Psychotherapy Services in South West London

Morality and evolution

In the late 1970s the political scientist Robert Axelrod approached a number of the world’s leading game theorist about the idea of holding a moral dilemma tournament in which the sole participants were computer programs. He  wanted to determine a strategy over time that explained evolutionary stability. The most successful program by far was also by far the most simple. Tit for tat designed by the mathematician and biologist Anatol Rapoport, whose  pioneering work on social interaction and general systems theory has been applied to issues of conflict resolution and disarmament on the political stage at large, did exactly what it said on the tin. It rewarded cooperation with cooperation – and then reaped it and rewarded selfish decision with selfish decision. Axelrod’s experiment showed this: survival of the fittest now appeared not as had been previously thought to reward competition indiscriminately. But rather to reward it discerningly. Under certain sets of circumstances aggression might well open doors but under others, in contrast, it might just as easily close them. There is no denying in the harshness of existence that it can at times be survival of the fittest out there. There will always be a need for risk takers in society as there will for rule breaker and heartbreakers. If there weren’t ten year old boys would be falling into ponds and drowning all over the place and no risk taker would save them.  But equally we all need cooperation to survive, there are times during the course of our everyday lives when we all need to pump the gas and this requires co-operation.

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