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Understanding Human Cooperation

We're looking for software developers to join our team in researching the evolution of human cooperation. Can you help us put an experimental game onto tablet PC's?
by

Stephen Heap

on 8 October 2014

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Transcript of Understanding Human Cooperation

Understanding human cooperation
Cooperation and conflict are key for understanding the organisation and complexity of biological systems
There is no
cooperation
without
conflict

at a higher organisational level
Natural selection then infers that cooperation
breaks down
in isolated groups
Selfish individuals limit their expected fitness by
harming
their group
Cooperative
groups have selective
advantages
over non-cooperative groups,
and thus members of more cooperative groups get to reproduce.
Prototype ready this year
But future additions can bring the project up to around 3 years
Firstly, we will be able to make a strong contribution to the scientific understanding of social evolution.
Secondly, we hope that you will
develop skills as programmer,
and get some ideas for games or apps.
Mikael Puurtinen
Jaakko Junikka
Petri Rautiala
Stephen Heap
Games are developing as a medium for exploring the
human condition
in a way that other mediums can not
Cooperation and conflict
Independence and collaboration
Welfare and sacrifice
Individual and the collective
Chaos and order
mikael.puurtinen@jyu.fi
You?
Cooperation
and
conflict
are two sides of the same coin
Cooperators
receive
benefits
from getting help from others
But also pay a
cost
to help others
Selfish
individuals get help for free
At the level of a single group
At the level of multiple groups
Groups can compete over resources
More cooperators
More free-riders
The spinning of the
cooperation-conflict
coin drives an
evolutionary
engine...
...that allows genes to
cooperate
with each other...
... to form chromosomes.

Conflict
between chromosomes encourages them to
cooperate
and form...
... complex cells.

But the story doesn't end here, because
conflict
amongst groups of cells can lead to the evolution of...
... multicellular organisms, like you!

But multicellular organisms can also be in
conflict
, and you can see where this is going...
... to the formation of
cooperative
social groups!

We can follow this chain all the way from families, to villages, clans, tribes, cities, countries, multi-national agencies and onwards, but you probably get the point by now.

But just to make sure...
Cooperators
must be able to
interact
with other
cooperators
if the behaviour is to
evolve
So the social
structure
, or interaction network of a group is important
Social
structure
is often not imposed by the environment, but
self-structured
, by the behaviour of individuals.
For example...
These are the rules for
Conway's Game of Life
.

Cells can be
filled
or
empty
at a given time-step,
and their
state
in the next time step
depends only on the
state
of surrounding cells.

Only four
simple rules
at the
individual
scale...
If...
Then...
... can result in the
emergence
of complex organisation and
structure

at the
scale
of the entire
population
!
The point being:
Complex population structures can be determined by individual level decisions.

Which is important from an
evolutionary
point of view,
because
natural selection
will be acting on
individual level
behaviours.
Now things start getting really interesting...
At the individual level we have...
...
cooperative
behaviour can evolve...
... which influence whether or not...
... behaviours that
structure
the population...
... which then affects the payoffs of...
Coevolution!
Feedback!
Circularity!
Recursion!
Iteration!
OK, that's cool, but science doesn't yet understand anything about what goes on here.
If you remember all that stuff about the importance of
group competition
in affecting
cooperation
...
... the question we want to ask is:

How does
group competition
affect the relationship between
cooperation
and
population structuring
?
Our lab group has performed some
scientific studies
into the relationship between
cooperation
and
conflict
People really did
cooperate more
when their group was in
competition
with another compared to when their group was alone.
'We have to work together to beat the other team!'
When people were given the
choice
of how to interact with other
groups
,
peacefully
or
competitively
,
they mostly chose to
compete
.
Let's get those guys!
But there's still much more to understand.
So here's what we want to do...
We begin with...
Take a group of individuals and give them some money.
Allow them to invest this money in a
Public Good
, or to keep it in a
Personal Account
.
All the money in the public good then gets multiplied
and shared equally among all group members.
The implication being that you can see two kinds of players:
The
cooperators
,
who paid a personal cost
to invest in the public good,
and the
free-riders
that
get the benefits
at no cost.
There exists a
Social Dilemma
:
-
Keep money to self,
which is the economically rational and safe thing to do, or
-
Behave cooperatively
and stand to get lots of money providing everyone else cooperates as well.
Free-Riders
get higher payoffs than
cooperators
in any group,
but as the number of
cooperators
increases so to do the benefits received through cooperation.
Now, we give players three decisions
1. The size of group that they want to join
They can choose to act alone,
or be part of a small group.

Smaller groups tend to be more cooperative,
by the way.
Or perhaps they prefer to be part of a larger group.

There can be safety in numbers, after all.
2. How much to invest in the public good
All for one and one for all!
Go team!
Screw you all!
Go me!
3. Vote on how to interact with other groups
War!
Peace!
We used to do experiments with
people using computers
in a lab like this.

But we're going to need lots of people in this experiment, and these labs are too small.
Which is where we need your help!
Can you join the team
and help get this game onto tablets?
From a control flow perspective,
things won't be too complicated.
But we're going to need an
attractive
,
game-like
interface
.

It needs to be
intuitive
for the user,
but we
can't allow
anything that will
influence
the player's
decision making
.
And of course, we need the back-end to be
programmed
This will involve
algorithms
that
sort
players into groups, based on their preferences.
And ones that resolve within and between
group interactions
Because we are doing science,
we need
DATA
!
And we need programs that provide us
with everything we need,
in a way that is easy to manage,
so we can do our analysis.
The tablets and game must also be
networked
somehow
We're going to require some
commitment
Future additions like incorporating
communication
And identity
markers
So what's in it for you?
and the game involved in our project touches upon some pretty heavy
thematic
issues:
The game also has some interesting aspects from a
mechanical
point of view:
Well, learning and development, for one.
Anticipating opponents
Strategic decisions
Social dilemma
Emergent complexity
Intuitive rules
Then there's the economic incentive.

Full time and part time jobs available.

Also, we would be interested in developing the game from laboratory software to a commercially viable game.

The lab software may also be valuable on the market, because public goods games are used by thousands of scientists from around the world.
So what will be the overall outcomes?
This has important implications for understanding group living organisms, collective behaviour and the hierarchy of life.
This will also constitute research into complex systems, and the important dynamics that can take place within them.
And who knows where this project might lead to?
A new market product perhaps?
The Team
jonne.harja@jyu.fi
Please contact:
Sign up today!
Research
EXPA
music by longzijun
http://longzijun.wordpress.com/
Full transcript