"Thermodynamics and Cooperation."
Guest Post by Kevin Behan.
“New Model of Evolution Finally Reveals How Cooperation Evolves."
In this study the thermodynamics of how atoms in a material coordinate their spin states so that the same spin sweeps through the entire lattice of atoms like a contagion, is applied to the cooperative behavior of animals.
Researchers are considering that cooperation in animals is remarkably like a phase shift in a lattice of atoms wherein the magnetic spin of one atom causes its neighbor to align until a cascade of such effects sweeps through the entire lattice to create a single, unified magnetic field. In most substances the spin of its atoms are randomly distributed so that they cancel each other out and the material has no net magnetic charge. We could say this is like a group of non-cooperative individuals. Whereas in magnetic materials the spin states of most of its atoms are aligned so that the electromagnetic charge of each atom combines to produce a net magnetic charge. This is likened to a state of cooperation. Also if an external magnetic field is strong enough, this can influence the atoms within a material to align and aggregate their charge as well. In either case the atoms cooperate to produce a single magnetic field that is stronger than any individual atom can manifest on its own.
To translate this magnetic property to the behavior of animals, this model uses game theory as a stand in for aligned spin states. In one game if all individuals kick in their share of a prize, at the end of the game they each realize a greater return than the single share they possess. However an individual could cheat, keep their share and then reap the benefit of those who sacrifice for the greater good. To then mimic the harmonizing action of an external magnetic field, the risk of punishment for gaming the system is introduced and it’s observed that a phase change similar to atoms linking their spin states tends to break out and spread over the population.
Now while science is beginning to understand that the laws of physics are providing better and more foundational answers for the how of complex affiliative behavior such as sociability and cooperation (with Behaviorism notably absent from these advances), unfortunately they don’t have a way of applying the laws directly to the mind of the individual animal itself. So for example when I explain my energetic model of behavior to receptive experts, even when they find my logic compelling they still believe I’m speaking metaphorically. I have to emphasize that I’m not. I’m speaking literally. My argument is that when animals are emotionally energized, they behave exactly as if they are “point” particles of mass that carry an electromagnetic charge, i.e. charged particles of consciousness. I’m not saying they are generating an electromagnetic field between them that can be measured (although their brain heart and bodies are), but rather that the emotional affects which are consuming their bodies and minds are making them feel just as if they are indeed electromagnetically charged: the proof of which can be seen in their behavior and in this approach’s capacity to provide the most parsimonious explanation for said behavior. (It must be noted however that it can only be seen if one doesn’t automatically project one’s thoughts into their heads. Nevertheless the parsimonious explanation stands on its own logical merit.)
So when one understands this energetic logic, one arrives at a different definition of the self. For example, atoms aligning their spin states into a unified magnetic domain have achieved a higher and more stable energy state, that’s the payoff. Therefore were an atom endowed with a sense-of-self, that sense of stability would certainly have something to do with how the Self is constructed in the mind of such an atom. Therefore an atom would not define its Self as separate and distinct from its surroundings. It would predicate its sense-of-Self on the highest and most stable level of integration with its surroundings. Whereas in mainstream science the brain is seen as a self-contained faculty of intelligence, the individual is seen as manifesting a self-contained sense of its Self, the genome a self-contained agency of inheritance, and this is why science must turn to game theory and the psychological rationale of punishment to effect these electromagnetic principles as an influence on behavior. In this approach the thermodynamic logic is abandoned for metaphor. Unfortunately this leads to the oxymoronic conclusion that punishment is essential to cooperation.
However we don’t need to move away from thermodynamics and electromagnetism and to a psychological rationale such as game theory and the cost of punishment because thermodynamics already has the cost of being selfish baked in. This is how it works: if a sense-of-self is a function of its surroundings as proposed above, therefore acting in a way that elicits positive feedback from its surroundings would simultaneously mean raising the conductive value of the surroundings ( i.e. a heightened magnetic field) and this would benefit the entire configuration of affiliates because the stronger the magnetic field, the more energy it can conduct, hence each individual experiences more flow. Therefore, were an individual to fail to integrate at this higher level it would suffer a diminished sense of Self, it would feel incomplete, i.e. electrically charged. In other words it’s the resistance to flow---an electrical phenomenon---that imposes a toll on the individual. So were one to employ a complete thermodynamic approach to the phenomenon of cooperation we find that magnetism and improved conductivity, .e. flow, rather than punishment, is the lynchpin to cooperation, an important distinction.