How Models Fail. A Critical Look at the History of Computer Simulations of the Evolution of Cooperation

In Catrin Misselhorn (ed.), Collective Agency and Cooperation in Natural and Artificial Systems. Explanation, Implementation and Simulation, Philosophical Studies Series. Springer. pp. 261-279 (2015)
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Abstract
Simulation models of the Reiterated Prisoner's Dilemma have been popular for studying the evolution of cooperation since more than 30 years now. However, there have been practically no successful instances of empirical application of any of these models. At the same time this lack of empirical testing and confirmation has almost entirely been ignored by the modelers community. In this paper, I examine some of the typical narratives and standard arguments with which these models are justified by their authors despite the lack of empirical validation. I find that most of the narratives and arguments are not at all compelling. None the less they seem to serve an important function in keeping the simulation business running despite its empirical shortcomings.
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