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Nucleus and Shield: The Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma

Bjørn Lomborg
American Sociological Review
Vol. 61, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), pp. 278-307
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096335
Page Count: 30
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Nucleus and Shield: The Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma
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Abstract

One of the basic questions of social science theory is whether social order can evolve in a Hobbesian world. This question is approached using a micro-based simulation that explains macro-outcomes and can handle the macro-level's ensuing effects on micro-decisions. In this way, the analysis is also an argument for a viable reductionism in the micro/macro debate. The Hobbesian problem is simulated by an artificial world of boundedly rational, innovative individuals playing a multitude of Iterated Prisoner's Dilemmas. Over time, individuals change their strategies to optimize against everyone else's choices. This simple dynamic approach reveals a surprising efficiency: Even with substantial amounts of misunderstanding, cooperation can emerge and be sustained. Moreover, the level of cooperation is high--generally much better than would be obtained using TIT FOR TAT. The uncoerced cooperation that evolves is stable because it is composed of many different strategies--some nice (in the nucleus) and some more cautious (in a protective shield)--making it difficult for any contender to beat everyone. Such a dynamic model provides a powerful metaphor for a pluralistic society.

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