This is the first instalment in what will hopefully become a series of blogs (six or so) about the evolution of cooperation. I mentioned before that science is made more interesting by paradoxes. Cooperation is the ultimate paradox of evolution. How does "survival of the fittest" end up with people helping each other? And we do see cooperation in nature.
We review the evolutionary theory relevant to the question of human cooperation and compare the results to other theoretical perspectives. Then, we summarize some of our work distilling a compound explanation that we believe gives a plausible account of human cooperation and selfishness. This account leans heavily on group selection on cultural variation but also includes lower-level forces driven by both microscale cooperation and purely selfish motives. We propose that innate aspects of human social psychology coevolved with group-selected cultural institutions to produce just the kinds of social and moral faculties originally proposed by Darwin. We call this the “tribal social instincts” hypothesis.
Innate human propensities for cooperation with strangers, shaped during the Pleistocene in response to rapidly changing environments, could have provided highly adaptive social instincts that more recently coevolved with cultural institutions; although the biological capacity for primate sociality evolved genetically, the authors propose that channeling of tribal instincts via symbol systems has involved a cultural transmission and selection that continues the evolution of cooperative human capacities at a cultural rather than genetic level — and pace.
Any group that attempts to manage a common resource (e.g., aquifers, judicial systems, pastures) for optimal sustainable production must solve a set of problems in order to create institutions for collective action; there is some evidence that following a small set of design principles in creating these institutions can overcome these problems.
The health and vitality of relationships, groups, and the society at large is strongly challenged by social dilemmas, or conflicts between short-term self-interest and long-term collective interest. Pollution, depletion of natural resources, and intergroup conflict, can be characterized as examples of urgent social dilemmas. Social dilemmas are challenging because acting in one’s immediate self-interest is tempting to everyone involved, even though everybody benefits from acting in the longer-term collective interest.
The unpredictable vagaries of human social life help explain one of the conundrums of evolutionary biology and economics: why individuals engage in random acts of generosity when there is no obvious payback.
Some of the most successful businesses in the world involve employees, customers and suppliers in their control. This paper describes why this is so and how stakeholder governance could be introduced into English speaking countries. The competitive advantages of establishing co-operative relationships with stakeholders are illustrated by analyzing a Japanese Keiretsu and the stakeholder co-operatives found around the Spanish town of Mondragon. These are shown to share common features in their information and control architecture, which are also shared by all living things, which depend upon obtaining feedback information from their environment to exist. Elements of information theory, which is used to design self-regulating devices, are introduced to indicate how firms could be designed to mimic life forms to become self-regulating. Besides introducing competitive advantages, this would minimize both the internal and external costs of regulation. The paper recommends that governments provide leadership in introducing competitive self-regulation using the strategy proposed by the U.S. Vice President. The result would be to create a "Stakeholder Economy."
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