SuperCooperators by Martin Nowak
Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed

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Synopsis

EVOLUTION IS OFTEN PRESENTED AS A STRICTLY COMPETITIVE ENDEAVOR. This point of view has had serious implications for the way we see the mechanics of both science and culture. But scientists have long wondered how societies could have evolved without some measure of cooperation. And if there was cooperation involved, how could it have arisen from nature “red in tooth and claw”?

Martin Nowak, one of the world’s experts on evolution and game theory, working here with bestselling science writer Roger Highfield, turns an important aspect of evolutionary theory on its head to explain why cooperation, not competition, has always been the key to the evolution of complexity. He offers a new explanation for the origin of life and a new theory for the origins of language, biology’s second greatest information revolution after the emergence of genes. SuperCooperators also brings to light his game-changing work on disease. Cancer is fundamentally a failure of the body’s cells to cooperate, Nowak has discovered, but organs are cleverly designed to foster cooperation, and he explains how this new understanding can be used in novel cancer treatments.

Nowak and Highfield examine the phenomena of reciprocity, reputation, and reward, explaining how selfless behavior arises naturally from competition; how forgiveness, generosity, and kindness have a mathematical rationale; how companies can be better designed to promote cooperation; and how there is remarkable overlap between the recipe for cooperation that arises from quantitative analysis and the codes of conduct seen in major religions, such as the Golden Rule.

In his first book written for a wide audience, this hugely influential scientist explains his cutting-edge research into the mysteries of cooperation, from the rise of multicellular life to Good Samaritans. With wit and clarity, Nowak and Highfield make the case that cooperation, not competition, is the defining human trait. SuperCooperators will expand our understanding of evolution and provoke debate for years to come.
 

About Martin Nowak

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MARTIN A. NOWAK is Professor of Biology and Mathematics at Harvard University. He is Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. In 1998 he moved to Princeton to establish the first center in Theoretical Biology at the Institute for Advanced Study. Nowak has won many prizes and has revolutionized the mathematical approach to biology.  Nowak has made important contributions to the understanding of virus infections and cancer. He has pioneered the mathematical theory for the evolution of human language and altruistic behavior.Supercooperators will be Nowak's first book for a general audience. ROGER HIGHFIELD, Ph.D. (Co-Writer) is the Editor of New Scientist magazine, which is now the world’s biggest selling weekly science and technology magazine. He has written/coauthored six popular science books, two of which have been bestsellers, including After Dolly, The Science of Harry Potter, The Physics of Christmas, The Private Lives of Albert Einstein, and Frontiers of Complexity. His most recent work was as the outside editor on genomic researcher J. Craig Venter's autobiography, A Life Decoded, published in November, 2007 (Viking, US; Allen Lane, UK) .
 
Published March 22, 2011 by Free Press. 352 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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The author delineates five such mechanisms: direct reciprocity (tit for tat), indirect reciprocity (influence of reputation), spatial selection, group selection (often manifested in tribal wars) and kin selection (often manifested in nepotism).

Mar 22 2011 | Read Full Review of SuperCooperators: Altruism, E...

The New York Times

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Nowak gives little hint of these fierce debates in this cheerful book, instead offering this striking claim: “The way that we human beings collaborate is as clearly described by mathematics as the descent of the apple that once fell in Newton’s garden.” It seems significant to Nowak that, accordi...

Apr 08 2011 | Read Full Review of SuperCooperators: Altruism, E...

Bookmarks Magazine

Martin Nowak, one of the world's experts on evolution and game theory, working here with bestselling science writer Roger Highfield, turns an important aspect of evolutionary theory on its head to explain why cooperation, not competition, has always been the key to the evolution of complexity.

Apr 10 2011 | Read Full Review of SuperCooperators: Altruism, E...

New Zealand Listener

Get full access to Listener.co.nz Subscribers can read the full version of this story.

Jan 14 2012 | Read Full Review of SuperCooperators: Altruism, E...

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