VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
6. Cooperative Societies
Moussaid, Mehdi, et al. Collective Information Processing and Pattern Formation in Swarms, Flocks, and Crowds. Topics in Cognitive Science. 1/3, 2009. In an issue on Collective Behaviors, paper authors are Moussaid and Dirk Helbing from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and the University of Toulouse’s Simon Garnier and Guy Theraulaz. Something cerebral is indeed going on in all varieties of animal and people groupings to achieve a common, viable knowledge, which can finally by way of statistical physics and complexity science be theoretically modeled.
The spontaneous organization of collective activities in animal groups and societies has attracted a considerable amount of attention over the last decade. This kind of coordination often permits group-living species to achieve collective tasks that are far beyond single individuals' capabilities. In particular, a key benefit lies in the integration of partial knowledge of the environment at the collective level. In this contribution, we discuss various self-organization phenomena in animal swarms and human crowds from the point of view of information exchange among individuals. In particular, we provide a general description of collective dynamics across species and introduce a classification of these dynamics not only with respect to the way information is transferred among individuals but also with regard to the knowledge processing at the collective level. (Abstract, 469)
Nanjundiah, Vidyanand and Stuart Newman. Introduction: E Pluribus Unum. Journal of Biosciences. 39/2, 2017. In this Indian Institute of Science journal, Center for Human Genetics, Bangalore and New York Medical College, Valhalla systems evolutionary biologists open a special issue that began as papers from a May 2012 meeting on the theme of Individuals and Groups, held in Almora India. The Latin title phrase means Out of many, One, which was the motto of the United States until the 1953 when replaced by In God we Trust. From 14 entries, we note Nascent Multicellular Life and the Emergence of Individuality by Silvia De Monte and Paul Rainey, Group Behavior in Physical, Chemical and Biological Systems, by Cihan Saclioglu et al, and Origins of Evolutionary Transitions, Ellen Clarke (search each paper).
Noe, Roland, et al, eds. Economics in Nature: Social Dilemmas, Mate Choice and Biological Markets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. If animal behavior is viewed through the lens of economics and game theory, it possesses similar aspects such as the exchange of commodities for mutual benefit, cooperative collectives for resource allocation and so on.
Nowak, Martin. Five Rules for the Evolution of Cooperation. Science. 314/1560, 2006. Namely kin selection, direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, network reciprocity, and group selection. New theoretical insights show a natural tendency to foster beneficial agreement in each case. See also Robert Boyd The Puzzle of Human Sociality in the same issue.
Cooperation is needed for evolution to construct new levels of organization. Genomes, cells, multicellular organisms, social insects, and human society are all based on cooperation. (1560)
Nowak, Martin and Karl Sigmund. Evolution of Indirect Reciprocity. Nature. 437/1291, 2005. This mathematical study of evolutionary social dynamics by senior researchers at Harvard and the University of Vienna again confirms a basic penchant for inherently cohesive societies. Its abstract offers a good summary.
Natural selection is conventionally assumed to favour the strong and selfish who maximize their own resources at the expense of others. But many biological systems, and especially human societies, are organized around altruistic, cooperative interactions. How can natural selection promote unselfish behavior? Various mechanisms have been proposed, and a rich analysis of indirect reciprocity has recently emerged: I help you and somebody else helps me. The evolution of cooperation by indirect reciprocity leads to reputation building, morality judgement and complex social interactions with ever-increasing cognitive demands. (1291)
Nowak, Martin and Roger Highfield. Supercooperators: The Mathematics of Evolution, Altruism and Human Behaviour. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2011. The Harvard professor of mathematical biology and the editor of New Scientist, with an Oxford doctorate, collaborate in a popular exposition of this significant empathic turn. A United States edition, SuperCooperators: Why We Need Each Other to Succeed, will appear concurrently from Free Press.
Everyone is familiar with Darwin's revolutionary idea about the survival of the fittest, and most people agree that it works, but Darwin's famous theory has one major chink. If life is about survival of the fittest, then why would we risk our own life to jump into a river to save a stranger? Some people argue that issues such as charity, fairness, forgiveness and cooperation are evolutionary loose ends, side issues that are of little consequence. But as Harvard's celebrated evolutionary biologist Martin Nowak explains in this ground-breaking book, cooperation is central to the four-billion-year-old puzzle of life. Cooperation is fundamental to how molecules in the primordial soup crossed the watershed that separates dead chemistry from biochemistry. Cooperation is the key to understanding why language evolved, an event that is as significant as the evolution of the first primitive organism. And it goes without saying that cooperation is the reason that people live in towns, villages and cities. Cooperation can even help to explain the spread of cancer cells and the role of punishment in society. In Supercooperators Martin Nowak deftly unpacks the five basic laws of cooperation - Kin Selection, Direct Reciprocity, Indirect Reciprocity, Network Reciprocity and Group Selection - in order to explain some of the most fundamental mechanics beneath everyday life. (Canongate)
O’Malley, Maureen. Endosymbiosis and Its Implications for Evolutionary Theory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112/10277, 2015. A paper for the October 2014 NAS Sackler Colloquium entitled Symbioses Becoming Permanent which is mostly about how symbiotic unions, belittled for decades, are indeed a prime contributor to life’s nested, communal emergence. The University of Sydney philosopher presents a history from The (Lynn) Margulis Era of Symbiogenesis, Neo-Darwinian Counterarguments, famously denounced by Richard Dawkins, to this current acceptance and praise. Such an Endosymbiotic paradigm is metabolism-centric, with biochemical, energetic, community features, which then fit into and support the major transitions scale. Amongst companion papers are Major Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality by Stuart West, et al (search), Heritable Symbiosis by Gordon Bennett and Nancy Moran, and Toward Major Evolutionary Transitions Theory 2.0 by Eors Szathmary (search). See also herein Host Biology in Light of the Microbiome by Seth Bordenstein as part of this historic affirmation, which the late Lynn Margulis fought for since the 1970s.
Historically, conceptualizations of symbiosis and endosymbiosis have been pitted against Darwinian or neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. In more recent times, Lynn Margulis has argued vigorously along these lines. However, there are only shallow grounds for finding Darwinian concepts or population genetic theory incompatible with endosymbiosis. But is population genetics sufficiently explanatory of endosymbiosis and its role in evolution? Population genetics “follows” genes, is replication-centric, and is concerned with vertically consistent genetic lineages. It may also have explanatory limitations with regard to macroevolution. Even so, asking whether population genetics explains endosymbiosis may have the question the wrong way around. We should instead be asking how explanatory of evolution endosymbiosis is, and exactly which features of evolution it might be explaining. This paper will discuss how metabolic innovations associated with endosymbioses can drive evolution and thus provide an explanatory account of important episodes in the history of life. Metabolic explanations are both proximate and ultimate, in the same way genetic explanations are. Endosymbioses, therefore, point evolutionary biology toward an important dimension of evolutionary explanation. (Abstract)
Odling-Smee, John, et al. Niche Construction: The Neglected Process in Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. Much research now indicates that animals, rather than being passively impacted by selection, behave in ways that actively modify an environment to their advantage. The authors then argue that such agency ought to be recognized as a significant formative force in evolution.
Ohlson, Kristin. The Cooperative Instinct. Discover. December, 2012. A well written article on quantified realizations of how pervasive is cooperative reciprocity, rather than competition, from protein webs to creaturely and human communities. This is accomplished by an in depth look at the life and work of Martin Nowak, the Harvard University leader in finding mathematical patterns across life’s evolution, continuing the work of his mentor Karl Sigmund. It is noted that Nowak authored a 2010 paper “The Evolution of Eusociality” with Harvard colleagues Edward O. Wilson and Corina Tarnita, (Nature, 466/1057), which set aside kin selection and inclusive fitness theories used to explain animal groupings with an innate preference for salutary, reciprocal aid, which then sparked fierce attacks. A rush of similar research and popular reports seem to presage not only an expanded synthesis, but a 21st century revision to admit the ordained presence of such universal complementarity. (In regard, our national politics could not be more removed from this natural harmony, with Me and We locked in fatal opposition.)
Without kinship as a pivot point, cooperation could be seen in a broader context, impacting evolution as a whole. In Nowak’s new calculus, cooperation was not merely the product of evolution but an engine, driving the process along with mutation and natural selection. “Cooperation is a fundamental principle of evolution,” Nowak says today. “”Without it, you don’t get construction or complexity in life. Whenever you see something interesting, like the evolution of multicellular creatures or human language, cooperation is involved.” (36)
Okasha, Samir and Ken Binmore, eds. Evolution and Rationality: Decisions, Cooperation and Strategic Behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. A Bristol University philosopher and a University College London economist edit select papers from workshops held at Bristol from 2008 to 2011 on this novel confluence. Life’s developmental course via iterations of populate and select is seen akin to decision making processes, Bayesian inference, economic game theory, and rational choice methods. Each involves a series of refinements to reach a good enough fitness. Some chapters are Towards a Darwinian Theory of Decision Making: Games and the Biological Roots of Behavior by Peter Hammerstein, and An Evolutionary Perspective on the Unification of the Behavioral Sciences by Herbert Gintis.
This volume explores from multiple perspectives the subtle and interesting relationship between the theory of rational choice and Darwinian evolution. In rational choice theory, agents are assumed to make choices that maximize their utility; in evolution, natural selection 'chooses' between phenotypes according to the criterion of fitness maximization. So there is a parallel between utility in rational choice theory and fitness in Darwinian theory. This conceptual link between fitness and utility is mirrored by the interesting parallels between formal models of evolution and rational choice. The essays in this volume, by leading philosophers, economists, biologists and psychologists, explore the connection between evolution and rational choice in a number of different contexts, including choice under uncertainty, strategic decision making and pro-social behaviour. (Publisher)
Ozogany, Katalin and Tamas Vicsek. Modeling Leadership Hierarchy in Multilevel Animal Societies. arXiv:1403.0260. Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, biophysicists show how such groupings, whether equine, avian, or indeed any creature, express and are guided by a universal network phenomena that forms a dynamic coherence. If to compare, for example, with Mones, Pollner, and Vicsek (search), the same patterns and processes are again duplicated in our scientific studies as Universal Hierarchical Behavior of Citation Networks. Once more, the presence of an independent mathematical, implicate, source in generative effect everywhere is robustly proven.
A typical feature of many natural and social networks is the presence of communities giving rise to multiple levels of organization. We investigate the decision-making process of a group combining self organization and social dynamics, and reproduce the simultaneous emergence of a hierarchical and modular leadership network. All individuals in the model try, with varying degrees of ability, to find a direction of movement, with the result that leader-follower relationships evolve between them, since they tend to follow the more successful ones. The harem-forming ambitions of male individuals inspired by an observed Przewalski horse herd leads to modular structure. In this approach we find that the harem-leader to harem-member ratio observed in horses corresponds to an optimal network regarding common success, and that modularly structured hierarchy is more beneficial than a non-modular one, in the sense that common success is higher, and the underlying network is more hierarchical.
Papageorgiou, Danai, et al. The Multilevel Society of a Small-Brained Bird. Current Biology. 29/21, 2019. Seven researchers mainly at MPI Animal Behavior including Iain Couzin, along with Brendah Nyaguthii at the University of Eldoret, Kenya, quantify how even ground-dwelling avians form typical complex viable groupings with many interactive members. The work merited a N, Y. Times science review Tiny Brains Don’t Stop These Birds from Having a Complex Society by Elizabeth Preston on Nov. 4, 2019. We also cite as an example of how all manner of creatures take to this similar communal form, as if due to and exemplifying an independent structural source.
Animal societies can be organized in multiple hierarchical tiers. Such multilevel societies, where stable groups move together through the landscape, associating with specific other groups, are thought to represent one of the most complex forms of social structure in vertebrates. Here, we provide detailed quantitative evidence for the presence of a multilevel society in a small-brained bird, the vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum). We demonstrate that this species lives in large, multi-male, multi-female groups. (Abstract)