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Posted by duddy   April 25, 2022   2482 views

This video brings to life the evolution of aggresive behavior in a population, and its relation to game theory – the field of mathematics concerned with quantifying strategic behavior and decision-making. The author illustrates what happens in an artificial population of species that exhibit two entirely different strategies as they compete for resources. In the first strategy called ‘dove’, organisms are required to share their food source with the other if both happen to land at the same site after being randomly shuffled. Sharing your food source allows the organism to survive another cycle, but not reproduce, unless they’re fortunate enough to land at a site all by them self. The author shows that if this cooperative strategy is used by all organisms, the population will thrive up until the carrying capacity is reached; beyond this point, the population ceases to grow further.

The second strategy called ‘hawk’ is one that is more aggressive. Organism that exhibit this behavior will steal half the food source from a dove-behaving organism that happens to share the landing site. Thus, the ratio of food shared between the dove and hawk is 0.5 to 1.5, where doves only have a 50% chance of surviving to the next cycle, while hawks survive and have a 50% chance at reproducing. When two hawks meet, however, their aggression causes them to fight after their meal, thus leading to their demise.

What I found particularly surprising about the simulations was what happens when a hawk is introduced into a population saturated with dove-behaving organisms. The hawks quickly take over and decimate the original population, given their aggressive approach to acquiring resources. Eventually, both groups balance each other out, but the population never quite reaches the same maximum it did prior to introducing the hawk – even with the same amount of food. In fact, when the author simulates what happens with hawks only, the population barely reaches a third of what the doves reached on their own.

This is very telling of how our society functions. For instance, many scientists predict that Earth has a maximum carrying capacity of 9 billion to 10 billion people. This prediction is based off several factors, such as land availability to grow food, freshwater limitations, and other environmental factor like the availability of nitrogen and fossil fuels. Based on these simulations, we see how collective human behavior has a direct impact on things like population size and distribution. For example, if everyone agreed to become vegetarian, less resources would be required to feed livestock, thus allowing the population of humans to grow with less strain on the Earth’s natural resources. But because it is extremely unlikely that everyone will agree to stop eating meat, our behavior ultimately limits the maximum carrying capacity. Those who voluntarily choose to live more sustainably by not eating meat, recycling waste, and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels can be considered the doves of this experiment. Those of us who are unable to empathize with people less fortunate, rationally choose to overconsume, and are unwilling to take personal responsibility are considered the hawks of this experiment.

So, which one are you?

behavior evolution mathematics game theory
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