Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Game theory's cure for corruption"

I found a sweet article about power and corruption in the context of evolutionary game theory, and how to stop it.  A taste:
In virtually all the eusocial insects, a few workers surreptitiously lay eggs of their own, eggs that can grow into reproductive males. By diverting shared resources away from the nest, these workers selfishly reduce the fitness of their nestmates. They play the system for their own advantage.
Wow, so I actually did not know that cheating attempts were a thing for eusocial insects.  The author, Suzanne Sadedin goes on to describe many other examples, including cancer and police corruption, and explains some profound conclusions evolutionary game theory research!

The initial conclusion of the research is that corruption is inevitable.  At best, you can have police who prevent corruption in all the non-police, but you cannot prevent corruption in the police themselves.  However, Sadedin's research showed that there is another evolutionarily stable state where there is not corruption.  This state, called "righteousness", has everyone policing each other on equal terms.

Sadedin notes that we are righteous with respect to some things, like murder, but corrupt with respect to others, like infidelity or digital piracy.  Indeed, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as there are certainly drawbacks to righteousness.  But understanding the difference could be quite useful, since we can discuss which issues are best treated with "corruption", and which with "righteousness".

I'm also very interested, because a couple of years ago, I looked into some papers on evolutionary strategies in the iterated prisoner's dilemma.  Based on the way Sadedin discusses the problem, I suspect that a completely different model system is being studied, and I would absolutely love to learn the details.  The two relevant papers are:

Úbeda, F. and Duéñez-Guzmán, E. A. (2011), POWER AND CORRUPTION. Evolution, 65: 1127–1139. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01194.x

Duéñez-Guzmán EA, Sadedin S (2012) Evolving Righteousness in a Corrupt World. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44432. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044432

So when I have time I'll take a look and report back.