- Without the sense of collaborating with like-minded beings in the pursuit of the ever unattainable in art and scientific research, my life would have been empty. [Albert Einstein, from Henry Goddard Leach, Living Philosophies (Simon and Schuster, 1931).]
- If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. [Widely attributed to Nelson Mandela]
- . . . Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the Kingdom of Brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of Communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. [Martin Luther King, Jr., public address, August 16, 1967.]
Here is Einstein, the great self-styled individualist, saying that his life would have been empty without collaboration. He saw no contradiction between his lone-horse individualism and his deep-seated need for collaborative effort. Neither do I. Both have their time and place in the lives of creative people.
Early experiments in game theory, particularly in the prisoner’s dilemma, revealed that repeated interactions between members of a community, of as few as two people, were essential in establishing the mechanical foundations of cooperation. Homo sapiens would not have become a social species but for the advantages of repeated interactions within community.
Technical and Analytical Readings
In the 1940s, a new discipline called game theory emerged within the social sciences. This discipline, which has advanced rapidly in the decades since its inception, studies the character of interactions between human beings and other organisms in dynamic environments in the context of competition and limited resources. I place this essential discipline under this heading not to suggest that mutuality and cooperation are in any sense inevitable, or even likely in general terms, but only to point out that game theory tells us how we can structure interactions to promote cooperative behaviors that lead to socially desirable outcomes. This grouping reflects a desideratum, not a scientific principle. Of necessity, the game theory is the study of conflict as well as the potential paths toward sustainable outcomes such as often arise from cooperation.
Game theory’s main foundation is the evolutionary principle, because the emergence of new behaviors under varied circumstances is what game theory is centrally about. We will get to cooperation as an element of spirituality later. For now, an understanding of the practical dynamics that ease the path to that development is our focus. This topic belongs in the pantheon of ethical considerations, because it explores the nuts-and-bolts dynamics of ethics and its antagonists.
- John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (1944): the seminal work that gave birth to the discipline.
- William Poundstone, Prisoner’s Dilemma: John von Neumann, Game Theory and the Puzzle of the Bomb (Doubleday, 1992).
- Michael Maschler, Eilon Solan and Shmuel Zamir, Game Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
- Luca Lambertini, Game Theory in the Social Sciences: A Reader-Friendly Guide (Routledge, 2011).
- Roger B. Myerson, Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict (Harvard University Press, 1991).
- Drew Fudenberg and Jean Tirole, Game Theory (MIT Press, 1991).
- Steven J. Brams, Theory of Moves (MIT Press, 1993).
- Steven J. Brams, Game Theory and Politics (Dover Publications, 2011).
- Joel Watson, Strategy: An Introduction To Game Theory (W.W. Norton, 2007).
- James D. Morrow, Game Theory for Political Scientists (Princeton University Press, 1994).
- Andrés Perea, Epistemic Game Theory: Reasoning and Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
- Michael Suk-Young Chwe, Jane Austen, Game Theorist (Princeton University Press, 2013).
- Here is a link to a site listing academic journals on game theory, and a link to the Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Here are some leading works on using game theory to produce fair and just outcomes:
- Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (Basic Books, 1984).
- Robert Axelrod, The Comlexity of Cooperation: Agent-Based Models of Competition and Collaboration (Princeton University Press, 1997).
- Steven J. Brams and Alan D. Taylor, Fair Division: From cake-cutting to dispute resolution (Cambridge University Press, 1996).
- Steven J. Brams and Alan D. Taylor, The Win/Win Solution: Guaranteeing Fair Shares to Everybody (W.W. Norton, 1999).
- Parag Khanna, Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization (Random House, 2016): “‘Connectography’ represents Khanna’s latest effort to arbitrage his personal networking skills into a theory of geopolitics. He is interested in how connectivity and geography will affect the future of global affairs . . . ”
The roots of cooperation among humans are biological/genetic, and so are the roots of selfishness. In A Natural History of Human Morality, Michael Tomasello fleshes out the two-edged nature of human ethical inclinations. The belief that humans are hard-wired to treat each other decently has some basis in fact but so does the belief that we are hard-wired for self-interest. In an earlier work, A Natural History of Human Thinking, Tomasello argues that our unique ways of thinking are grounded in the fact that “humans participate in shared intentionality in a way that their nearest primate relatives do not”.
- Michael Tomasello, A Natural History of Human Morality (Harvard University Press, 2016).
- Michael Tomasello, A Natural History of Human Thinking (Harvard University Press, 2014).
- John F. McNamara and Olof Leimar, Game Theory in Biology: Concepts and Frontiers (Oxford University Press, 2020): “. . . it is not just the abiotic environment that matters to organisms, but often equally or more the characteristics of other organisms. The Fitness of one individual . . . depends on the strategies of others.”.
- Carl Safina, Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace (Holt, 2020): “The book revolves around his visits with three scientists studying animals in the field: sperm whales in the Caribbean, chimpanzees in Uganda and macaws in the Amazon of Peru. Along the way, he repeatedly emphasizes that the profundity of what he’s seeing is that each species has a culture. Members learn from one another, pass down traditions — a navigation route, a toolmaking skill, even a parrot’s dialect — in a way that was once thought to be fundamentally human.”
Richard Aldous, Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012). “A look at the relationship between the prime minister and the president.”
From the dark side:
- Simon Schama, The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000 BC – 1492 AD (HarperCollins Publishers, 2014): when reciprocity fails. “It was only when the Christians and Muslims turned on the Jews, singling them out for humiliation and, in the case of the Christians, grotesque insult and slaughter, that Jews began to withdraw or be pushed into their own separate spheres.”
- Jeff Shesol, Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War (W.W. Norton & Co., 2021): “. . . Shesol’s story raises inescapable questions about whether space exploration is quite what its enthusiasts have often claimed.”
- Marc Chagall, Musicians on a Green Background (1964)
- Wassily Kandinsky, Reciprocal Accord (1942)
- Paul Klee, Two Men Meet, Each Believing the Other to Be of Higher Rank (1903-05)
- Edgar Degas, Musicians in the Orchestra (1872)
- John Ruskin, Zermatt (1844)
- Prince Grigory Gagarin, The Alexander Column in Scaffolding (1832-33)
- Adriaen van Ostade, Village Musicians (1655)
- Sinclair Lewis, Dodsworth (1929), about a failure of mutual purpose in a marriage.
- Stephen Mack Jones, Dead of Winter: A Novel (Soho, 2021): “Snow was a cop once, but pervasive racism meant he could never be fully part of the brotherhood. He can, however, try to protect his nearest and dearest, and when the tables turn and Snow is in dire need of aid, they can look out for him as well.”
Film and Stage
- African Queen, a story about two wildly different people learningto work together for a common purpose.
- Atanarjuat(The Fast Runner), a rare film about the Inuit people, their customs and beliefs: “The film is about romantic tensions that lead to tragedy within a small, closely knit community of people who depend on one another for survival, surrounded by a landscape of ice and snow. It shows how people either learn to get along under those circumstances, or pay a terrible price.”
- Day for Night, in which the characters are not in cohesion
- Dodsworth, in which a married couple are not unified in intent
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly(Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo): The good one isn’t any better than the other two but he is smarter and he understands basic game theory.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Beethoven, String Quartets, Op. 18 (6)
- No. 1 in F major
- No. 2 in G major
- No. 3 in D major
- No. 4 in C minor
- No. 5 in A major
- No. 6 in B flat major
English piano duets and other pieces:
- Lord Berners, Valses bourgeoises, Fantaisie espagnole, Trois morceaux
- Constant Lambert, Troi pièces nègres pour les touches blanches
- Alan Rawsthorne, The Creel
- William Walton, Duets for Children
Miles Davis and John Coltrane made an iconic jazz pair.
- The Complete Columbia Recordings
- At Olympia Theatre, Paris, March 21, 1960
- At Tivoli Konserthal, Copenhagen, March 24, 1960
- At Kongresshaus, Zürich, April 8, 1960
- At Kurhaus, Sheveningen, April 9, 1960
- “Miles & Coltrane” album (1955)
- “The Final Tour – The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6” album
- Raag Puriya Kalyan, an early evening raag (performances by Ali Akbar Khan, Hariprasad Chaurasia and Prasad Bhandarkar)
- Schubert, String Quartet No. 12 in C minor, D 703, “Quartettsatz”
- Schubert, String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D887, Op. 161 (1826)
- Bruni, Duos Concertants for violin & viola
- Carter, String Quartet No. 2 (1959): the quartet combines instrumental independence with cooperation.
- Lach, Neun Lyrische Stücke (9 lyric pieces), Op. 23 for viola d’amore and piano
- Franz Schmidt, Quintet in A Major for Piano left-hand, Clarinet & String Trio
- C.P.E. Bach, Chamber Quartets: Wq 93, Wq 94, Wq 95
- Berwald, Quartet in E-flat Major for Piano & Winds, Op. 1 (1819): 1. Adagio; 2. Adagio; 3. Allegro
- Berwald, Grand Septet in B-flat Major (1828)
- Ziporyn, Piano Trio - Typical Music: 1, 2, 3
- Dvořák, Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor, Op. 26, B57 (1876)
- Hailstork, Symphony No. 1 (1988)
- David Feldman, “Horizonte”
- David Friesen Circle 3 Trio, “Interaction”
- Ehud Asherie Trio, “Wild Man Blues”
Sometimes people acting together for a common cause can try to outdo each other in performance. So it was with these artists whose competitive spirit led to a creative tension that enhanced the music.
- Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland, “Showdown!”