Economic drivers of biological complexity

Adaptive Behavior 23:315-326 (2015)
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The complexity that we observe in nature can often be explained in terms of cooperative behavior. For example, the major transitions of evolution required the emergence of cooperation among the lower-level units of selection, which led to specialization through division-of-labor ultimately resulting in spontaneous order. There are two aspects to address explaining how such cooperation is sustained: how free-riders are prevented from free-riding on the benefits of cooperative tasks, and just as importantly, how those social benefits arise. We review these problems from an economic perspective, and highlight how ideas from economics can help us to better understand how the benefits of social interactions arise, how they are sustained, and how they affect the underlying social dilemmas.

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Yvan I. Russell
Middlesex University


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