Framing competition and cooperation

When what is commonly called competition really isn’t competition at all, but really cooperation

[ 16/October/21 Comment in a Lifeboat Foundation thread – post by Kelvin Ogba Dafiaghor 15th Oct on Michio Kaku on SpaceX]

Michael E. Thomas
Framing this in terms of competition seems very probably to be a mis-framing.

No complex activity is possible without cooperation.

If there was all out competition between people, then everyone would start shooting and most likely everyone would end up dead.

This competition=good/cooperation=bad is an over simplified nonsense.

Complexity theory is clear – every new level of complexity is founded on a new level of cooperation – necessarily. We are the most complex things yet known, and are therefore, by definition, the most cooperative things yet known. This insane economic dogma that competition is the basis of advances in complexity and security has no basis in either logic or biology. It is a lie told to keep most people enslaved to an economic system that serves the interests of a very tiny minority.

Reality is vastly more complex. Complex systems must be fundamentally cooperative, and raw cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation by “cheating” strategies. So there necessarily evolves an ecosystem of cheat detection, removal and mitigation systems (at every level of complexity). So all real systems while based in cooperation also have complex mixes of competitive subsystems within them.

And it gets more complex still, because when faced with fundamental uncertainty (real novelty) the most efficient search strategy is random search. But human brains necessarily come with multiple levels of bias, so how to approximate “random” in such a heavily biased system? That is where having multiple “safe to fail” experiments is the most efficient approach to survival. This may superficially look something like competition, but it is in reality nothing like real competition. It is simply a version of random search across the space of potential solutions to whatever “problem space” is being explored.

Calling that “competition” really is not helpful. It is actually a fundamental form of cooperation for mutual survival.

If we are to survive as a species, we need a great many more people to start to appreciate that any fundamentally competitive strategy is necessarily destructive to the level of complexity that created it. If complexity is to survive, then it must have a fundamentally cooperative strategic framework – there is no shadow of reasonable doubt remaining about that – for anyone who has taken the time to explore the depths of biology, and of the logic and mathematics of survival in fundamentally uncertain evolving contexts.

The common dogma that competition is a fundamental “good” is, beyond any remaining shadow of reasonable doubt, false. Competition is only survivable if it is built on a fundamentally cooperative base. Think about the game of golf. Anyone who actually attacks another player is banned from the game – that is a fundamentally cooperative space. We have the technology to deliver a fundamentally cooperative space to every person on the planet – where all reasonable needs for water, food, housing, communications, transport, education and healthcare are met. That is not actually a difficult set of conditions to deliver with the advanced automation we have available – but it is impossible within a competitive economic system.

If we wish to survive as a species, then fundamental economic and political reform is required. That starts with seeing the lie in the notion that “competition is a fundamental good”.

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) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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