Evolutionary dynamics of cooperation

  • Martin A. Nowak

    Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
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Cooperation means a donor pays a cost, c, for a recipient to get a benefit b. In evolutionary biology, cost and benefit are measured in terms of fitness. While mutation and selection represent the main ‘forces’ of evolutionary dynamics, cooperation is a fundamental principle that is required for every level of biological organization. Individual cells rely on cooperation among their components. Multi-cellular organisms exist because of cooperation among their cells. Social insects are masters of cooperation. Most aspects of human society are based on mechanisms that promote cooperation. Whenever evolution constructs something entirely new (such as multi-cellularity or human language), cooperation is needed. Evolutionary construction is based on cooperation. I will present five basic principles for the evolution of cooperation, which arise in the theories of kin selection, direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, graph selection and group selection.