We are back to thinking about the Prisoner's Dilemma (PD).
Recall that in a single-move PD defection is the rational choice. Which is problematic in that mutual defection leads to a sub-optimal outcome. However, cooperation can emerge in what is called the "iterated Prisoner's Dilemma."
In an iterated PD you play the PD with your partner over and over. Cooperation can emerge in the iterated PD because if the players keep playing defection moves it gradually dawns on each of them that if they would cooperate then each would get a higher payoff. There is little risk in trying to cooperate in the iterated PD because if, after a period of mutual cooperation, your partner defects on you, hurting you for a turn, you can respond/retaliate by returning to mutual defection on the next move. Again, this brings both you and your partner back to the sub-optimal outcome of mutual defection. So, opportunistically defecting on a partner whom you will have to play with again on the next turn tends to not pay off in the long run. It is better to just stick with cooperation.
In real life we see the iterated PD at work all the time. We rarely defect on people if we are going to see them again tomorrow. The repeated contact and the concern over retaliation makes most of us cooperative. Thus, defection tends to only emerge when we are not planning to ever see this person again. In one-time anonymous interactions, defection is a real problem. But we don't fear defection from people we regularly associate with. We don't defect on these people because we don't want to "burn a bridge." The point being that we will have future interactions with these people and we want them in a cooperative mood when we see them again.
I'm discussing the iterated PD because I want to talk today about a famous PD tournament conducted by Robert Axelrod. You can read Axelrod's account in his book The Evolution of Cooperation.
Here's what Axelrod did. He invited all kinds of people to submit a computer program that would play other programs in an iterated PD. In the computer tournament all the programs would play each other with point totals added up from each round (the payoffs were: Temptation to Defect = +5, Payoff for Mutual Cooperation = +3, Payoff for Mutual Defection = +1, and the Sucker's Payoff = 0; see my Risk post to get clear on this if you are new to this series).
After pitting the programs against each other in a kind of Darwinian environment, where the programs were competing against each other to gain the highest point total, a very curious winner emerged.
The winner was a now famous program called Tit for Tat (henceforth TFT). Interestingly, TFT was the shortest (as in computer code) and simplest (as in strategy) program submitted. TFT's program simply did this:
1. Cooperate on the first move.
2. Copy what your partner/opponent did on the prior move.
That's it. That's the Tit for Tat strategy. To be clear, imagine TFT is playing a program called, creatively, "Program." Here is how TFT would play.
Move 1: TFT plays "Cooperate"; Program plays "Cooperate"
Cumulative Payoffs after Move 1: TFT = +3; Program = +3 (these are the payoffs for mutual cooperation)
Move 2: TFT plays "Cooperate" (because Program cooperated on Move 1); Program plays "Defect"
Cumulative Payoffs after Move 2: TFT = +3 (TFT got the sucker's payoff at move two so +3 from Move 1 plus 0 at Move 2 keeps TFT at +3); Program = +8 (Program got +3 on Move 1 and +5 on Move 2 for collecting the Temptation to Defect payoff)
Move 3: TFT plays "Defect" (because Program defected on the prior move); Program plays "Defect"
Cumulative Playoffs after Move 3: TFT = +4; Program = +9 (both get +1 to their totals for the Payoff for Mutual Defection)
And so on. You get the idea of of TFT's strategy.
Amazingly, this simple little program won the whole tournament. That is, its cumulative total from all rounds was higher than any other submitted program. But here is the interesting part. Axelrod when back and classified all the submitted programs, noting qualities of each program's strategy. Here is how TFT was classified:
TFT was a NICE program: Programs were "nice" if they showed a bias toward cooperation AND were never the first to defect. Notice, TFT is biased toward cooperation (its first move is to cooperate) and it will never move off that cooperative move unless YOU defect first. TFT will never stab you in the back. It wants to play nice.
TFT was an UNENVIOUS/UNCOMPETITIVE program: Notice, if you look at the logic of TFT, TFT could never "win" a head's up match. The best it can do is tie you. TFT won the overall title without winning a single individual round. Only its cumulative total was higher. Interestingly, TFT won it all without trying to beat anyone.
Finally, TFT was FORGIVING: If you defect on TFT, TFT will protect itself by defecting on you the next move. But, if you return to cooperation, TFT will follow. It will "forgive" you and return to cooperation. TFT will give you a second chance (and a third, and a fourth, etc.)
I want to reflect on this outcome more next week. But let me just leave you with this amazing conclusion. The reason why Axelrod's tournament and TFT are famous is this:
In a Darwinian competition the nice guy won.
Think about that: A nice, unenvious, forgiving strategy won the tournament. It was the Darwinian victor. In the "survival of the fittest," as defined by the rules of Axelrod's game, niceness was most "fit," niceness was "strongest."
A nice guy finished first.
Now that is something to think about...
Welcome to the blog of Richard Beck, professor and experimental psychologist at Abilene Christian University (brief vita) and author of Unclean and The Authenticity of Faith.Experimental Theology is available on the Kindle.
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The Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux
The William Stringfellow Project (Ongoing)
- Subversion and Shame: I Like the Color Pink
- The Bureaucrat
- Uncle Richard, Vampire Hunter
- Freedom Fellowship
- Palm Sunday with the Orhtodox
- Looking Like Jesus (or a Crazy Person)
- Freedom Rider
- On Maps and Marital Spats
- Get on a Bike...and Go Slow
- Buying a Bible
- Memento Mori
- We Weren't as Good as the Muppets
- Uncle Richard and the Shark
- Growing Up Catholic
- Ghostbusting (Part 1)
- Ghostbusting (Part 2)
- My Eschatological Dog
- Meditations on Y'all
- Tex Mex and Depression Era Cuisine
- Aliens at Roswell
- Driving to Pizza House
On the Principalities and Powers
- Christian Anarchism
- A Restless Patriotism
- Wink on Exorcism
- Images of God Against Empire
- A Boredom Revolution
- The Medal of St. Benedict
- Exorcisms are about Economics
- "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?"
- "A Home for Demons...and the Merchants Weep"
- Tales of the Demonic
- The Ethic of Death: The Policies and Procedures Manual
- "All That Are Here Are Humans"
- Ears of Stone
- The War Prayer
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail
From the Prison Bible Study
Series/Essays Based on my Research
- Death and Christian Art, Part 1
- Death and Christian Art, Interlude
- Death and Christian Art, Part 2
- Death and Christian Art, Part 3
- Satan and the Emotional Burden of Monotheism
- Death, Gnosticism and the Incarnation
- Summer and Winter Christians
- Sinning in Your Heart
- Quest Religious Orientation
- Satan as a Functional Theodicy
- Attachment to God
- PostSecret, Part 1
- PostSecret, Part 2
- PostSecret, Part 3
- PostSecret, Part 4
- PostSecret, Part 5
The Theology of Calvin and Hobbes
The Theology of Peanuts
The Angel of the iPhone
Reflections on Gender and the Church
- Call No Man on Earth Father
- Head Coverings: Why Female Hair is a Testicle
- A Letter to My Church on Women's Roles
- Pragmatics or Power in Patriarchy?
- Whores: A Meditation on Gender and the Bible
- On Masculine Christianity and Powerplays
- Thoughts on Mark Driscoll While I'm Knitting
- Ambivalent Sexism
- Direct Your Hearts to Her
- Gender, Submission and Ecosystems of Abuse
The Snake Handling Churches of Appalachia
How Facebook Killed the Church
Blogging about the Bible
- Adam's First Wife
- I Am a Worm
- Christus Victor in the Lord's Prayer
- Let Them Both Grow Together
- Here I Am
- Becoming the Jubilee
- Sermon on the Mount: Study Guide
- Treat Them as a Pagan or Tax Collector
- Going Outside the Camp
- Welcoming Children
- The Song of Lamech and the Song of the Lamb
- The Nephilim
- Shaming Jesus
- Pseudepigrapha and the Christian Witness
- The Exclusion and Inclusion of Eunuchs
- The Second Moses
- The New Manna
- Salvation in the First Sermons of the Church
- "A Bloody Husband"
- Song of the Vineyard
- The Jubilee
Bonhoeffer's Letters from Prision
Civil Rights Family Trip
Demons and The Powers
- Part 1: Thinking about Demons
- Part 2: Evil and Illness in Modernity
- Part 3: Evil as Residual
- Part 4: The Language of The Powers
- Part 5: The Angels of the Nations
- Part 6: Yoder on The Powers
- Part 7: The Spirituality of The Powers
- Part 8: The Inner Aspect of Material Power
- Part 9: Stringfellow on The Powers
- Part 10: Demons in the Gosples
The Midrash of R. Crumb
Theology and Evolutionary Psychology
- Prelude: Galileo's Dilemma
- Part 1: Natural and Sexual Selection
- Part 2: On the Sweet Tooth (and Morality as Dieting)
- Interlude: Emoticons
- Part 3: Evolution and Human Sexuality
- Part 4: Sexual Jealousy
- Part 5: Kin Selection and Family Values
- Part 6: The Storge to Xenia Shift
- Part 7: Reciprocity
- Part 8: Moralistic Aggression
Scripture and Discernment
- Biblical as Sociological Stress Test
- Cookie Cutting the Bible: A Case Study
- Pawn to King 4
- Allowing God to Rage
- Poetry of a Murderer
- On Christian Communion: Killing vs. Sexuality
- Heretics and Disagreement
- Atonement: A Primer
- "The Bible says..."
- The "Yes, but..." Church
- Human Experience and the Bible
- Discernment, Part 1
- Discernment, Part 2
- Rabbinic Hedges
- Fuzzy Logic
Interacting with Good Books
- Are Christians Hate-Filled Hypocrites?
- Christ and Horrors
- The King Jesus Gospel
- The Bible Made Impossible
- The Deliverance of God
- To Change the World
- Sexuality and the Christian Body
- I Told Me So
- The Teaching of the Twelve
- Evolving in Monkey Town
- Saved from Sacrifice: A Series
- Darwin's Sacred Cause
- Evil in Modern Thought, Part 1
- Evil in Modern Thought, Part 2
- Evil in Modern Thought, Part 3
- The Black Swan, Part 1
- The Black Swan, Part 2
- Rapture Ready!
- A Secular Age
- The God Who Risks
- I Am a Strange Loop, Part 1
- I Am a Strange Loop, Part 2
- I Am a Strange Loop, Part 3
- I Am a Strange Loop, Part 4
- I Am a Strange Loop, Part 5
- The Evolution of Cooperation
- On Apology
- Ethnocentrism and Politics
- Flies, Attention and Morality
- The Banality of Evil
- Regarding Sex
- The Ovens at Buchenwald
- Violence and Traffic Lights
- Defending Individualism
- Guilt and Atonement
- The Varieties of Love and Hate
- The Wicked
- Moral Foundations
- Primum non nocere
- The Moral Emotions
- The Moral Circle, Part 1
- The Moral Circle, Part 2
- Taboo Psychology
- The Morality of Mentality
- Moral Conviction
- Holiness and Moral Grammars
Experiments in Quantitative Ecclesiology
The Theology of Everyday Life
- Hating Pixels
- Dress, Divinity and Dumbfounding
- The Kingdom of God Will Not Be Tweeted
- The Ethics of :-)
- On Snobbery
- The F-word
- Can you sin on a deserted island?
- Ironic Christians
- Everything I learned about life I learned coaching tee-ball
- Gossip, Part 1: The Food of the Brain
- Gossip, Part 2: Evolutionary Stable Strategies
- Gossip, Part 3: The Pay it Forward World
- Sinning in Your Heart?, Part 1: The Morality of Mentality
- Moral Progress, Part 1
- Moral Progress, Part 2
- Human Nature
- On Humility
Dogmatism & Doubt: Curing the Religious Disease
Sticky Theology (Why is Bad Theology so Popular?)
- Holiness in Heaven?
- Universalism and the New Perspective on Paul
- A Googolplexian Hell
- The Best Ending to the Christian Story: An Exchange with Daniel Kirk
- Universalism and the Bondage of the Will
- Universalism and the Prophetic Imagination
- Universalism and Theodicy
- Universalism FAQ & Answers
- Universalism: A Summary Defense
- Why I Am a Universalist Series (and Resources)
Alone, Suburban & Sorted
The Theology of Monsters
Original Sin: A New View
The Theology of Ugly
A Walk with William James
- Part 1: The Jamesian Situation
- Part 2: Habit
- Part 3: Belief as Vote
- Part 4: Pragmatism and the Emerging Church
- Part 5: Theology is a Fork
- Part 6: Ontological Emotion
- Part 7: Religious Surrender
- Part 8: Introverts at Church
- Part 9: Bubbles in the Sun
- Part 10: Ghostbusting
- Part 11: The Empirical Trace
- Part 12: Saintliness
Preparing for the Cartesian Storm (Free Will & Souls in the Age of Neuroscience)
Musings On Faith, Belief, and Doubt
- Cheap Praise and Costly Praise
- Wired to Suffer
- A New Apologetics
- Orthodox Alexithymia
- High and Low: The Psalms and Suffering
- The Buddhist Phase
- Skilled Christianity
- The Two Families of God
- The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity
- Evil and Evolution: Thoughts on Enns and Smith
- Theodicy and No Country for Old Men
- Doubt: A Diagnosis
- Faith and Modernity
- Faith after "The Cognitive Turn"
- The Gifts of Doubt
- A Beautiful Life
- Is Santa Claus Real?
- The Feeling of Knowing
- Practicing Christianity
- In Praise of Doubt
- Skepticism and Conviction
- Pragmatic Belief
- N-Order Complaint and Need for Cognition
The Theology of Humor
Game Theory and the Kingdom of God
- A Christmas Carol as Resistance Literature: Part 1
- A Christmas Carol as Resistance Literature: Part 2
- It's Still Christmas
- Easter Shouldn't Be Good News
- The Deeper Magic: A Good Friday Meditation
- Palm Sunday with the Orthodox
- Growing Up Catholic: A Lenten Meditation
- The Liturgical Year for Dummies
- "Watching Their Flocks at Night": An Advent Meditation
- Pentecost and Babel
- Ambivalence about Lent
- On Easter and Astronomy
- Christmas & TV, Part 1: The Grinch
- Christmas & TV, Part 2: Misfits
- Christmas & TV, Part 3: Charlie Brown
- Sex Sandals and Advent
- Freud and Valentine's Day
- Existentialism and Halloween
- Halloween Redux: Talking with the Dead
- Jesus Would Be a Hufflepuff
- The Moral Example of Captain Jack Sparrow
- Weddings Real, Imagined and Yet to Come
- Michelangelo and Neuroanatomy
- Believing in Bigfoot
- The Kingdom of God as Improv and Flash Mob
- 2012 and the End of the World
- Chocolate Jesus
- The Polar Express and the Uncanny Valley
- Why the Anti-Christ Is an Idiot
- On Harry Potter and Vampire Movies