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If you're interested in co-operation, this should be an essential read.
The book obsesses about tit-for-tat in the prisoner's dilemma and is a bit of a product of its time. There's no talk of Dyson's theory that any agent with a theory of mind can force a program like tit for tat to be extorted along the lines of the ultimatum game. Nor of how in some evolutionary set-ups, tit for tat is not stable. But that's not really the point Axelrod is making. Axelrod is interested in the prisoner's dilemma as a metaphor for something fundamental about how organisms interact with each other. In particular, he brilliantly shows how important the number of expected future interactions imparts onto the best strategy for agents to play each other and how this interacts with the pay-offs. He provides a mathematical theory linking these together with strategy. As you read, you immediately see countless examples of this in daily life: do you tip the waiter in a restaurant you will never go back to again, will you do the dirty on a client you won't see again, etc. The conclusion seems to be that people are nice to each other when they know they'll be future interactions and nasty otherwise. The lessons for business, daily life and running a society are obvious.
While the field has significantly evolved from when the book was written, this book is a fascinating and brisk read in the terms that the viewer cannot help but see the concepts he is talking about in almost elemental terms of good, evil and so on. It's also somehow deeply reassuring on a human level that there is a mathematical basis for why and when "good" will triumph and under what circumstances.
Axelrod describes how cooperation can arise even between adversaries (the example he gives is the "live and let live" strategies adopted by soldiers in the trenches on the Western Front). The model he uses is the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. The two most important aspects of this model is that players do no know when the game will end and as a corollary of this players expect to have a future interaction. Axelrod held a contest between Game Theorists to find the best solution to the model and a strategy called "Tit for Tat" won. In the next round contestants tried to beat or exploit "Tit for Tat" and it still one. Axelrod explains why and also shows how this model is stable even to spatial invasions and how it can arise even from a population of meanies.
His work is easily accessible and non-technical. It is a great example of how simple rules can produce complex behaviours. If you are interested in politics, international relations, or just in getting the most from your personal interactions then you should read this book. The one weak point is chapter 5 which takes a view of molecular biology which has subsequently been shown to be over-speculative and in many aspects wrong. However skipping this chapter does not affect the coherence of the rest of the book.
Un fantástico libro, que de manera amena trata sobre el dilema del prisionero. En verdad da un brillo a las relaciones humanas y la comprensión de las mismas. Todo aquel que quiera entender cómo funcionan las relacione humanas debería darse un clavado
I was so impressed with this work that I telephoned Axelrod to say so. A humble man who has made one of the most significant contributions to negotiation theory in the past 5 decades. This should be required reading in first year law school for all lawyers and, failing that, it should be handed out at every conference on mediation.
Secono il mio parare questo ibro è una guida illuminante, in ogni situazione (una riunione o qualsiasi altro evento coinvolga un team) pensare ai concetti esposti fa trovare la via di casa. Riesce ad affrontare in modo non ostico modelli matematici altrimenti non banali e lascia in modo chiaro e inequivocabile alcuni importanti concetti. Consigliato a tutti coloro che lavorano in gruppo.