Cooperation is human beings' survival skill...


This is only half of the page that I intended to put up. But I was traveling all week, and didn’t have a chance to finish it. Rather than make you wait for the rest, here’s this bit at least!

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There are now 12 comments... what are your thoughts?
  1. Gregory Bogosian says

    In computer science they call the problem of cooperation and trust the Byzantine Fault Tolerance problem. Too bad they haven’t solved it yet.

    • The Byzantine Generals Problem is unsolveable, not unsolved. You can prove that there is no solution.

      Also, I don’t see how it relates to this. Byzantine faults have to do with the possibility of lost messages and an inability to directly observe the behavior of other actors. It doesn’t apply when you’re with someone in-person.

      • Most governance doesn’t happen in person. No one can monitor what their representatives do in real time unless they have the free-time to watch CSPAN all day.

  2. psionl0 says

    I’m not convinced by this “trust” angle.

    Humans are more like pack animals and the strength of the pack is largely related to the strength of the leader of the pack.

    • You don’t think people need to trust each other for society to function? That seems obvious to me. And keep in mind, with pack animals like wolves, the leader is not just some random wolf that rose up to become the leader. Wolf packs are actually wolf families, the leaders (alpha male and alpha female) are the parents; the rest of the wolves are their offspring. A wolf pack is not just some random group of wolves that got together to form a pack. When the offspring get old enough, they run off on their own to try and find a mate and form their own wolf pack.

    • Human societies don’t operate like wolf packs, no matter how much authoritarians want it to be so. There is no evidence for this aside from the armchair philosophizing of people who crave power.

    • There’s a lot more “trust” in society than you’d think. The biggest example I can think of is driving. You trust every other driver to follow the rules of the road, try and avoid collisions, and generally act in a safe, sane fashion, and they’re trusting you to do the same. Sure, some people spit in the face f that, but for the most part, everyone plays along, and most of the time there are no problems. You can’t drive without trusting your fellow humans.

      I definitely don’t believe in the wolf pack thing. If anything, humans tend to rebel against an overly-strong leader. Can’t trust someone who’s so strong, they don’t have to work with other people, ya know?

      • I think you might be equating “strong leader” with “dictator”. It is not about the person but the system. The faces might change but the leader (government) still remains. Even in a wolf pack, leader can be challenged. The main differences between human society and a wolf pack are size and complexity.

        As to whether humans would altruistically obey all laws if they didn’t fear any consequences, that is a highly contentious debate. The need to decide which side of the road to drive on is all too often used to justify highly intrusive levels of government.

        • I have a problem with the phrase “altruistically obey all laws” because the majority of laws are not created to uphold altruism but rather to maintain order. I think it’s fair to say that most people would not follow laws they didn’t like if there were no consequences. There are often laws that are still on the books, still law, but can’t be enforced because they’ve been found unconstitutional. People seem pretty comfortable breaking this type of law. That being said, I think people, even in the absence of government enforcement, have a strong sense of altruism and fair play. For example, people pay their taxes mostly because they want to pay their fair share, not because there’s a high risk of legal consequences.

      • I don’t think driving is the best example of trust. Safe driving is a form of cooperative behavior, but there’s a ton of self-interest there. If I drive drive on the wrong side, run red lights, tailgate, etc. I’m as likely to damage my own car as others. There are plenty of examples of trust in our society, though. I think the simplest is that we assume people will tell the truth and keep their promises, even in cases when their self-interest would be better served by dishonesty.

  3. Morris_of_Orange says

    Wait I thought the Founding Fathers were influenced by Hobbes’ depiction of the State of Nature so wouldn’t that influence their frame of mind as opposed to what we know now about the State of Nature?

    • A few pages ago, it was pointed out that the founders, who wrote the declaration of independence, and the framers, who wrote the constitution, had different goals and influences. This page is talking about the framers, and I think their opinions probably differed from Hobbes’. I imagine that, like Hobbes, the framers were looking at their own time and place to determine what would work, but that life in the Americas was different from that of Europe, so they created a system very different from those outlined in works like ‘Leviathan.’

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