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The Evolved ApprenticeHow Evolution Made Humans Unique$
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Kim Sterelny

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780262016797

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262016797.001.0001

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Costs and Commitments

Costs and Commitments

(p.101) 5 Costs and Commitments
The Evolved Apprentice

Kim Sterelny

The MIT Press

This chapter and the next take on the task of explaining the stability of cooperation in the face of potential erosion by free riders and bullies. The argument of the chapter agrees with the common view that the key enforcement mechanism is one of coalitions of agents: if agents act jointly, even an individually dangerous bully cannot resist effectively. But coalitional enforcement is not risk or cost free, so it is necessary to explain how mutual trust is established and maintained. That is, to explain how the costs of enforcement are kept low (reducing the temptations of second order freeriding) and to explain why it’s worthwhile for agents to pay those low costs. This chapter identifies a set of objective and subjective commitment devices which operate in concert to incentivize agents to “pre-commit” to coalitional enforcement if a triggering defection arises, to incentivize maintaining that commitment should it be necessary, and to advertise those commitments to other agents.

Keywords:   Cooperation and freeriding, commitment problem, commitment signals, enforcement coalitions, trust, Robert Frank

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