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Post No.: 0811doves


Furrywisepuppy says:


Nature seeks a balance between ‘hawks’ (defectors, conflict-seekers or free-riders) and ‘doves’ (collaborators or cooperators). And evolution has worked out that the best strategy isn’t all about conflict or direct competition – in fact nature has worked out that it’s best for there to be a clear majority of ‘doves’ and a minority of ‘hawks’ (perhaps two-thirds ‘doves’ and one-third ‘hawks’ in the population, depending on the values assigned to the payoffs of a prisoner’s dilemma situation).


A society will quickly crumble if there are too many ‘hawks’. And if everyone were ‘doves’ then it’d leave room for a ‘hawk’ or two to exploit this to their own advantage. For instance, if too many people dodged their taxes then a nation will collapse (this was a partial explanation for Greece’s problems during the Eurozone crisis from 2009 until the mid/late 2010s), but a relatively few free-riding tax dodgers could take advantage of everyone else’s cooperation to pay (like some of those rich enough to afford to use offshore tax havens).


What society must therefore do is tackle the free-riders, rather than suggest that everyone should follow the strategy of the ‘successful selfish and greedy’. It cannot be sustainable if we’re all parasites towards each other.


Collaboration, kindness and forgiveness is therefore a highly-evolved strategy – nature has figured it out, and the game theory confirms this ‘doves’ strategy makes rational sense for the majority of a population to take the majority of the time. Collaboration must be the predominant strategy in society otherwise everyone will eventually lose.


Cooperation allows us to become greater than the mere sum of our parts – see Post No.: 0528.


We used to think that trees and plants competed with each other in zero-sum contests for light, water and nutrients in forests, but now we understand that it’s more positive-sum. Plants coexist by expanding the pie – they cooperate as well as compete. For instance, if a deer starts nibbling on a plant, that plant will communicate and share chemical messages to warn neighbouring plants to ramp up their defences to make themselves less palatable. Nutrients are also shared. The mycorrhizal fungal network or ‘wood wide web’ may even be compared to a neural network or brain, with its use of chemical ‘neurotransmitters’ to transmit information between ‘hubs’ and onto individual plants in the forest. Some contend that this is a form of collective intelligence?


It’s not to say that competition has no place in a thriving society. Parliaments in Western democracies are adversarial in nature. This counters groupthink and acts as a check and balance, yet it can lead to bickering and division above collaboration. Communist systems point to the lack of cohesion for why democracy is harmful or inefficient, yet the lack of competing views and the unilateral power can create its own harms. 20-year plans in democracies are wishful fantasies. (The period of transition from one government/leader to the next is a time when nothing gets done either, even if there’s a present cost of living crisis!) In communist states, if people don’t want to do what’s best for themselves or each other then the government can more effectively get them to do it, albeit coercively. Group harmony and the greater good are important, but at what acceptable cost to freedom? And what if the government follows a mistaken strategy? Democracy means political conflict and division but freedom and evolution. Communism means political repression and inflexibility but clarity and unity. So neither system of governance is perfect.


The notion of simply setting up a competition, even between strangers, will bring out behaviours like aggression and cheating i.e. the situation can trigger these behaviours. Conflict arises from a perceived incompatibility of actions/goals, thus a misperception of the other side’s motives will amplify the true incompatibility between the sides. Forming groups will result in all the self-serving, self-justifying ingroup biases, groupthink, outgroup stereotypes, fundamental attribution errors, and all the fallacies and misperceptions that come with that. One then filters all information and interprets it to fit one’s preconceptions about the other party, leading to strong group polarisations. We can then be blind to our own biases i.e. when thinking ‘they’re biased but we’re not’, ‘we’re fair but they’re not’ or ‘we have virtuous motives but they’re just evil’. Biased individuals can still believe they’re neutral and fair – they can still believe they see the truth and aren’t stubborn, while anyone who disagrees with them is wrong and are the stubborn ones.


Perceived inter-group differences are therefore mentally exaggerated when the two sides might actually agree with each other on things more than they each realise. Each side’s fears are thus also mentally exaggerated. Thus it should be no surprise to discover that parties in a conflict form distorted images of one another, often in predictable ways. Both sides will virtually mirror each other in their misperceptions too – for instance ‘we’re heroic and only acting in self-defence but they’re barbaric and bloodthirsty’ or ‘we suggested and informed but they demanded and refused’. And what happens is if A expects B to be hostile (perhaps via a false rumour), A may treat B in such a way that leads to B fulfilling A’s preconceptions, thus commencing a vicious reciprocal circle of hostile relations.


To resolve conflict, we must therefore abandon our misperceptions and exaggerations and begin to understand the other side’s true nature. And don’t be surprised to find that people in other cultures or countries are actually nice or kind once you get to know them better. Yet it’s probably the hardest moral exercise there is to put yourself in the shoes of someone who does things you personally find abhorrent, or even just alien.


Tensions rise during times of scarcity – there’s no need to risk fighting when there’s plenty for all to go around, but there can be more to gain than to lose to fight tooth and claw for what little there is when times are desperate.


Yet collaboration aids survival in harsh times and environments, and individualistic greed can dominate during times of plenty. So hard times can be more deadly yet require more ‘doves’ to get out of, while times of plenty are more peaceful yet can allow individualistic greed and ‘hawks’ to flourish, which can bring everyone and everything down again when it goes too far. Together, this creates an oscillation between periods of cooperation and greed – economic booms and busts – and this oscillation might reflect in the political parties we vote for. When times are great, we can get greedy, which can create a boom but then also an economic crash, which requires cooperation to get out of (whether due to the relatively richer helping the poorer get on their feet, or the relatively poorer bailing out the ‘too big to let fail’ to help the richer get back on their feet again) until times are fine again, and so forth.


But some less-economically-developed nations get stuck in a rut of internal conflict when times are hard because they’re fighting over what little there is, and so the hard times continue, until they realise that they must cooperate (and/or receive sufficient international assistance) to help them develop economically. Lots of post-apocalyptic movie plots depict selfish factions fighting against each other to take command of scarce resources rather than against the common enemy that is the root cause of the resource scarcity.


A more egalitarian world where resources are better distributed so that no one would need to fight over acquiring resources to survive and thrive would possibly be more peaceful. But a healthy business and political landscape needs healthy competition, and competition inevitably involves conflict. Competition is inherently adversarial. Collaboration at a lower level can mean competition on a higher level too – for instance populations putting their own national economic interests first on one level but at the expense of the global environment on a higher level.


Even in the context of war, collaboration wins. We know how having allies is vital for shifting the balance in one’s favour in warfare. The collaborative collecting and sharing of supply chain information, and ELINT (Electronic Intelligence), by Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets by nations who’ve purchased them, and the centralised yet distributed database of this information and intelligence as a part of ALIS (Autonomic Logistics Information System), is what makes this connected military system so effective. Humans just need a common enemy like an extraterrestrial invader to collaborate against, rather than using such systems against each other! Well wars or fights of any kind start as a result of competition rather than collaboration. So competition puts us in trouble, while collaboration gets us out of it.


Indeed, to unite everyone into one entire ingroup called ‘humans’ or even ‘life on planet Earth’ – we must understand our common ancestry, and our common fate. This planet is incredibly small in the context of the universe and we should overall be collaborating more rather than being insular and individualistic. Maybe it’ll take an alien invasion or some other immediate existential collective threat to realise that we all share a superordinate identity and so should all be on the same side, share things and work as one?! Combating COVID-19 united most, although not all, of us around the world. There were countless stories of altruism hidden behind the hoarding of toilet paper and illegal parties.


What shepherds sides together better than a common and imminently dangerous foe? It’s like how different races can put their differences aside and come together on a galactic level to fight the Reapers in the original Mass Effect videogame trilogy!


Albeit not perfectly, it’s like club rivalries dissolve when playing for the national team. During the proposed football European Super League saga in 2021, in England at least, it showed us that normally rival fan bases for different large clubs can come together as one to speak against even the leaders of their own groups. There was something bigger than those rivalries – there was the beautiful game – at stake. So nothing combines forces stronger than a common adversary (as long as it is an incredibly imminent threat it seems, because a slow threat like climate change doesn’t seem to quite unite us all towards one harmonised action).


And perhaps we need more awe-inspiring events that unite us all like the Moon landings?


For any issue that requires global collaboration – point to a picture of the Earth as a small sphere in the vast hostility of space (national borders won’t be visible from this view – in fact they’re not visible virtually at all except for on geopolitical maps) and say, “This is it. Here are all of us right now.” And remember this image.


So rivalries aren’t absolute – our ingroups are fluid. If we ever come across an extraterrestrial foe, most humans will be able to put their differences aside and realise how much they are actually similar to each other relative to an invasive alien species. (Some groups will attempt to worship and welcome the invaders, and this could be okay if they did come in peace, but most people across the world will combine against them if they come to pillage and plunder.) However, if the reasons for rivalries are relative – does this mean that rivalries are inevitable unless everybody is absolutely equal and identical to each other, since we’ll point out even the tiniest differences between us and use these as reasons to justify our antagonisms?


Maybe some competition is always inevitable then. But that’s okay as long as fluffy collaboration and the ‘doves’ dominate.


So the perspective to take, most of the time or when it really matters, is to understand that we’re all really from the same planet and on the same side. We also sometimes forget or don’t realise that all the flora, fauna and fungi on this planet share a common genetic ancestor too – hence we’re all really genetic kin.




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