Memetics Books


This is a collection of books related to the topic of altruism. The list is associated with my 2011 "Memetics" book - which is now available. For the main list of memetics books, see here.

Memetics: Memes and the Science of Cultural Evolution by Tim Tyler (2011)
Memetics is the name commonly given to the study of memes - a term originally coined by Richard Dawkins to describe small inherited elements of human culture. Memes are the cultural equivalent of DNA genes - and memetics is the cultural equivalent of genetics. Memes have become ubiquitous in the modern world - but there has been relatively little proper scientific study of how they arise, spread and change - apparently due to turf wars within the social sciences and misguided resistance to Darwinian explanations being applied to human behaviour. However, with the modern explosion of internet memes, I think this is bound to change. With memes penetrating into every mass media channel, and with major companies riding on their coat tails for marketing purposes, social scientists will surely not be able to keep the subject at arm's length for much longer. This will be good - because an understanding of memes is important. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
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ImageTitle, author, date and description
A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis (2011)
Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin. In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis--pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior--show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural evolution has produced a species in which substantial numbers make sacrifices to uphold ethical norms and to help even total strangers. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
Kin selection
The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman (2011)
Survival of the fittest or survival of the nicest? Since the dawn of time man has contemplated the mystery of altruism, but it was Darwin who posed the question most starkly. From the selfless ant to the stinging bee to the man laying down his life for a stranger, evolution has yielded a goodness that in theory should never be. Set against the sweeping tale of 150 years of scientific attempts to explain kindness, The Price of Altruism tells for the first time the moving story of the eccentric American genius George Price (1922–1975), as he strives to answer evolution's greatest riddle. An original and penetrating picture of twentieth century thought, it is also a deeply personal journey. From the heights of the Manhattan Project to the inspired equation that explains altruism to the depths of homelessness and despair, Price's life embodies the paradoxes of Darwin’s enigma. His tragic suicide in a squatter’s flat, among the vagabonds to whom he gave all his possessions, provides the ultimate contemplation on the possibility of genuine benevolence. 24 black-and-white illustrations
Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W. D. Hamilton Volume 1: Evolution of Social Behaviour by W. D. Hamilton (2011)
Why is `blood thicker than water'? Are we innately violent or pacific? Why are plants and animals sexual? Why do we grow old and die? Such questions have motivated the life-work of W.D. Hamilton, widely acknowledged as the most important theoretical biologist of the 20th century. His papers continue to exert an enormous influence and they are now being republished for the first time. This first volume contains all of Hamilton's publications prior to 1981, a set especially relevant to social behavior, kinship theory, sociobiology, and the notion of `selfish genes'. Each paper is introduced by an autobiographical essay written especially for this collection. Accessible to non-specialists, this fascinating volume features several of the most read and famous papers of modern biology.
Reciprocal altruism
Group selection
SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed by Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield (2011)
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. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
The Calculus of Selfishness by Karl Sigmund (2011)
How does cooperation emerge among selfish individuals? When do people share resources, punish those they consider unfair, and engage in joint enterprises? These questions fascinate philosophers, biologists, and economists alike, for the "invisible hand" that should turn selfish efforts into public benefit is not always at work. The Calculus of Selfishness looks at social dilemmas where cooperative motivations are subverted and self-interest becomes self-defeating. Karl Sigmund, a pioneer in evolutionary game theory, uses simple and well-known game theory models to examine the foundations of collective action and the effects of reciprocity and reputation. Focusing on some of the best-known social and economic experiments, including games such as the Prisoner's Dilemma, Trust, Ultimatum, Snowdrift, and Public Good, Sigmund explores the conditions leading to cooperative strategies. His approach is based on evolutionary game dynamics, applied to deterministic and probabilistic models of economic interactions. Exploring basic strategic interactions among individuals guided by self-interest and caught in social traps, The Calculus of Selfishness analyzes to what extent one key facet of human nature - selfishness - can lead to cooperation.


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