a real christmas story

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I’ve been sort of following the “humans are selfish dicks” slash “humans are capable of true love” story for a while now, often as they are presented in game-theoretic analyses, e.g., Hawks, Doves, and Tit-for-Tats, but mostly in terms of animal behavior in general.  And I will give you one anecdote from my experience.

About 20 years ago I saw Chris Langton (Santa Fe Institute) give a talk on a genetic algorithm of cellular automata using Hawks, Doves, and Tit-for-Tats. (briefly, a genetic algorithm is like life, wherein generationally, “like begets like;” cellular automata are rules-based checkerboard squares: e.g., if neighbor black, then white; and hawks, doves, and tit-for-tats are what you’d expect: hawks are always aggressive, doves, always kind, and tit-for-tats are kind first, then retributive against hawkishness; over generations, certain proportions of hawks, doves, and tit-for-tats emerge; tit-for-tat always wins, btw.)


Tit-for-tats are known to win over pure Hawks or Doves.  The interesting thing to me was that when there were sufficient tit-for-tatters in the population, the Doves, true love, were maintained over tens of thousands of generations.  In other words, doves went undetected, because tit-for-tatters cannot discriminate the peaceniks from themselves (and don’t want to), due to their own initially peaceful strategy; however, it requires the strong presence of tit-for-tat against hawks, someone willing to go toe-to-toe with hawks, in order for true love to exist.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  And Merry Christmas.


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  1. Compound F

    You can count on me, especially when I’m eggnogged.

  2. Compound F

    it should.


  3. banger

    It may not work in all “games” very well but it is a true policy of enlightened selfishness. Human beings are by default kind. If they are not that means that there are cultural memes that pervert human nature present.  

  4. terryhallinan

    I seriously tried to make sense out of what I read but I cannot.  

    Kindly note I didn’t say it was wrong but it is just beyond my ken.

    Maybe this will make sense.

    Maybe not.

    My daughter was taking a class on various mythologies. Our own religion is not mythology though all the other religions are.  My own personal religion is that all other religions, including atheism and agnosticism, are crap.

    I asked my daughter if she could send me the textbook on the Norse religion when she needed it no longer.  She bought another one and sent it to me.  I could have bought it myself but I never got around to it.

    There was a startling statement in the book.  Most Vikings were peaceful farmers.  I had never thought about it but how could it be otherwise?

    Even in the Vikings’ religion, the warrior God above all, Odin, is a seeker after truth so much so that he gives up one eye and allows himself to be hung on a tree and pierced by a spear in his search for knowledge. [Hard to miss the parallel with the Christian crucifix.]

    But far more symbolic is that Odin is eaten by the wolf Fenrir at Ragnarock when Valhalla is destroyed.  Odin’s peaceful son Balder, who had earlier been murdered by the evil god Loki, returns to life and takes over.

    Gods and goddesses, giants and dwarfs, humans and wild animals of the entire world, rocks and rivers, disease and pestilence cried torrents of tears and begged for the release from Hel of the good god and his wife but a single holdout, Loki naturally, prevented it until ragnaroc.

    So then the fairest [the double meaning of the word seems to hold] and most intelligent and kindest god wins after all. What kind of Viking is that?

    Where can I join that church?

    Merry Christmas or whatever.


  5. Compound F


    Merry Whatever.

  6. terryhallinan

    I’m wondering how you figgered I was Danish, partly.

    Theological truth is universal, eternal – and bullshit.

    You take my Finnish grandparents.  My grandfather was almost surely a Swede but none dared tell him that.  Finns have no sense of humor and Swedes are awfully large.  Even my mother denied my grandmother was a Saami, the nearly completely genocided remnants of the aboriginal rulers of Europe.  Who wouldn’t do that?  Better to be a Finn for some reason she thought.  It isn’t clear why she thought so.

    Finns are the only people on worth who are worse at geography than Americans.  The Finns fought two wars in the 20th Century against Russia.  Little wonder that when the Viking nations of Sweden and Norway decided to go to war, each drafted their Finns to do the fighting.  Some people still think Swedes are dumb.

    I am proud to be a Finn too.  Have no idea why.

    Merry whatever, Dane.  Friends to the end.

    Best,  Terry

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