a bit of projection in that. Just walking down the street, you might think that people seem friendlier in smaller, more rooted places where they have to deal repeatedly with the same limited number of people.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right. Back in the day, traveling snake oil salesmen could get away with selling snake oil because they could get the hell out of dodge with the money before anyone figured out they were selling snake oil. The local guy running the general store couldn't, because he'd be ruining his environment by ruining his customers, and because he stuck around and could get punished by the locals.

This is a basic evolutionary dynamic that applies to everything. Germs become especially fatal to people when they can migrate from person to person since a person's health is not critical to the germ's survival.

Anonymous said...

Basically migration promotes sociopathic behavior.

Rasputin said...

"Basically migration promotes sociopathic behavior."

As illustrated by both locals and tourists at any resort :)

DoJ said...

As with most nontrivial social questions, there are two opposing forces acting here. If it is too hard to migrate, productive but unpopular people get abused en masse. But if it is too easy to migrate *and* start with a clean slate, sociopaths win big.

The natural framework for reconciling the two is a combination of restricted entry and universal free exit (when any other country is willing to accept you).

Colt_Python_Femme said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

In the age of the internet, a snake oil salesman could kind of get around being rejected by the same community by repeatedly coming back with a different name and a slightly different look.

Conatus said...

In Peter Turchin's book, War and Peace and War, Chap. 5 is all about co-operation and the prisoner's dilemma. He says society breaks down demographically into about a quarter self-interested free riding knaves, a quarter unconditional cooperating saints and fifty per cent conditional cooperators who hedge their bets.
He also said "cultural evolution can occur on a much faster time scale than changes in genetic frequencies" (p.137 Paperback version), citing the changes in Germany from nationalistic "Deutschland uber alles," and then after a generation of browbeating cultural conditioning, the Germans became one of the most fervent supporter of the European Union. That might be wearing a little thin because the Germans see the Garlic Belt as living 'La Dolche Vita' at their expense.
Perhaps Whites are the new Germans, being culturally conditioned via our Media Masters to be unconditional cooperating 'saints' who give away their country and their wealth. Since no discussion of this conditioning is allowed in the public forum it seems doubtful Whites will ever come to the the realization that they are being used by a bunch of free riding knaves.

Seledin said...

Artificial selection can do wonders, like in your example of dogs.

People have written about the significant difference in IQ between Africans and African-Americans: about 1 SD. Certainly breeding with whites could be a cause, but as the average AA is only ~20% white, it should have only a modest impact, not enough to bridge half the gap between Africans and white Americans. Another possibility is nutrition, but even in countries which had an abundance of food in Africa (for example, S. Africa or Zimbabwe under white rule), you still had this profound deficit of IQ in Africans. One possibility that has been overlooked to my knowledge, probably because the topic would cause liberals to jump on their chairs, clutch their dresses and shriek, is that perhaps artificial selection in slavery could have had an impact. I'm not saying all of the IQ difference is due to this, or necessarily most, and surely the other factors I mentioned above are likely to also play a role.

But selecting for dependable workers who would do their jobs, stay out of trouble, probably would have occurred. Farmers practiced selective breeding of livestock for the best traits, and by all accounts, viewed slaves in much the same way, so it seems a distinct possibility. Granted, the fact that slavery in the US did not go on for many generations means the effect would have been modest, but it might be a factor.

FredR said...

Paging James Bowery...

rob said...

Colt_Python_Femme said...

Anonymous said...
In the age of the internet, a snake oil salesman could kind of get around being rejected by the same community by repeatedly coming back with a different name and a slightly different look.


Hey, I see what you did there!

Anonymous said...

http://siskelandebert.org/video/5NGBDNRXB4Y2/Opening-Soon-King-Kong-Network-Rocky

"...two monsters in the same movie"

Colt_Python_Femme said...


on a tangent, here is a theory of mine: a heck of a lot of immigrants (and when I say immigrants, I mean immigrants to america because america takes in more legal immigrants than the rest of the world combined) are misfits/mentally ill/mentally unstable/sociopath or just outright psychopaths. A lot of misfits and the marginally mentally ill come to america because they find that at home they are rejected. They come here, work a few years, abuse some american citizens, and some of them get put in jail for that, but many of them go back/escape to their homelands.

Of course that particular idea will never "bubble up" to the top and get media attention...I wonder why....

panjoomby said...

jon haidt addresses this in his book "righteous mind," arguing for some amount of multi-level selection - e.g., things like religion bind groups together to cooperate --
also, bingham & souza's "death from a distance & the birth of a human universe" argues cogently that human groups cooperate b/c we became the only animal that can throw accurately (!), letting us police others & enforce cooperation...

Anonymous said...

The natural framework for reconciling the two is a combination of restricted entry and universal free exit (when any other country is willing to accept you).

Free exit doesn't solve the problem. It actually encourages the problem since a) the abusers are left in place and b) migration promotes perverse incentives and less concern for externalities in general.

The only kind of "free exit" that would help the problem would be secession i.e. instead of fleeing to another territory, your piece of territory secedes from the abusive authority and becomes independent.

Florida resident said...

I have read in full
this Stephen G. Bloom's book
"Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America."
Very sad story.

Peter Johnson said...

From the extract you have given it sounds close to the theoretical view of E.O. Wilson in his latest book The Social Conquest of Earth arguing that humankind has some of the attributes of a social animal that partly evolves at the social-unit level -- as do ant colonies and bee colonies.

NOTA said...

There are two ways this phenomenon can work:

Short term: Cooperative strategies can stop working quickly if a few people can get away with cheating by just moving on to the next town. Assuming we evolved in an environment where sometimes cooperative strategies worked well, and other times they worked badly, then presumably we are equipped with the ability to do both, and to switch between them over time. (Some of Martin Nowack's work strongly suggests this kind of "phase change" of a society can happen quickly.)

Long term: In a closed population where our ancestors survived as a group for a long time, it's not so hard to see how group selection could work. (Groups that can't cooperate well because individuals get away with cheating get beaten out by groups that can cooperate well.) But even a little bit of immigration between groups can keep that from working--the cute girl taken on the raid of the neighboring tribe (which is failing because they can't cooperate) brings in genes for non-coopertation.

Anonymous said...

When I am hiking in romote forest, every single man hiking greets and helps each other.

When I am in big city, all man ignore each other including myself. I just want to be left alone.

This is called" bystander effect". BTW, I am not white. In lonely romote place, people automatically become friendler. If not, alarm will be high for possible attack.

NOTA said...

A somewhat off-topic example of Colt's comment about which ideas win and lose: There have been big rallies in Paris opposing gay marriage. This is covered in the Spanish media (at least TVE and El Pais), but not much at all in American media. A skeptic might almost suspect that a lot of US media have already decided that gay marriage is a good thing and thus that we ought not to be confused too much by stories that might send the wrong message. Alternativley, maybe the US media narrative is that France is enlightened and liberal, and showing a huge anti-gay-marriage rally just violates that. (Similarly, it's little-noted that some of the recent extremely strict state laws regulating abortions to only the first trimester are more-or-less the laws in several European countries.)

FWIW, I agree with them that gay marriage is a good idea. But I am really, really not okay with my news sources deciding I don't need to know some of the big things going on in the world. I recall something similar happening with the French crackdowns on Gypsy camps--there wasn't all that much coverage of it in US media.

Anonymous said...

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2004-03-25/news/0403250155_1_greek-independence-day-hagia-sophia-ottoman-turks

A good illustration of this evolutionary theory.

Anonymous said...

Jesus H Christ, that Colt Python chick is teh smokin hawtness.

I wonder if that's really her real picture?!?

Anonymous said...

Michael Lind recently wrote an interesting series of articles lambasting rentiers/private sector rent-seeking and promoting more populist economics:

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/21/private_sector_parasites/

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/22/how_rich_moochers_ruin_america/

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/25/defeating_useless_rich_people/

Sid said...

I personally think migration unlocks our "deep" character. Tourists are crude, crass and shallow. Locals who take advantage of them are even worse. There is the archetype of the snake oil salesman.

On the other side of the coin, consider how travel is so often lauded as a "mind-opening" experience? How many couples go on a romantic vacation to reignite the old passion?

The Conquistadors were indeed brutal plunderers, but the Puritans should similarly be extolled for their social cohesion, high industriousness and honest character.

Anonymous said...

Scroll down. Notice anyone familiar?:

http://www.roadsidemultimedia.com/blog/fasttrak-dental-websites-unique-beautiful-and-functional/

http://community.babycenter.com/journal/edwardkconduit27/4802074/teeth_whitening_side_effects_-_manny_calvera

http://www.123rf.com/photo_6750207_lovely-lady-enjoying-the-freedom-of-an-open-crop-field.html

http://www.123rf.com/photo_5500559_portrait-of-a-sweet-young-blond-female-smiling-while-outdoors.html

p.s. I'm the same guy who wrote comment number 6.

Anonymous said...

nowak wrote "supercooperators" (reviewed J.SPES, vol37, Spring 2012), who says the same--migration of selfish individuals into cooperative groups ultimately ruins the group. Note however, that no one yet is talking of selection in terms of groups (group selection)--selection is still at the "individual level". If one wants to stay off the internet for a while, and see what people think of altruism, take a look at "Pathological Altruism" edited by Oakley, Wilson et al. (esp. amusing is Kanazawa's essay.)

Colt_Python_Femme said...

"NOTA said...

A somewhat off-topic example of Colt's comment about which ideas win and lose: There have been big rallies in Paris opposing gay marriage.

...
A skeptic might almost suspect that a lot of US media have already decided that gay marriage is a good thing and thus that we ought not to be confused too much by stories that might send the wrong message."
===========================


In any event gay marriage gets tons of press in the american media. A buttload.

But the fact that Obamacare most people will get large subsidies to help pay those mandatory healthcare premiums? Hardly ever mentioned.

Some ideas bubble to the top. Others not. What are the forces that assist and prohibit the transmission of ideas?

Colt_Python_Femme said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

http://www.vdare.com/articles/who-killed-the-new-majority-the-gops-self-inflicted-wounds

Anonymous said...

This points to the reason why serial killers primarily habituate cities or suburbs, or operate nomadically. In a small town where everyone knows everyone else and notes their comings and goings, they would be caught after a short while.

A notable exception was Ed Gein, who lived in a small town of less than 1000 people. He only killed 2 victims, 3 if you count his brother. He was caught though, so maybe this exception prove the rule.

Anonymous said...

It's like if you're on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Screwing over the other people on the ship for personal gain might not be a good idea if it leads to the ship going down and you're stuck on the ship. However, if you have escape routes, like say a personal helicopter that can swoop in and save you before the ship goes down, then you can hurt the other people on the ship without hurting yourself.

Anonymous said...

But it sounds like a game theoretic version in reverse of Stephen G. Bloom's book Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America. Even though the New York media devotes a lot of effort to telling us all the time about Hate in small towns, you might start to suspect there's a bit of projection in that. Just walking down the street, you might think that people seem friendlier in smaller, more rooted places where they have to deal repeatedly with the same limited number of people.


Bloom wrote an article a couple years ago on Iowa that caused a bit of an uproar:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/12/observations-from-20-years-of-iowa-life/249401/

Anonymous said...

Pat Buchanan wrote in vdare:
"In that case, you try harder to sell your product, change your product, or go out of business.

Yet, if the GOP changes its product, it may just lose its most loyal customers."

The GOP must either change its product or go out of business. Increased selling effort is just applying lipstick to the same old pig. If it goes the way of the Whigs, I won't be sorry.

If it does want to stay in business, the question is how it is going to change. Being Democrat-lite isn't going to work. Kowtowing to immigration and amnesty is just going to accelerate their obsolescence.

The Democrats have been a defacto non-white party for years. The GOP is the defacto white party that is ashamed of what it is and feels some need to "play fair". It is also beholden to big business. But if it wants to win it needs to appeal to the only demographic it can win: white people, especially married white people.

White people have a very strong sense of fairness. I think a campaign that emphasised the unfairness in the disparities in racial bloc voting as they have persisted for years if not decades, combined with policies designed to claw back some equity from the racial spoils programs of AA and welfare etc. could work wonders.

Also, make it a point to use the term "non-whites" instead of "minorities", declaring that it really is irrelevant when whites are a minority globally and in many counties and cities. Really, the GOP has to start taking control of the terms of debate. Call AA etc. "racial spoils programs". Use "white vs "non-white". Use the term "illegal infiltrators".

e.g. Prototype ad featuring a white woman talking:
"I'm a white person. I'm not a majority - in my suburb or in the world. I deserve representation. I've seen the voting patterns of non-whites. (Statistics flash up on the screen of each race and voting patterns, at least 3 election cycles.) It's them... versus us. The Democrats want to import more Democrat voters. And they want to tax me... to fund them. They won't be happy until America is turned into a third world hell-hole. It's not fair. Until this situation changes (points to the racial bloc voting percentages), I'm voting Republican."

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G88TXwF3go8

I don't get it. Everyone praises Nixon for going to see Mao, and it's no big deal that Obama knows a lot of commie friends, but all this crap over some TV show?

Anonymous said...

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1282/the-art-of-criticism-no-4-john-simon

“He didn’t know that he could go to various branches of his bank to get money,” she recalled. “He thought there was a pile of money in the back of his bank labeled ‘John Simon’s money.’ ”

Stover Hanes said...

"

This points to the reason why serial killers primarily habituate cities or suburbs, or operate nomadically. In a small town where everyone knows everyone else and notes their comings and goings, they would be caught after a short while.

A notable exception was Ed Gein, who lived in a small town of less than 1000 people. He only killed 2 victims, 3 if you count his brother. He was caught though, so maybe this exception prove the rule."



-Henry Lee Lucas was also from a small town.

DoJ said...

Free exit doesn't solve the problem. It actually encourages the problem since a) the abusers are left in place and b) migration promotes perverse incentives and less concern for externalities in general.

The abusers' behavior is not really problematic if everyone they'd abuse is gone.

Restricted entry keeps the perverse incentives under control.

The only kind of "free exit" that would help the problem would be secession i.e. instead of fleeing to another territory, your piece of territory secedes from the abusive authority and becomes independent.

That's great when you can pull it off, but it's usually militarily impractical.

Anonymous said...

Scroll down. Notice anyone familiar?

How the heck did you find that picture so quickly?

It seems like you'd need to throw some pretty sophisticated facial recognition software at the backend of Google Images [or of Bing Images] in order to track it down.

Well, at least if you were starting from scratch - without any hints.


New Family Bureau said...

Natural vs artificial selection seems to mirror the nature vs nurture paradox.

Driving from the Midwest to the East Coast I find a gradation (or degradation) basic friendliness. In this setting the altruism of saying, "Howdy" and holding the door for a stranger seems to be affected by social context.

The question is: Which is the natural and which the nurtural? That is, if friendliness a natural trait? Or is it learned?

Anonymous said...

"It seems like you'd need to throw some pretty sophisticated facial recognition software at the backend of Google Images [or of Bing Images] in order to track it down."

I'm not sure if I should divulge my methods. I don't particularly want DL aka CPF to know how I figured out that her image wasn't original.

Dahlia, who's cheap said...

Anonymous,

Awesome work.

What are you going to do, Steve?

And am I right that python girl paid at least $12.50?

Dahlia said...

"I'm not sure if I should divulge my methods. I don't particularly want DL aka CPF to know how I figured out that her image wasn't original."

Excellent idea. Perhaps it's my bad memory, but I can't place DL.

Again, great work.

Jim Bowery said...

Vertical transmission evolves symbiosis. Horizontal transmission evolves parasitism. This is old news to some of us but apparently it is very bad to talk about it.

Anonymous said...

it is too bad that some posters here have so little education and originality that they cannot engage in original conversation and must instead engage in internet 'sleuthing.'

Dai Alanye said...

Regarding the GOP "need" to change it's product: Coke/New Coke

Anonymous said...

"it is too bad that some posters here have so little education and originality that they cannot engage in original conversation and must instead engage in internet 'sleuthing.'"

It is too bad that some posters are so bankrupt of ethics that they choose to dress up an idea with someone eles's pretty face in order to sell it. Such tactics suggest little faith in the merits of the ideas that one purveys. Commendable chutzpah though, to go on the attack the moment you are outed.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"it is too bad that some posters here have so little education and originality that they cannot engage in original conversation and must instead engage in internet 'sleuthing.'"

That's really not smart.

It's you.

Anonymous said...

o/t but tangentially relevant, from The Blank Slate :

"We judge people not just on what they do but on what they are — not just on whether someone has given more than he has taken, but on whether he is the kind of person who would sell you down the river or knife you in the back if it were ever in his interests to do so.

To determine whether someone is emotionally committed to a relationship, guaranteeing the veracity of his promises, one should ascertain how he thinks: whether he holds your interests sacred or constantly weighs them against the profits to be made by selling you out."

Anonymous said...

"-Henry Lee Lucas was also from a small town."

Maybe so, but he didn't stay there. He drifted all over the place.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I should divulge my methods. I don't particularly want DL aka CPF to know how I figured out that her image wasn't original.

etaMay-ataDay?

Anonymous said...

People make this way too complicated. Humans were never totally selfish; they were (are) at least partly altruistic toward kin. But only toward kin. Among most kinship-based primitives anthropologists have studied, members of other tribes are are hardly regarded at all, except as possible adversaries. This is the default mode of mankind, and is likely due to the lengthy period of childhood dependence, the dependence of the female while pregnant or suckling, and also the dependence of the female on male hunters to provide meat to replenish the iron she loses through menstruation. Probably there are other reasons as well, but who knows.

The invention known in very general terms as "culture" has, as its centerpiece, the innovation of providing men with symbolic systems as possible replacements to their natural identities of a social mammal embedded in a kinship-system, and that compete for their loyalty. The state, post-neolithic religion, civic institutions... all of these were innovations that allowed non-kin to live nextdoor without killing each other. And to create a sense of relative solidarity between non-kin by positing other groups being even more "other". "I may be Norwegian-American and my neighbor is Italian-American, but we're practically brothers opposed to those damns Iranians..."

But these things didn't evolve. They were imposed, and only became somewhat natural over time as methods of indoctrination became more refined. If those methods of indoctrination ever lapsed, or if the symbol systems competing with blood for men's loyalty ever lost their force, we would retreat to our natural state of regarding only kin very quickly.

David said...

>How could altruism evolve under the rules of natural selection?<

Animals not only battle each other for survival. They must also overcome harsh conditions in nature that are normally beyond an individual's power to ameliorate. Competition covers the former; cooperation ("altruism" is a loaded term), the latter.

More emphasis is placed on competition, to the detriment of appreciating or even seeing cooperation. One reason for this is that lions ripping into a gazelle, say, is a briefer, more dramatic event.

Another reason: how can a group of humans with every reason to cooperate be kept at one another's throats (and therefore non-threatening to its human parasites), unless it's rectum-injected 24/7 with - among other things - the religion of Competition, viz. competition is the end-all and be-all of human existence, including science, economics, and personal achievement? I'm cooler and less racist than thou, quoth the swipples (NSFW). Free enterprise for thee but not for me, say the Blankfeins.

NOTA said...

The evolution of cooperation is a rich, interesting topic in evolution. It clearly happens, all the way down to bacteria that coordinate actions with bacteria of other species (Google for quorum sensing) and all the way up to eusocial insects like bees and ants.

Lots and lots of animals can cooperate in various ways. It's not a shock that humans are among them, since we're products of the same process that built all the other living things on Earth.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of horizontal transmission evolving virulence, is there anything, as Borroughs pointed to, quite as virulent as English memeplexes have become?

Overpopulation, antinatalism, global warming, egalitarianism (it doesn't matter if I reproduce, as we're all the same anyway), etc..

It's all these sterilizing virulent memes that I hypothesize is what has resulted in the precipitous decline in reproduction in English-speaking peoples (others, such as the Japanese, are similarly beset with such a plague, but English memes have a much larger host population in which to evolve).

Memetic immune systems like religion and isolation do work somewhat, but religions are obviously prone to the same and the extant isolated populations are usually pacifist. They'll be vaporized on whim by the meme-filled surrounding population. Militaristic isolation with cloaking is the way to go with parent-offspring cultural transfer.

It's probably too late for this planet, honestly. Maybe some lucky human(s) will manage to escape this orb at a speed that they cannot be caught and "infected."