Nice guys, do you finish first?

Nice Guys Finish First” documentary by Richard Dawkins throws some light on why Altruism is a very necessary element. The theme of the documentary is reciprocal altruism, simple explanation given is “Individuals allow themselves to remain in the same state or move to a lower state to help another person go up in state within the community”. The theory was applied to a large set where there are plenty of interactions within the observed group, the race to the bottom was inevitable where exploitation of the resources were present.

The definition of the nice guy was demonstrated using the prisoner’s dilemma as a computer game tournament.  The rules were simple,

  • If two players co-operate then they take equal share of the output.
  • If one of the players does not play nice, then the cheater gets a steal and the loser gets nothing.
  • If both try to cheat, then they end up with lesser output than they would have co-operatively got out.
  • There are more than one turn for each player to play against the same player.

Many people submitted their programs as players in the tournament with varied strategies. The one which Richard Dawkins called as nice guy was the “Tit for Tat” strategy. Tit for tat strategy won the tournament. The following were the observations of the nice guy in a setting were multiple interactions with the same individual is possible.

  • Is always co-operative unless cheated.
  • Keeps in mind who cheats and does not co-operate with the cheaters.
  • Will be the first person to forgive and give a chance to the cheaters to be co-operative.

This also reminded me of the Allegory of long spoons.  I also have seen some real life examples of nice people living the best life than the people around them.

Nice people, do you finish at the top?

Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/garryknight/2490056817/

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