Thursday, March 01, 2007

Old Dawkins video on cooperation

I have found this video on google video. It is an old Richard Dawkins BBC TV programme in which he goes through some topics of which I am quite fond and which I personally think have some yet-to-be-explored relevance to cancer research.

The documentary was produced a few years after Dawkins wrote The selfish gene and not long after Robert Axelrod had written The evolution of cooperation. It takes from Axelrod's research on cooperation (whose own take on how this can be observed in cancer has been mentioned in this blog before) to illustrate how cooperation might evolve in an place in which agents (say humans, bacteria or buffaloes) are selfish. The topics are the usual ones in game theory such as prisoners dilemma (how playing if for an undetermined number of times changes what is the best strategy), tragedy of the commons (if everybody is overusing a resource why shouldn't you, and if few people overuse, why shouldn't you since it will make no difference whatsoever?).

The tragedy of the commons seems to me a suitable game to model global warming (why should your country cut on carbon emissions if nobody else does or why should you if everybody does? this seems to apply to most countries but the likes of U.S. and China whose weight is to big to be considered just another player) or cancer (at the end, tumour cells do kill the host and thus themselves).
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