Cooperative Design Principles for "Doing Well By Doing Good"

Doing Well By Doing Good

by David Sloan Wilson1, Thomas F. Kelly2, Melvin M. Philip3 and Xiujian Chen4

An Evolution Institute Report on Socially Responsible Businesses

The above PDF is linked from the following article and should be of interest to those looking to build apps that help people cooperate (such as Builder Hub @chadrickm) or even in the design of cooperative systems such as the SAFEnetwork core (the PDF even mentions ants! :slightly_smiling: …primates etc.)

It includes design principles for cooperative systems and illustrates how these can outperform self interest (Any Rand, Milton Friedman “hidden hand” based approaches), by fostering cooperation within and between groups, and limiting self interest when it undermines the collective. WARNING: these principles include … er, governance.

Read at your own risk. I’m outa here.


Okay first thing that strikes me about this article is it entirely ignores the fact current economics is based on DEBT based currency which makes the whole thing unstable and unfeasible in the first place. If you’re going to just constantly print money then the results will be predictable boom and bust cycles and that has nothing at all to do with “human nature.” That’s just the pure mechanics of badly managing resources and corruption in politics resulting in usury. Note how Canada managed to stay financially stable a lot longer than the U.S. until oops, one day it decided to privatize it’s banks and then everything started to go down hill fast. Or compare the economics of before and after the gold standard.

“These scientists assert that humans have truly cooperative instincts
which they developed over hundreds of thousands of years living and
working in highly cohesive groups. The best survival strategy for our
ancestors was to cooperate with each other and to surpress individual
greed and selfishness that was good for the individual but harmful to
the group. All the empirical evidence shows if the conditions are right,
individuals happily work together to create highly effective
organizations that look after the common good. The work of Nobel Prize
winning political scientist Elinor Ostrom shows, for instance, how
communities have been able to manage resources sustainably over
centuries with the right mix of social and personal incentives. Homo
Sapiens is the only viable model of organizational life and to deny
this, is to deny human nature.”

Survival of the kindest as opposed to survival of the strongest. Yes but even in hunter gatherer groups, horticultural societies, or various First Nations cultures one is not COMPELLED to participate. The enforcing factor wasn’t the society but rather nature itself. One was free to stay and abide by the rules of the tribe or leave and live on one’s own. Some assuredly did that, or left to find another group, but it was risky as to go out into the wilderness on one’s own can be dangerous. You can get eaten, starve or freeze (or dehydrated). There is safety within the tribe. But by no means is one compelled. In fact it was a punishment of a couple First Nations to exile problem individuals in isolated areas, say out on an island or in the middle of the forest somewhere. They would have a warden that would come and check on them perhaps, make sure they hadn’t died, but otherwise would be left in complete isolation and need o be self reliant in order to find food, build a shelter and provide for themselves. Other tribes might exile individuals completely. To be exiled could be a death sentence given the obvious dangers one could face. To this day we have a deep racial fear of being shunned for this very reason and still, to this day, use it as a form of punishment and disrespect.

So I would put forward that while the notion of survival of the kindest might be viable it does not imply the need for force or control inherent in governance. But rather survival of the kindest is about empathy and building ties with one another. It’s not about control but rather about connection.


Long document…

Self Interest != Greed
(though for some it does)

Self interest will almost always include community interest unless one is willfully ignorant of their place in that community. Win/win investments return more over the long run for everyone involved. Win/lose propositions might return huge, but you shouldn’t expect to make the same deal more than once with the one who lost. You will need to find another mark and eventually your reputation will come to the surface and as @Blindsite2k mentioned, you’ll be finding a new community, if another will have you.

Greed is a hindrance to long term self interests. Who wants to deal with an immoral greedy person? I know I don’t. Desiring a healthy return on investment is not greed. What designates if a return is healthy? A true free market that is not corrupted by power brokers does. Each individual in the community decides for themselves if it is healthy or not.

Greed == Bad (yep, I can dig it)
Self Interest == Bad (nope, they drive the market)

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Is greed a learned reaction to an external stimuli, an inbuilt/ latent physiological trait that triggers upon opportunity/ temptation or something else entirely.

What role does abundance/ scarcity play in greed and is it a greed for money itself or what it can bring us.

Was greed a real problem prior to money when trade was carried out via a ledger

Imagine (1) a cryptographic ledger of all things mandated worldwide for all Public /Private informational processes. (2) Cash is banned and capital controls/ constraints implemented (3) Energy, Food, Water scarcity is eliminated via apportionment. What effect on greed would said system have I wonder.

The above technocratic system of control seems to be a plan and one that I do not agree with. I’d much rather the world that SAFE could facilitate (an equal oppurtunity market), but either way…I think greed is headed into a bear market.

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Greed seems to me one of the material expressions of plain old selfishness:

  • “I want to get this something that I don’t need (in the strict sense of the word), and I don’t care if I hurt somebody else by doing so.”
  • “I’m not giving away this something I have, though I don’t need it and I know it could help others who do.”

It’s of course preferable if the hurting part is indirect enough that I can’t see it, because then I can keep pretending I’m a nice person.


I would also like to point out that the notion of allowing people to opt in and out and social shunning is also in line with what has been said about basing society on code.

I just posted the following in off-topic, but think it has relevance to all of us thinking about governance. It’s not often an article can change my mind about something I’ve thought a lot about, but this one has:

Decent article. Thanks for sharing.

Greed is a motivator. No greed, no motivation and therefore nothing happens. Greed is a good thing for humanity, it allow humans to be more creative, and do things they could never thought they’ll never done before.

Greed is everywhere in animal kingdom and beyond. It is silly to say greed is bad when greed is the one that pushes animals to go far than ever before. Is it too greedy to kill eagle’s eggs? Is it greedy to hoard buffaloes? Is it greedy to reap in profits by flipping products?

Greed is a subjective value. Every one of us has different perspective on subjective value. Hence, “well that’s like… your opinion man!”

Let’s not get stuck in greed - I wish I hadn’t mentioned it, which I did just as a joke (now removed).

The OP is not about greed, so please don’t let’s make this topic about that - “Reply in new topic” if you wish to discuss greed, but here please read the PDF (see link in the article) and respond to that.