Evonomics – corruption

Bribery, Cooperation, and the Evolution of Prosocial Institutions

How the science of cooperation and cultural evolution will give us new tools in combating corruption.

This paper opens with three assertions that to me are all false:
“There is nothing natural [1] about democracy.
There is nothing natural about living in communities with complete strangers.
There is nothing natural about large-scale anonymous cooperation.”

Actually all of those things are completely “natural”, it just depends how one understands that term, and what sort of models are at base of what passes for “understanding” in any particular individual.

Some great aspects to the paper.
The references to Henrich’s work are great, as far as they go.

Understanding evolution is not simple, even though evolution is based in a really simple set of ideas.
Those simple ideas fold back on themselves, repeatedly, ongoingly, to create new levels of complexity.
Evolution selects across all levels of complexity present simultaneously.
Every level of complexity has its own levels of computational systems and strategy in action.
All aspects of reality seem founded in probability.
Aspects of complex systems are not predictable in any sense, for a potentially infinite class of reasons.
In terms of distributions of traits across populations, they are selected over all contexts encountered over time (with weightings varying due to frequency and severity – very rare events with very high selectivity can maintain traits that have small negative values in all other contexts).

Once one starts to understand that all emergent levels of complexity are based on new levels of cooperation, and that attendant sets of strategies are required to prevent cooperation being swamped by uncooperative “cheating” strategies, and one can distinguish up to 20 or so levels of cooperative systems present in human beings, then the levels of strategic complexity and interacting strategic environments start to make all the stuff written about and pointed to in this article look like kindergarten sketches of reality.

We are all vastly (many orders of magnitude) more complex than even the deepest of the articles referred to in this indicate.

We all, every one of us, face real existential level threat, from the failure of market based systems to be able to make reliable survival oriented decisions in the context of exponentially expanding abilities to fully automate the production of sets of goods and services.

Sure, we all need to understand the many very powerful ways in which markets have historically promoted individual life and individual liberty, through information sharing at many levels and through distributed governance at several levels, and various other levels of strategic systems.

And we need to see how exponential trends in technology (that are themselves critical to our survival) are impacting on the strategic utility of markets, and the abstract value measure of money, when used in a planning sense. It is dangerous having a value measure that delivers negatives for outcomes that are essential for the vast majority of humanity. We cannot survive that much longer. Terrorism is a “rational” response to such a situation (in a very real sense).

An in depth understanding of evolution can demonstrate how and why morality is an essential condition for the survival of complex cooperative entities like ourselves, and thus for the survival of our species.

All levels of complexity have boundary conditions necessary for their survival (just as cells need cell walls), and that applies at all levels of systems and abstraction (recurs to infinity).

Understanding that there really are systems out there that are both fundamentally and eternally unpredictable and pose existential level risks, and that we all need to be cooperative to have any reasonable probability of surviving them, is an essential starting point.

The logic of the above paragraph is applicable to all sapient entities, human and non-human, biological and non-biological.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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