biology Politics Societies

The Dance of Cooperation and Defection

It’s good to cooperate when everyone is defecting and good to defect when everyone cooperates.  Kind of like it’s you vs. the crowd when you try to buy a stock low and sell it high.
In a high trust society, it pays to be the first to break trust and plunder the commons knowing that the full satisfaction of your greed won’t even make a dent.
Once too many people join in the plunder, the payoff plummets as everyone’s defenses go up.  Worse, once that downward spiral of mass defection starts, it’s hard to break out of it.  We’ve yet to ever see a society recover from decadence and avoid collapse.
Yet the first group that can somehow break out of that negative spiral cleans up and founds the new order.  This seems to be what happened with early Christianity.  All they had to do was be a group of people who actually cared about each other and backed each other up.  Once they got sufficiently established an atomized late-stage popular culture nobody cared to defend was easily swept aside.

Conversely when everyone goes along with the system it pays to be the guy who exploits the herd.  In the US Civil War, there were professional enlistment dodgers once large sign-up bonuses became necessary to recruit more troops.  While the guy who followed instructions and popular sentiment naively marched into the line of fire expecting glory,  the guy who stayed out of the early craze could get paid just to show up and then change identities to do it again.  While raking in all that cash, I can only imagine the successful dodger was quite the catch for all the lonely young ladies and found himself living in luxury, getting laid like tile while the other poor schlub was getting his gangrenous leg sawed off.  Winners and losers: those who can adjust their survival strategies to changing circumstances and those who get outmaneuvered.

Our own society suffers from far too many defectors and as a result social capital has collapsed.  We’re bowling alone and doting on animals to feel some kind of connection in the midst of this economic war of all against all.  The unclaimed prize goes to the first organization, whatever it is, that establishes high-trust, reliable social capital for even average people who get trashcanned for falling a few steps behind the pack.  This is the service that early Christianity provided and it exploded because the pent up demand for cooperation was immense.   Those who got in the faith during its rise and avoided getting martyred got to reap the benefits of family and community while everyone else was still fighting to the death over a dwindling trail of crumbs.

I felt the dots in my head connecting as I read about Darwin’s finches a few years ago.  Female preference is elastic because they just select whichever males seem well-fed and prosperous at a given time.  Whenever the environment changes, different kinds of males meet with more success and become the most attractive.  The present social order heaps money and status on the most flagrant defectors, getting them the best mates as decay nears rock-bottom.  Being the best defector is increasingly difficult though because everyone is trying to do it.  At some point it’s smarter to look for the early Christians wherever they may be found and sit tight while the cycle winds down.  This is pretty much what formerly nihilistic PUAs are doing as they’ve changed their rhetoric almost unanimously to family, nation, and traditional marriage over the last few years.

The story of the finches also made me think of the decline of the middle class.  During good times, it pays to be a generalist who can benefit from many different food sources.  During bad times, the best survivors are specialists that can access niches others can’t reach.  Right now is a boom time for the highly skilled upper middle class as it is for the highly fecund underclasses.  Those of merely above average intelligence and disposition have neither the brains or patience to be electrical engineers nor the raw guile and viciousness needed to rule the streets.  Now that there’s a drought, they find themselves starving while specialists thrive.  The prevailing question is, from what direction do the next rains arrive?

Unlike finches, humans have some ability to shift their strategies and pivot with the times.  The human brain arose from nature not to invent science but to participate in a cerebral arms race between humans locked with each other in a collective prisoner’s dilemma with constantly shifting payoffs and losses.  The finches have different kinds of beaks for different foods, lions have teeth and claws to kill prey, humans try to win at the great game of musical chairs.

By Giovanni Dannato

In 1547 I was burnt at the stake in Rome for my pernicious pamphlet proclaiming that the heavens were not filled with a profusion of aether, but rather an extensive vacuum.
Now, the phlogiston that composed my being has re-manifested centuries in the future so that I may continue the task that was inconveniently disrupted so long ago.
Now, I live in Rome on the very street where I (and others) were publicly burnt. To this day, the street is known as what I would translate as 'Heretic's Way'. My charming residence is number 6 on this old road. Please, do come inside and pay me a visit; I should be delighted to spew out endless pedagoguery to one and all...

32 replies on “The Dance of Cooperation and Defection”

Early Christians also found niches for freaks (as hermits, sages, scholars) within their community, which would have increased overall trust because people wouldn’t be freaked out by thoughts such as “What if I become a freak?” “What if my kid turns out to be a freak?”

The sexual marketplace is zero-sum game. Your example of the professional war draft dodger reminds me of this exchange;

They’re saps because they risk their lives for strangers.

They risk, they risk their lives for their country.

Your country’s not your blood — you remember that.

A marriage-marketplace isn’t a zero-sum game, though, if there are 2.1+ kids. And even if there are fewer kids than that there are new people in the world who see things in an entirely new way and have feelings that nobody’s quite had before. Okay, not in “an entirely” new way but in an at least somewhat new way.

A young guy dying in a war is utterly bleak unless you really believe in the idea of living through eternal patterns of Honorable Self-Sacrifice and whatever, and of being eternalized in Heaven or within God’s Being through those patterns in which people participate. Human life is so grim without wholehearted embrace of these ideas that … why not embrace them? Whether it’s a good war or a bad war can’t matter — if that mattered, then hundreds of millions of past battle-deaths would become unbearably grim events. Honorable death in a bad war is honorable death, and you find your place in God through that.

A new society can’t be organized by thoughtful freaks — it can only be organized by decent “normies” who know how to make respectful use of various kinds of people including thoughtful freaks.

(By “respectful” I only mean “non-contemptuous” — in other words, engage people, get them involved, elicit their loyalty, rather than treating them as tools. People want to be “useful” [to “contribute”] — I sure do, anyway.)

I’m different. I have no desire to be useful or contribute unless I am rewarded.

The reward I seek is young fresh pussy. Any society which cannot offer me young fresh pussy is not one I will serve willingly.

I think it’s more of the distinctness of that look than anything else. I’d had some drinks on Xmas night, normally, I try to keep my twitter focused on the most relevant things I could be saying and keep my feed from getting bloated. I may delete a few that serve no purpose.

As Meta Falconer, our host, points outs astutely, there is a seesawing balance between cooperation and defection, but this is only in abnormal mass societies of the kind to which we have become familiar. In a normal, tightly-bonded society, such scheming wouldn’t even occur to you. Why would it? You would be brothers with all your peers, and smile to see them each time you got up in the morning. It is the world of the Meta Falconer that is in disrepair and despair, not the utopian Closeness-World.

*bitterly* Sure, love living in a place like New York City where you can live in the same hallway for 20 years and not even say hi to your neighbor ONCE. That’s a good way to live. The BEST. And economic production! It’s the road to everything great in love!

You might find it impossible to immerse/embed yourself in a “tightly-bonded” society, though — there would be too much going on your head, and you’d want to tell people about things that you’d thought of or noticed but would have to keep these things to yourself or they would think you’re weird. Even your facial expressions would give you away — they’d see that you live in another world, separate from the one that they inhabit.
You live in NYC?

“…living in a place like New York City where you can live in the same hallway for 20 years and not even say hi to your neighbor ONCE…”

That;s really fucked up. Think about how Women are now bleeting such that Men will stop meeting with them romantically if they work with them and then think of a city where the above is true. Big time lonely.

It’s an exaggeration. I say hi to my neighbors frequently, and chat with them sort of in passing — it’s just that we don’t hang out in each other’s apartments or really know each other. This is probably fairly typical, especially in a building like mine where very few tenants have live-in kids (only apartment out of maybe fifteen here).

Garr has a good point about the downside of a typical tightly-knit society. There may not be much tolerance for atypical people there. The atomized society is a lonely place, but it also allows atypicals of all sorts to hide in the cracks of anonymity like roaches. Not ideal or pleasant, but survival and an eventual chance at something better. And I’m sure there is plenty of intra-sexual competition when there’s likely only a few hot chicks of marriage age in the whole village. Not to mention you have whole family clans that have been on the “seesaw” together for generations. People are political creatures everywhere they’re found. Of course, it goes without saying, most of us would prefer to be accepted members in a society where people know each other and the seesawing is at a stable equilibrium.

There will always be “stragglers” in society.

The reason why these wars are even fought is that they believe they are more “noble” than those who profit off of the collective’s inadequacies.

Suffering for the greater good is virtuosic. It seems to be hard grained in the collective. This in itself is the basis of religion. The profiteers you spake of would be regarded as mere vultures by the common man.

The common man is unimportant> when compared to the perpetual elite which dominates society. GIOVANNI DANNATO — whom I call Meta Falconer, for his launching the bird on his wrist after ideas in the sky — is dangerous, because he represents the thwarted member of the elite who is brooding in his isolated home, willing to suffer and perhaps die for a natural-status update to his truly-relegated level.

I like Giovanni, the Falconer. Even corresponded with him, briefly. Alas, I am an outcast on the Internet *small growing smile for now* because of my website and my thoughts. Click on my name to check it out. I’m up to nearly 20 articles, star entries.

Good to see you’ve re-adopted your true name, Sorcery God.
I am certainly no member of the elite. More I’ve just been someone on outside of most things looking in from afar. That’s why my avatar is a vulture.

You don’t need to advertise your blog so often though, that starts to get spammy. Just have the hyperlink on your name and maybe link to a specific article if it’s especially relevant to a particular post.

The common man ultimately decides how the society is run and what actions for the single minded, who aren’t part of the elite, are to take in preparation for the turmoil they are to bring.

Hey, Sam J — you commented on the Stooges “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog (Extended Psych)” at Youtube, right? I’ve been playing that a lot. Do you know anything about how it was made?

Wow, good songs. The third one, below — he doesn’t look quite like Johnny Cash but sounds so much like him (plus in old-looking video-footage) I had to look at the comments to find out that it wasn’t really a young Johnny Cash.
Didn’t know about Hooktube before.

Hooktube is great. Use it whenever YouTube gives you trouble. If you are on a Youtube video you can use this bookmartlet in Firefox to switch the same video to Hooktube.


To do this save any bookmark. Any what so ever. Then open properties of the bookmark. Rename in properties to “Jump to Hooktube” or whatever you like and in the bookmarks “location” put the above script. Should, mine does, take you to the Hooktube site with whatever video is showing.

I leave mine in the bookmarks toolbar folder and if YouTube wants me to log in I just jump to hook.

Hey, GD, how about a post on music? In your book you object to music that goes on forever without any beginning-end-middle structure and, reading that, I wondered what sort of music you like. And in the comments above we find Sam J. recommending some folk-song-type things that I like. And Sorcerygod seems to be some kind of HeavyMetalHead. (Apologies if I’m wrong, Sorcerygod — I’m going by those fuming pearl-eyed skulls at your site.) (I heard Palestrina recently [Renaissance stuff]; I liked it, but couldn’t discern any beginning-middle-end structure. Actually, I’m never able to discern that beyond maybe ten-second-long bits of music where the lines sort of go up and then down again, or out and then back again.)

It’s not necromancy to a retweet.

The PUA… least the first two “generations” were openly defectors. And as you write above, “The present social order heaps money and status on the most flagrant defectors…..”. My personal view is that they let that adoration blind them (you see this most notably in one who was born a Lesser Elite), they had their media coverage for being flagrant defectors, but that wasn’t going to be convertible to anything else. It was completely “inorganic” and had no organization or power behind it.

After all, at some point a player needs something with which to play the game of musical chairs.

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