The seventh article of the concrete methodology for building social capital
SEOUL, KOREA - Why does human cooperation become so fundamentally different from that among all other primates and non-eusocial animals Why do self-interested individuals cooperate for their common good, or achieve the reciprocity between them
In common usage, we speak of cooperation if individuals actively assist or support others: the emphasis is on behavior. Cooperative acts that are beneficial for both actor and recipient are said to be mutualistic. A cooperative act that is costly to the actor is termed altruistic; if the recipient is a relative, the interaction is sometimes called nepotistic. Cooperation in the form of behavioral interactions between individuals, largely within species, is described at all levels of biological organization, from molecules, organelles and cells, to individuals or groups of the same species and even individuals of different species. Conspicuous examples of cooperation (although almost never of ultimate self-sacrifice) also occur where relatedness is low or absent. Mutualistic symbioses offer striking examples such as these: the fungus and alga that compose a lichen; the ants and ant-acacias, where the trees house and feed the ants which, in turn, protect the trees; and the fig wasps and fig tree, where wasps, which are obligate parasites of fig flowers, serve as the tree's sole means of pollination and seed set. Usually the course of cooperation in such symbioses is smooth, but sometimes the partners show signs of antagonism, either spontaneous or elicited by particular treatments. The Evolution of Cooperationby Robert Axelrod and William D. Hamilton begins with “The theory of evolution is based on the struggle for life and the survival of the fittest. Yet cooperation is common between members of the same species and even between members of different species.”
But viewing human societies as multi-cellular organisms working to one purpose is misleading. For instance, ants consist mostly of sterile wingless females forming reproductive castes of "workers", "soldiers", or other specialized groups. The parallels between human communities and insect states do not reach very far. The amazing degree of cooperation found among social insects is essentially due to the strong family ties within ant hills or bee hives. The bee-hive can be viewed as a watered-down version of a multicellular organism. All the body cells of such an organism carry the same genes, but the body cells do not reproduce directly, any more than the sterile worker-bees do. The body cells collaborate to transmit copies of their genes through the germ cells, the eggs and sperm of their organism. In a bee hive, all workers are sisters and the queen is their mother. It may happen that the queen has several mates, and then the average relatedness is reduced, but basically family ties go a long way to explain collaboration. Plenty of collaboration takes place between non-relatives. And while we certainly have been selected for living in groups, our actions are not as coordinated as those of liver cells, nor as hard-wired as those of social insects.
Human cooperation is frequently based on individual decisions guided by personal interests. Humans often collaborate with non-related partners. Cooperation among close relatives is explained by kin selection. Genes for helping offspring are obviously favoring their own transmission. Genes for helping brothers and sisters can also favor their own transmission, not through direct descendants, but indirectly, through the siblings’ descendants: indeed, close relatives are highly likely to also carry these genes.
Many problems of human society, such as overexploiting fish stock or the difficulty of sustaining the global climate, are problems of achieving cooperation. When individuals, groups or states are free to overuse a public good, they usually overuse it. Thus, public goods are at risk of collapsing, which happens to health insurance systems, fish stock and most probably the global climate. This problem is known as the ‘tragedy of the commons’.
Cooperation can evolve through indirect reciprocity; “give and you shall receive”, as the bible says. By helping others, who do not have the possibility of returning the help to the donor in the future, people build up good reputation or a positive image score, whereas refusing to help damages the reputation. If one helps those who have helped others, one helps those who have a reputation for helping. Third parties reciprocate the altruistic act. Reputation can therefore maintain all-around contributions to public goods, and does so in the absence of a special punishing rule or motivation. The potential donor actually saves money by refusing to give, whereas punishing would be costly. Here a kind of competitive altruism helped solve the tragedy of the commons.
Humans are aware of the possibility that their current behavior might affect their future gains depending on whether a situation where reputation pays off is likely to occur in the future or not. If reputation is transferable between social groups, transporting the signal that a person is a valuable and trustworthy social partner, the same kind of reputation could be gained by giving to charity. An unexpectedly efficient solution of the problem can be achieved when personal reputation, which is important for other social interactions such as gaining support through indirect reciprocity (“give and you shall receive”), is at stake in the public goods situation. When this interaction is allowed for, the public good is not only sustained but also provides all participants with a high payoff. Humans strategically invest in various ways to preserve their good reputation within their own social group; the subjects used different strategies in the public goods game conditional on whether the player knew that his/her decision would be either known or unknown in another social game.
Reputation gained in social interactions is transferable to other social groups, where it seems to be valued just as highly as within one’s own social group. If reputation signals that a person is a valuable and trustworthy social partner, the same kind of reputation can be gained by giving to charity. A good reputation is a valuable currency, which can be accumulated during observable actions. Direct observation, gossip and modern telecommunication can transmit the signal. Many social interactions are based on a person’s trustworthiness, which has a name, reputation.