Santa Fe Institute

Study: It’s a short life or a merry one in virtual world

July 11, 2011 10:01 a.m.

Negative behavior spreads faster, but its proponents burn out sooner than more positive people, making society as a whole evolve toward positive interaction over time, suggests SFI External Professor Stefan Thurner in an MIT Technology Review article.

Thurner, SFI Complex Systems Summer School student Roberta Sinatra, and Michael Szell studied Pardus, an online game with 380,000 players, as a proxy for real-world interactions and consequences. By recording players’ streams of actions and looking for unexpected patterns, they found that a positive or negative action spurs a player to respond similarly, and that a recipient of a negative action is more likely to spread bad behavior to others rather than just reciprocate.

But while negative actions are more infectious, negative players die sooner, either by being hunted down by the group or by giving up out of loneliness, explains the team.

“We interpret these findings as empirical evidence for self-organization towards reciprocal, good conduct within a human society.”

Read the article (July 6, 2011)

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Comments

Jean Kolb - July 28, 2012, 7:18 p.m.

This is an interesting and potentially critical subject, particularly as man assumes more knowledge and power over his environment and destiny.
It is assumed from your entertaining article that by "negative" responses you interpret either disapproval, anger;or unsocial behavior. By "positive" the reader assumes affirmation, cooperation, or creative processing, All these representng individual choices. Meaning the individual reacts to experience and thus carries forward a personal reaction which is released to others. It is unclear whether you charted groups of individuals.
Certainly a historical study of societies over time, gives some important clues about human development in, terms of the above response categories. Maybe a study can be made of regional-collective human responses over large chunks of time, the goal being a prediction of future societal evolution. Possibly this has been attempted.
It seems to me that societal attitudes over time, define a seemingly linear intercollective trajectory, presenting the possibility of human iintellect and resources becoming tools of peace, quality of life, and knowledge of our universe and beyond.
There are so many questions regarding the progress of the collective human experience. And it is frustrating feeling caught in a time warp, left to ponder our capabilities and our dysfunction with no informed guarantee about the future.. We, all of us, have the capacity to grasp the advantages of peaceful conflict resolution, of trustworthiness, of the debilitating effects of the scarcity models imprinted on minds. What if any indicators are there of progress today? The following seem of some importance:
* Concentrated understanding of human rights, accellerated in the 20th century
* Philanthropy enjoying increased popularity among the controlling wealthy
* Education having an increasingly significant place on the agenda.
* We talk more about the well-being of those blighted by poverty
* We are subjected to the blind frustration of masochistic terrorrist groups addicted to power
models. Their disenfranchised radicalism may be the karmatic medicine forcing man to choose.
Let me know if you have further thoughts or information. Jean

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