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The Complexity of Cooperation: Agent-Based Models of Competition and Collaboration Paperback – September 7, 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Robert Axelrod's extraordinary book, The Evolution of Cooperation was globally acclaimed for the rich results of its simple model. The Complexity of Cooperation now gathers together the myriad fruits of more than a decade's work, carefully 'complexifying' his initial model. Like his ideas, his prose is clear and engaging. His delight as he unveils each surprising discovery is infectious. This book is not merely important; it's fun." -- Robert D. Putnam, author of Making Democracy Work --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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"Robert Axelrod's extraordinary book, The Evolution of Cooperation was globally acclaimed for the rich results of its simple model. The Complexity of Cooperation now gathers together the myriad fruits of more than a decade's work, carefully 'complexifying' his initial model. Like his ideas, his prose is clear and engaging. His delight as he unveils each surprising discovery is infectious. This book is not merely important; it's fun."--Robert D. Putnam, author of Making Democracy Work

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 18, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691015678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691015675
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This books covers what Robert Axelrod been up to since "The Evolution of Cooperation." Extensions to the original "Prisoner's Dilemma" have required new agent behaviors for stable solutions.
"Coping with Noise" deals with agents that make mistakes in their defections and cooperation.
"Promoting Norms" covers the fact that pure self-interest isn't a stable strategy and to promote stability requires norms - common behaviors among agents. The most interesting result from his work is NOT that agents should punish defectors - that is intuitive - but agents who DON'T punish defectors (of norms) must be "persuaded" to punish defectors to keep the norm stable. I guess we all need both the carrot and stick!
"Choosing Sides" covers landscape theory - the creation of population aggregates because similar agents tend to clump together.
There are other interesting sections and I like this book. I would normally give a five to this book; however, this is also a thin book. If there were more coverage of the material and a more in depth discussion of other peoples work, I would have given it a five.
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Axlerod's first book elucidated the "prisoner's dilemma" and why cooperation might be in our best interest. This book, an excellent follow on, does two things exceptionally well. First, it outlines a theory by which one can frame and think about the considerations agents take into account when cooperating and collaborating. From this point, it instantiates those theories with well thought examples of the theory. The second aspect that is remarkably useful for many, is the breadth of the examples. For example, Axlerod describes models that simulate emerging alliances among nations in World War II, as well as patterns in the dissemination of culture and norms. Axlerod's writing style is easy to follow and, in a field where complexity is typically described with long equations in set theory and logic, he avoids the proof through advanced math and provides access to these issues especially approriate for the novice. If one searches the internet you can find Axlerod's website, where the actual code and brief documentation is available for download, for both teaching and personal learning. Of course there are also two major weaknesses in the book. Because of this diversity of topics there is no developmental thread running through the book and the resource appendix is abysmal, but overall you can't do better for this topic.
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Axelrod's The Evolution of Cooperation is, to my mind, is one of the best books ever written. I don't mean that writing sparkles, as with some fiction writers. Instead, it presents it case clearly, unambiguously, in many contexts, in many mechanisms, and touches on a remarkable number of different aspects of life. Axelrod clearly earned his MacArthur "genius" grant.

That book focused on a simple interaction, the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, two agents doing business repeatedly, with memory of previous interaction. This volume widens the scope considerably, to take on topics like the spread of culture, rise and fall of societies, and more. It maintains the same simple, direct approach - and I can imagine many objections to this mechanistic, reductionist kind of analysis. I prefer to see it as thinking about the core issues within some problem, stripping away the underbrush, and seeing how the central ideas play out.

EoC was an exceptional book by any standard. This follows as a worthy successor - but not quite at its level. It addresses broader issues, so doesn't have EoC's sharp focus and compelling theme. And, however much I appreciate his experimental approach to complex issues, I still have to wonder how much simplification is too much. In a fixed, two-player interaction, the core issues lie pretty close to the surface. Many-vs-many interactions, with shifting sympathies and antipathies, might not have such a clear, identifiable core. So, although I find his treatment intriguing and insightful, I don't feel the blunt impact of the earlier book.

Still, it's a good one, and Axelrod isn't afraid to ruffle a few feathers in making his points - as difficulty in getting his research sometimes showed. Read EoC first. Then, if you want more, this one will wait for you.

-- wiredweird
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Had some nice examples and programming problems that were a good step into practical use of Agent-Based Modeling. This is much more for practical use than theoretical, since it is an expansion on Axelrod's previous book 'The Evolution of Cooperation'.
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Very informative. Not excessively technical for the lay person with some experience. Very encouraging to see this area being pursued.
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great book helps a lot to understand the agent based cooperation model which is very important professionally for me .
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