Although the idea is not essential to understanding this final reading from Dawkins and the next from Matt Ridley, both mention The Prisoner’s Dilemma, a somewhat famous situation in game theory.  Here are a couple of links:

 

Youtube video

 

Spectacle.org

 

Answer these questions in 500 words.

 

  1. Why is a gene favoring the psychological tendency, “Be kind and generous to every other animal, regardless of how they treat you” unlikely to survive very long in the gene pool?

 

  1. If you loan an acquaintance your car with a half tank of gasoline in it and they return the car with a full tank, you probably have a moderately positive psychological experience.  If they instead return the car with a near-empty tank, you probably have a negative psychological experience (even if the cost of a tank of gasoline is trivial to you).  Why are we wired this way?

 

  1. Artificial intelligence programs have accomplished impressive feats in game playing, mathematical computation, and physical simulation well-beyond the mental capacities of most people.  But, try as they might, computer scientists are still unable to match the ability of any five-year-old in remembering and recognizing different faces.  In the light of this reading, why might facial recognition be such an important and highly-developed skill in human beings?

 

 

In review of the past several assignments, I’d like to make a brief point about evolutionary explanations.  Suppose the question was why women spend billions of dollars annually on products which promise to make them appear more youthful.  I might respond:

 

(a) Women want to appear younger because men find youth attractive and women want to appear attractive to as many men as possible so as to have the best selection of mates available to them.

 

-or-

 

(b) Genes try to combine with other genes which will give them the greatest further reproduction.  So genes will try to have the best selection of other genes to choose from in deciding which they will join forces with.

 

Both of these answers are incomplete in that the first is too individual-centered and the second is too gene-centered.  It would be better to respond:

(c) In the gene pool, there may have arisen a gene which, when in a female body, favored the psychological tendency to desire to appear youthful.  This gene influenced the women it was in to attempt to appear more youthful and so these women, on average, appeared more youthful and thus more attractive to the males of the community.  This led to greater reproduction of these females with the more select males with more successful genes and thus the further successful spreading of the “try to look young” gene throughout the gene pool.

 

Naturally, it is easier to write the first or second than the third, and we may even have the third in mind when writing the first or second.  But it is still a good idea to write the third version just to ensure your thinking is clear.

 

I can also mention that throughout these past writings, the idea of cost/benefit analysis has been extremely useful.  We should not be surprised that evolutionary theory has taken many of the ideas of modern economic theory to use.  After all, why we are the economic entities we are is due to our evolution.