Principia Cybernetica Web

Evolutionary stability of cooperation

A metasystem transition requires the cooperation between components. The question is: what are the necessary conditions for cooperation? The major obstacle on the way to cooperation is possible evolutionary instability. Let us consider cooperating species A and B that produce resources for each other. Species A may "mutate" into a selfish species A1 which will use resources produced by species B without providing help to the species B. As a result, the cooperation between species becomes broken.

Cooperation is evolutionary stable only if specific restrictions are applied on resource exchange. For example, several representatives of species A and B may form small groups, so that communication occurs only among members of a group. If a selfish mutation destroys communication within a group, then this group will become less competitive and eventually will be eliminated in the process of group selection.

Thus, encapsulation makes a metasystem transition possible. Hierarchical systems have several levels of encapsulation and this makes them more stable than systems that have no restrictions for their interaction.

The same is true for homogeneous metasystem transitions. If organisms have no restrictions on their interaction, then cooperation is evolutionary unstable. The simplest restriction mechanism is clustered oviposition and limited dispersal. In this case, organisms interact mostly with their relatives. If an organism has an altruistic behavior, then it is most likely that his neighbors also have an altruistic behavior because they are relatives. Thus, cooperation develops easily among groups of related organisms, a phenomenon known as 'kin selection'.

Copyright© 1998 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

Alexei Sharov

Nov 19, 1998


Metasystem Transition Theory

The Metasystem Transition

Metasystem Transitions in Biology

Prev. Next


Add comment...