Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

cooperation & betrayal

In the early 60s, Robert Axelrod was a math major messing around with refrigerator-sized computers. Then a dramatic global crisis made him wonder about the space between a rock and a hard place, and whether being good may be a good strategy. With help from Andrew Zolli and Steve Strogatz, we tackle the prisoner’s dilemma, a classic thought experiment, and learn about a simple strategy to navigate the waters of cooperation and betrayal. Then Axelrod, along with Stanley Weintraub, takes us back to the trenches of World War I, to the winter of 1914, and an unlikely Christmas party along the Western Front.

I thought of transcribing the most moving section of this segment of the brilliant RadioLab, but then I realized that absent the rich and funny context the pullquote about "Satans" and "Tit-for-Tats" and their babies didn't make much sense. Take 10 minutes of your time and listen to this fascinating exploration of the logic of cooperation. The money line:

if people who are willing to cooperate can find each other, no matter how hostile the world is, their strategy of cooperation can win the day.

"One Good Deed Deserves Another" - RadioLab