Peace breaks out

Asides, Society, Systems thinking

I watched a very good Horizon from 1986 a few nights ago which, whilst not saying anything particularly new (not least because it’s 22 years old..), was a good reminder and layered on one or two details, about
cooperation and its biological imperatives. I knew, for example, that tit-for-tat is always the best strategy for group cooperation coupled with rational self-defence, but I didn’t know why. It turns out that a
chap set a competition in 1980 and ask programmers and mathematicians to write in with strategies for the Prisoners’ Dilemma problem, a game in which one needs to work with or against one’s opponent, and the optimising outcome requires collaboration (3 points each), but demands a slight sacrifice to be made vs the individual outcome from playing selfishly (4 points for the selfish player, 1 point for the chump).

People submitted intelligence strategies which learned and perpetually reappraised probabilities, and solutions which acted selfishly all the way through, but in the long game Tit for Tat always one, and even
more interestingly the more trusting and cooperative strategies mostly grouped higher than the defensive, selfish strategies. More at

But one of the most interesting things from the whole program reference WWI, which apparently had long periods of peace during which each side would deliberately miss, go short with their ammunition, or
simply show off (and send a reminder about the punishment for not staying peaceful) by taking target practise at various inanimate objects.
Unfortunately this was a truce between the men, and when the upper orders cottoned on they organised random raids, preventing any ad hoc peace from breaking out.

What a bunch of retards.

Ed Dowding

Ed Dowding

Founder, strategist, writer, gadfly, TED talker, world-record holder, and (foolishly) reality-TV farmer. DOES: Innovation, Product, Advocacy THINKS: Regenerative Systems, Institution design, 300 year horizons

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