The genetic algorithm uses computer simulations to evolve different strategies for playing Prisoner's Dilemma games, and by observing the interactions of populations of agents over many runs, it is possible to make useful observations that could generalize to human behavior – such as the tendency of reciprocation to establish itself and spread if cooperating agents are able to encounter one another.
This synthesis of world history from the days of isolated hunter-gatherer communities to the present electronically connected cosmopolitan, interconnected world shows that all of humanity today lives in a "unitary maelstrom of cooperation and competition," and that the global spread of ideas, information, and experience "constitute[s] the overarching structure of human history."
Rational, self-interested individuals in large groups need a positive incentive or negative sanction delivered through institutional arrangements in order to provide themselves a collective good; in small groups the collective good itself can be incentive enough for individuals to cooperate.
Human emotions, customs, and institutions enable us to compete effectively with all other species by making cooperative social arrangements among ourselves – a capability that co-evolved with thumbs, speech, and tool-building.
“The parable of the tribes” is used to describe schematically how one aggressive tribe among an otherwise peaceful group can force the spread of the “ways of power” throughout the system: power becomes a contaminant that, once introduced, becomes universal abetted and magnified through innovations in organization and technology.
While the Internet phenomenon is often referred to as an “Information Revolution,” Michael Schrage says this is a misnomer and claims it is more accurate to state that the world is in the midst of a Relationship Revolution.
Internet facilitated tools and practices reached critical mass in the 2004 elections enabling ordinary people to participate in processes that had been closed to them by top-down political organizations.
The “second enclosure movement” attempts to put fences around the intellectual commons of ideas and facts in a manner analogous to the enclosure and transfer of property rights from the public to the private sphere during the first enclosure movement in England that fenced off common areas between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. A new way of thinking about the public domain, the intellectual commons, is needed to combat the negative impact of this trend.