Total Altruism Is A Myth

From: Van oost Kenneth (
Date: Sat 08 Jan 2005 - 15:54:39 GMT

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    << In the time which in politicians, clergymen and social workers preach more than ever unselfishness, altruism seems to be a curse, but according to a recent study, noone gives to charity for no reasons. As far as we can acertain we look into one's life if he asks for our help, if he already did the same for others. Having a good reputation is thus of a necessity in cases of need.

    Karthik Panchanathan writes in Nature,
    " If you ever had the urge to dump a friend who took advantage of your kindness, don 't worry, you just have followed your basic instincts. " This explains why people often incline towards the common interest:- those who bend to the rules, can easily call for our help, while those who take advantage can not. Most people feel anger if class mates don 't wanna do teamwork or if we see those unemployed perform heavy duties.

    " We all know that most of us pay taxes or clear up the sidewalks when the snow came in by the hundreds, because they fear to be punished if they don 't. But why should people teach somebody else a good lesson !? Blaming the parasites among us takes time and a lot of energy that can 't be applied for other more important matters like collecting berries or go hunting." Panchanathan got intrigued,

    " Why we get angry if somebody doesn 't contribute to the working of the hive !? Wouldn 't it not be better to say that it is their business anyway and let others within the group pull out the nuts for ye' !?

    In his proposed model he used the evolutionary game- theory to confront the human behaviour within small groups to its limits. The characters cleaned up yearly a swamp. That took a great part of the day but the whole of the community was better of because diseases caused by the mosquitos couldn 't spread. In the model 3 types of community- members were introduced.

    First there were the ' co- operatives', people who contributed to the community by always helping those who needed most. Than there were those he called
    ' dissidents ', people who stand aside and did nothing ever to help others. Finally there were ' shuns ', those who were most choosy if their help was needed. People with a bad name weren 't counted in by those who the ' shuns ' offered their help.

    So, the swamp was cleaned but only by the co- operatives and the shuns. The whole of the community, the dissidents included, enjoyed the benefit of a mosquito free summer. Up till here the dissidents were the smartest group.But moments after the race was run, and ordinary works needed the people's attention the dissidents got into deep trouble. Co- operatives did help everybody who asked for, but the shuns were more than ever selective. By ignoring the cries for help by the dissidents they got more time and resources to improve their own score. After a while the individuals got the opportunity to propagate_ those with the highest scores ( the highest ' fitness- points ) were allowed to get more offspring. In the end all those who were left were either dissidents or shuns.

    " Both results were consistent with other models, there is an evolutionary equilibrium and it doesn 't matter how mush time passess, the constitution of the community won 't change. "

    In a community with only co- operatives and dissidents the latter will take the upperhand, but the same happens if co- operatives and shuns got to fight for the resources_ the shuns won.

    " The co- operatives were simply to friendly, that 's why they died out. " If dissidents were opposed to the shuns, in one respect the formers won, in the other case the shuns. What once again proves how fragile a co- operative community is. If freebooters and profiteers don 't find support the whole of the community will benefit, because each time we do something friendly or with kindness it will cost something. If we let social parasites stand in the cold, we thus save energy, time and resources and above all the profiteer gets punished.

    " That is why we get angry if others don 't contribute to the whole of the com- munity. First we disapprove if they don 't get the message, than they will loose out on the social support so well known to us. Finally, in some case, they must run for it because others will physical abuse them. It is within our gens, that we ask atleast a sanction for those who behave badly socially. Of course, the model isn 't accurate and is far from the thruth and reality, but it is the first study that proves beyond any doubt that co- operation is only possible if social parasites and dissidents get punished with social exclusion. "

    Robert Boyd, co- author, " as long as it is social acceptable, people will ignore social parasites and prifiteers, because in the end they will be better of themselves. "

    Kenneth Van Oost, January 2005

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