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Solving the problem of cheating in large-scale cooperative systems

Cooperation and Cheating Symposium: Solving the problem of cheating in large-scale cooperative systems

February 16, 2017

Supported by the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity

All living systems are composed of individual units that, under certain conditions, attain the requisite cooperation that enables the sustainability of the system as a whole. At the same time these systems are constantly threatened when these individual units pursue actions that compromise the welfare of the system. For example, multicellular organisms are threatened by cancer cells whose proliferation can lead to the death of the organism; ant and bee colonies may be threatened when individuals other than the queen can reproduce; and human groups are weakened by the action of free riders. It follows that one important determinant of cooperation in living systems is the detection and control of individual cheating.  

Whereas there is extensive research about the detection and control of cheating in each discipline – and sub-discipline – much less is known about how this functional imperative is achieved across all living systems. This symposium will engage a broad interdisciplinary audience in the fundamental question of how cooperation is achieved in large-scale systems, from multicellular organisms, to social insect colonies, to human societies.  

Each speaker is invited to give a short talk (10 min + 5 min for questions) to answer the question: How is cooperation achieved and cheating limited?  This can include both the conditions that support cooperation and the mechanisms of cheater detection and suppression that limit exploitation.  This symposium will conclude with a panel discussion comparing and contrasting cheating detection and control across large-scale systems.

 Registration coming soon!


Michael Hechter, Foundation Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies, ASU

Athena Aktipis, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, ASU