September 21, 2008


Been thinking a lot about game theory.  Nothing new about that, I play quite a bit of poker.  Game theory is all there is to fall back on sometimes in a tough game, and I tend to view poker as a microcosm of life, another tough game.

I started applying game theory to the rise of humanity.  Using the Hawk/Dove scenario it seems reasonable to me that predators (hawks) and prey (doves) have always existed.  I will use the labels Predator/Prey because the Hawk/Dove labels carry political connotations that may have a place, but would cloud my point.

Predators by definition are less likely to form co-operative social structures than prey for the simple reason that they can't truly be trusted to cooperate.  Predators improve their position solely by defeating opponents.  Prey, on the other hand, form complex social structures of interdependency in order to secure their position and provide incremental improvement to all prey equally.

The meteoric rise of humanity to become, I have read, the most populous vertebrate species on the planet is a result of the success of the cooperative strategies designed by prey to create a system where cooperative strategies are sufficiently beneficial to marginalize the all or nothing strategies employed by predators.

At some point though, the law of diminishing returns rears its ugly head and the benefits of co-operation fall to the point of little or no value.  In poker this break point is clearest when you and another have eliminated all the other players, and now you must decide if heads up play with its inherent difficulties is worth the risk of losing your stack, against the gain of winning their stack.  What may be less obvious is when you initially sit down to the table you face the same decision which will lead to the same end game scenario throughout the game.  There is always, always a point where co-operative strategies are no longer of benefit.

As a species, I think we are very near that branch in the logic tree where all players become hawks, and in a game of hawks only, doves don't survive.



  1. I eat doves for lunch.

  2. I'm a big NRA kind of guy. I wonder what a trucker, like me, and rifleman, like me, has to do to find a dove?


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