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← The Descent of Edward Wilson (with Polish translation)

kriton's Avatar Jump to comment 60 by kriton

Well, to be more precise, it would be an URK population, that can adapt to the circumstances by adjusting the expression balance between U and K. R and K come first and make it possible for U to be adaptive when the population settles.

co-operate the first time, then subsequently copy the other guy's previous behaviour or something along those lines. This is called tit-for-tat.

This is actually part of why U can be an advantage. The return for helping the starving person may not come until much later, when there is no obvious link to the first helping action. The tit-for-tat-strategy would rather lead to "Hey, I didn't get anything in return, so I'll not try that again". Helping behaviour due to tit-for-tat could easily be extinguished. But U can make people help anyway, and then reap those long-term benefits that tit-for-tat doesn't.

So U can build a culture of helping in the larger community, which can have long-term benefits for the members. If we look at human societies, this seems to be what happened. There is probably also an imitation element. We tend to do what others do, so the helped person would be more likely to help others and so on, and this chain of events can come back to the original person. When we lived in small packs, such chains would only go around your kin, but not so in larger settlements.

This does not mean there is not competition pressure from more egoistic variants, but once again, it should depend on the situation. If there is a lot of competition and stress, and low resources, it would be a better strategy to be more egoistic. But if there is plentiful resources and low competition for you, and the cost of helping is sufficiently low, there could be future advantages in helping even the unrelated. The best would be to have the ability to adopt in the short term, such as with an epigenetic regulation.

I mention stress and competition partly because this could be a reason why many in rich countries are not more generous. We may have plenty more than we can eat, but we are also often under stress, and society is to a large degree based on competition. The feeling that we must compete all the time might well activate K-type genes rather than U-type genes, because in the old days, strong competition pressure indicated that resources were scarce.

Sat, 26 May 2012 21:41:10 UTC | #943705