Robert Wright: How cooperation (eventually) trumps conflict

Author Robert Wright explains “non-zero-sumness,” a game-theory term describing how players with linked fortunes tend to cooperate for mutual benefit. This dynamic has guided our biological and cultural evolution, he says — but our unwillingness to understand one another, as in the clash between the Muslim world and the West, will lead to all of us losing the “game.” Once we recognize that life is a non-zero-sum game, in which we all must cooperate to succeed, it will force us to see that moral progress — a move toward empathy — is our only hope.

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One thought on “Robert Wright: How cooperation (eventually) trumps conflict

  1. The blurb misses the best thing about non-zero sum games – that people will cooperate under then even in the absence of altruism or empathy, since it is in their own interest to do so. Adam Smith said it best:

    It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own neccessities but of their advantages.

    Thus, even if appeals to decency or justice fall to make the case for peace, the appeal to self-interest persists – theoretically, there is always a negotiated outcome that’s better than warfare for both parties.

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