Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Evolutionary Value of Conservatism and Liberalism


The Vietnam War would have the unexpected result of assisting in the development of evolutionary game theory. In 1972, John Maynard Smith would connect game theory and the theory of animal conflict. Smith was a leftist, and in a poorly veiled social commentary about the Vietnam War, he invented the classic Hawk-Dove game that would pit his resource-stealing and war-mongering Hawks against his resource-sharing and peaceful Doves.

In Smith's initial model, when a Hawk encountered the Dove, the Dove fled, leaving all the resources for the Hawk. This was a pretty good situation for the Hawk, except for the fact that there were other Hawks. A Hawk-Hawk confrontation led to mutual destruction, and after assigning evolutionary "values" to the permutations of Hawk and Dove confrontations, the survival value of Hawkish behavior was equal to that of the Dove.

Smith had proposed the idea of the evolutionary stable system, as in the above case where competitive strategies could not drive out cooperative strategies. However, evolution and stability are not very compatible, and Smith's line of reasoning was more designed to explain why both cooperation and competition would coexist among the same species.


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