Types of altruism

Harvard professor and business author Yochai Benkler (The Penguin and The Leviathan: The Science and Practice of Cooperation recently spoke at the Santa Fe Institute.

[!] He distinguishes five types of altruism in this video (@ 28 minutes):

  1. Kin altruism, or inclusive fitness (Hamilton): “I wil jump into a river ro save two brothers or eight cousins” {genetic}
  2. Direct reciprocity (Trivers): “tit for tat” {or taking your chances} “I help you. You help me”
  3. Indirect reciprocity: “pay it forwards” {on average positive feedback, therefore better of as an individual} “My strategy also depends on what you have done to others”
    1. Upstream reciprocity occurs when an act of altruism causes the recipient to perform a later act of altruism in the benefit of a third party. In other words: A helps B, which then motivates B to help C.
    2. Downstream reciprocity occurs when the performer of an act of altruism is more likely to be the recipient of a later act of altruism. In other words: A helps B, making it more likely that C will later help A.
  4. Network reciprocity / graph selection (Lieberman): “Sharing selectively with others within one’s network”, “Clusters of cooperators do well”
  5. Multilevel (group) selection (Sloan Wilson,Traulsen & Nowak) “Selection can be bad for the individual, and at same time good for the group, i.e. Evolutionary models to culture and institutions” {?war/sacrifice} “Groups of cooperators out-compete other groups”

For details, see ‘Five rules for the evoluion of cooperation’ (Nowak).
[!] Interesting quotes:

David Haig: “For direct reciprocity you need a face. For indirect reciprocity you need a name.”

Indirect reciprocity leads to social intelligence and human language
Games of indirect reciprocity are cognitively demanding;

individuals need to monitor the social network of a group.
=> evolution of social intelligence

Individuals must be able to talk to each other about others.
=> evolution of human language

[?] I’m wondering whether these types will stand, when groups are more or less obliged to work together…


Leave a Reply