Cooperation is prevalent in a myriad of living creatures. As a species, humans have achieved their unprecedented domination of the Biosphere through cooperation at immense scales. The evolutionary tension between conflict and cooperation plays out all around us, but do most people really understand where cooperation comes from? How does cooperation evolve, and how do the mechanisms that lead to cooperation compare to the competitive mechanisms we usually associate with evolution?
If we want to live in functional, flourishing communities, we need to be able to answer these questions. If we want to elevate the well-being of the human population, we need to be able to answer these questions. If we want to overt an environmental catastrophe that would bring an end to human civilization as we know it, we need to be able to answer these questions.
Although still a very nascent project with only a few elements in place, the long-term goal of the Online Cooperative Resource is to create a free resource for those who want to learn more about how cooperation evolves. Aimed at reaching all possible audiences, the resource will be layered to provide modules accessible to laypeople curious about cooperation, undergraduate students in the biological and social sciences, and graduate students pursuing research into how cooperation evolves.
Like a normal textbook, the Online Cooperative Resource will include readings on major topics related to how cooperation evolves. Unlike a normal textbook, these readings will be modular, allowing instructors and self-guided learners to choose which topics to pursue and how deeply to pursue them. And text will be only one of the resources available, as the project also seeks to produce explanatory images (“infographics”) and interactive computer interfaces that empower the user to explore important evolutionary phenomena.
Currently, the text component of the project is under development. Two online teaching tool interfaces have been released:
Easy Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma: this teaching tool empowers the user to explore a pared-down version of Robert Axelrod’s IPD tournaments through a rich, easy-to-use interface.
The Sustainable Use of Fisheries: using a collectively-exploited fishery as a model ecosystem service, this interface allows groups of users to discover the tragedy of the commons and experiment with methods to prevent fishery crash.
My most recent project revolves around the production of infographics that explain some of the most important ideas and concepts in cooperation theory:
Evolutionary Games Infographics: this series of images presents the most influential evolutionary games using intuitive, non-mathematical visualizations.
The irony of trying to create this resource alone is not lost on me: I realize that if this is going to be a valuable project in the long term, I need to cooperate with others to assemble this resource. If you are interesting in collaborating on this project, please contact me.