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Evolution Selfish and Mean

Evolution Will 'Punish' You If You're Selfish and Mean


The Darwinian perspective of ‘survival of the fittest’ should mean that those who are selfish and live their lives with an ‘every man for himself’ attitude would be more likely to succeed in life and therefore form part of the gene pool that are naturally selected to carry on into the future.  However, latest research suggests that evolution does not favour the selfish.

The study, which appears in the current issue of Nature Communications, disproves a popular theory put forward last year in which a newly discovered strategy – called zero determinant – gave selfish players a guaranteed way to beat cooperative players.

The two lead researchers of the latest study, Christoph Adami and Arend Hintze, had their doubts about whether following a zero determinant strategy (ZD) would essentially eliminate cooperation and create a world full of selfish beings. So they used high-powered computing to run hundreds of thousands of games and found ZD strategies can never be the product of evolution. While ZD strategies offer advantages when they're used against non-ZD opponents, they don't work well against other ZD opponents.

"The only way ZD strategists could survive would be if they could recognize their opponents," Hintze said. "And even if ZD strategists kept winning so that only ZD strategists were left, in the long run they would have to evolve away from being ZD and become more cooperative. So they wouldn't be ZD strategists anymore."

The study authors concluded that, even if some selfish organisms may come out ahead for a short time and against a specific set of opponents, overall evolution will punish you if you’re selfish and mean.  In other words, selfishness is not evolutionarily sustainable.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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