Monthly Archives: June 2014

Potential Breakthrough Links Game Theory and Evolution

(Forgive my departure from the expected schedule, this was good enough to jump the queue).

It’s always nice to be validated by science. Only a week or so after finally wrapping up my series of posts on game theory and evolution, a serious scientific paper has been published titled “Algorithms, games, and evolution“. For those of you not so keen on reading the original paper, Quanta Magazine has an excellent summary. The money quote is this one from the first paragraph of the article:

an algorithm discovered more than 50 years ago in game theory and now widely used in machine learning is mathematically identical to the equations used to describe the distribution of genes within a population of organisms

Now the paper is still being picked apart by various other scientists and more details could turn up (for all I know it could be retracted tomorrow) but I doubt it. Even if the wilder claims floating around the net are false, the fundamental truth stands that evolution drives behaviour, and evolution is a probabilistic, game-theory-driven process. While it’s easy to see that link on an intuitive level, it looks like we’ve finally started discovering the formal mathematical connections as well.

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Roadmap #4: Philosophical Problem-Solving

Wow, onto our fourth major section. I didn’t think I’d still be writing these after this many months 🙂

Having started with some really foundational philosophy, covering systems theory, and then touching on practical human behaviour, our fourth section is a return to philosophy in a much more practical way. We’ve finally built enough of a foundation that we can actually put it to use, so we’re going to do just that in order to knock down well-known philosophy problems one after another.

I’ve included one level of sub-topics in this roadmap because I’m not sure at this point how much I’ll fit into each post, whether I’ll end up doing one post per approach (potentially dealing with several problems at once) or one post per problem, spreading the same approach across multiple posts.

    • Problems of Abstraction

      • Material Constitution

      • Problem of Many

    • Problems of Social Negotiation

      • Linguistics

      • Identity

    • Problems of Speculation

      • Classic Metaphysics

      • Free Will

    • The Existence of God

      • The Many Faces of God

      • Axiom vs Derivation

      • Occam’s Razor Redux

      • The Religious Meme

      • Absence of Evidence, Russel’s Teapot

    • Right and Wrong

      • Absolute vs Relative, Axiom vs Derivation

      • Occam’s Razor, Again

      • Cultural Differences

      • Social Negotiation, Memetics and Moral Evolution

    • The Meaning of Life

      • Absolute vs Relative, Axiom vs Derivation

      • Despair and Wonder

      • Truth and Beauty

      • The Unimportance of Truth

      • Tilting at Windmills

      • Enjoying the Salad

    • Aesthetics

I’m going to love this section. Allons-y!

Conflict and Cooperation

And finally we come to the last post in our game theory subsection, itself the last section in what I originally called “practical worldbuilding”. Conflict and cooperation are in many ways two sides of the same coin: ways in which multiple people can interact. Since, this whole section has been about people making decisions, conflict and cooperation is really about how groups of people make decisions.

In many ways the concepts we’ve already covered are more than good enough to handle this case, it just gets a bit unwieldy to start working through all the details for each individual. You start running into behaviours like Keynesian Beauty Contests and things become… complicated. Theoretically we want something like Asimov’s psychohistory, but that is still sadly fictional.

Still, we can say some interesting and hopefully useful things. Conflict occurs when the apparent goal(s) of another person is/are incompatible with your goal(s). Cooperation occurs when the apparent goal(s) of another person is/are compatible with your goal(s). As we have seen however, goals are tricky things. And just like people are pretty bad at evaluating risks, we’re also pretty bad at evaluating the goals of other people, even when we’re not being actively deceived.

In even larger groups of course, you start getting into memetics and social negotiation. It’s all one big sliding scale of behavioural analysis, tied up with a bow.