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Aug 8, 2022
Genghis Spreads Truly Addicted User
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Morally, Dawkins is a world-class bunghole, and philosophically and historically, he is illiterate. But he is a first-rate scientist. The Selfish Gene is especially interesting for someone with an economics background, because it explains self-interest with much more precision than economics does. Econ just assumes everyone is out for himself, and communities are just aggregations of individuals with the same preferences and goals. According to selfish gene theory, how much you do for other people depends on how much of the same genes you carry together. If you look around, this is patently obvious; you care more for you family members than you do complete strangers, and even less for foreigners.

In contrast to economics, in evolutionary biology your goal is to maximize offspring, not money and utility; but on a practical level, it doesn't matter, because you have to determine how much resources to devote to each child. Dawkins offers compelling examples from the animal kingdom, like sterile kamikaze ants who give up their lives for the queen, since they won't be having any children themselves.

Also a feast for econ majors is the fact that this book contains a lot of game theory. Pure vs. mixed strategies, single games vs. repeated games, etc. should be familiar to anyone who's taken Econ 382 or 476 at BYU. You might ask, how does that work? Evolution concerns mostly non-humans, an lower animals do not make rational decisions. The answer is that part of the population will receive a random mutation that inclines them to make a decision that happens to be rational, and game theory can tell us whether such a trait will help those mutants survive.
Genghis Spreads
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Genghis Spreads
Feb 23, 2004
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Oct 6, 2022
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