Social dilemmas occur when incentives for individuals are misaligned with group interests 1-7 . According to the 'tragedy of the commons', these misalignments can lead to overexploitation and collapse of public resources. The resulting behaviours can be analysed with the tools of game theory 8 . The theory of direct reciprocity 9-15 suggests that repeated interactions can alleviate such dilemmas, but previous work has assumed that the public resource remains constant over time. Here we introduce the idea that the public resource is instead changeable and depends on the strategic choices of individuals. An intuitive scenario is that cooperation increases the public resource, whereas defection decreases it. Thus, cooperation allows the possibility of playing a more valuable game with higher payoffs, whereas defection leads to a less valuable game. We analyse this idea using the theory of stochastic games 16-19 and evolutionary game theory. We find that the dependence of the public resource on previous interactions can greatly enhance the propensity for cooperation. For these results, the interaction between reciprocity and payoff feedback is crucial: neither repeated interactions in a constant environment nor single interactions in a changing environment yield similar cooperation rates. Our framework shows which feedbacks between exploitation and environment - either naturally occurring or designed - help to overcome social dilemmas.
European Research Council Start Grant 279307, Austrian Science Fund (FWF) grant P23499-N23, C.H. acknowledges support from the ISTFELLOW programme.
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Hilbe C, Šimsa Š, Chatterjee K, Nowak M. Evolution of cooperation in stochastic games. Nature. 2018;559(7713):246-249. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0277-x
Hilbe, C., Šimsa, Š., Chatterjee, K., & Nowak, M. (2018). Evolution of cooperation in stochastic games. Nature. Nature Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0277-x
Hilbe, Christian, Štepán Šimsa, Krishnendu Chatterjee, and Martin Nowak. “Evolution of Cooperation in Stochastic Games.” Nature. Nature Publishing Group, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0277-x.
C. Hilbe, Š. Šimsa, K. Chatterjee, and M. Nowak, “Evolution of cooperation in stochastic games,” Nature, vol. 559, no. 7713. Nature Publishing Group, pp. 246–249, 2018.
Hilbe C, Šimsa Š, Chatterjee K, Nowak M. 2018. Evolution of cooperation in stochastic games. Nature. 559(7713), 246–249.
Hilbe, Christian, et al. “Evolution of Cooperation in Stochastic Games.” Nature, vol. 559, no. 7713, Nature Publishing Group, 2018, pp. 246–49, doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0277-x.
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