New Model of Evolution Finally Reveals How Cooperation Evolves - MIT Technology Review

One of the great unanswered question in biology is why organisms have evolved to cooperate. The long-term benefits of cooperation are clear—look at the extraordinary structures that termites build, for example, or the complex society humans have created.

But evolution is a random process based on the short-term advantages that emerge in each generation. Of course, individuals can cooperate or act selfishly, and this allows them to accrue benefits or suffer costs, depending on the circumstances. But how this behavior can spread and lead to the long-term emergence of cooperation as the dominant behavior is a conundrum that has stumped evolutionary biologists for decades.

Today, that could change thanks to the work of Christoph Adami and Arend Hintze at Michigan State University in East Lansing. They have created a simple mathematical model using well understood physical principles to show how cooperation emerges during evolution.