Work With Others (From Wired Nov 2011):
Looking out for number one is not a great survival strategy. We know this intuitively or we wouldn’t tip waiters or stop at red lights. Game theorists discovered years ago that cooperative strategies usually produce the most success. Computer models show that the top dog isn’t the most ruthless; it’s the one who reciprocates. Math proves the golden rule.
There were conditions, of course. If you’re “nice”– that is, if you cooperate– but your competition responds with lying or cheating, you have to retaliate. (Forgiveness is part of the equation, too, though. Slap the wrist and move on.)
The theory got more support when evolutionary biologists started noticing how important cooperation is to evolution. “If I am willing to let others have a slightly bigger share of the pie, then people will want to share pies with me,” wrote Harvard researcher Martin Nowak. “Generosity bakes successful deals.” In other words, a social group that plays by these rules becomes a kind of superorganism. (Like an any colony– or Twitter.) That’s especially true in a globally integrated world. So unless you’ve got a ship packed for Mars, best to play nice.