Computer science can play an important role in determining the conditions in nature that give rise to the form of cooperation known as indirect reciprocity, or donation to others, writes Cardiff University professor Roger Whitaker.
"Using software, we can simulate simplified groups of humans in which individuals choose to help each other with different donation strategies," he says. "This allows us to study the evolution of donation behavior by creating subsequent generations of the simplified group. Evolution can be observed by allowing the more successful donation strategies to have a greater chance of existing in the next generation of the group."
Whitaker says such insights will be crucial for imbuing intelligent and autonomous devices with cooperative decision-making for when they engage with each other or with humans. "This can allow the development of intelligence which can help autonomous technology decide how generous to be in any given situation," he notes.
Whitaker says Cardiff researchers ran computer-simulated "donation games" between randomly paired virtual players to work out cooperation's evolution in social groups, based on players making self-comparisons of reputation. The simulations' outcomes demonstrated evolutionary favoritism for donating to those who are at least as reputable as oneself.
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