Cole Whetstone's Reviews > The Selfish Gene

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
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it was amazing

- I try to refrain from using the word “profound” in my reviews at the risk of devaluing, but this book deserves the title. No book I have read this year has so shaken me to my core. This is required reading.
- Dawkins’ big insight is to blend Darwinism with Game Theory. By focusing on the selfish interests of genes instead of gene vehicles, Dawkins can explain all mutualism through a game theory of self interest. Successful genes (i.e. those which propagate) must necessarily be those which receive more resources than they give up in any interaction, because otherwise they would go extinct. This does not preclude genes from cooperating; genes simply only cooperate when the cooperation renders a net benefit to their chances of replication.
- An evolutionary stable strategy (ESS), is one that does well against copies of itself. It snowballs well, and furthermore, it is immune to invasion. ESS are not necessarily strategies of optimal benefit (a colony of doves is better for everyone involved than a colony of doves and hawks), but a colony of doves is exploitable. To sum: ESS is a strategy which exacts a net cost on all other strategies when it is the majority strategy.
- Dawkins, by zooming in on evolution as a function of the gene (the basic unit of heredity; a sequence of instructions that gets passed down consistently), blows evolutionary theory wide open. He expands darwinism to cover Theories of Government and Language, Physics and Philosophy, and, with his concept of memes, changes what we think of when we think of replicators.
- The insight here seems to be this: all things arise because they are better suited to replicate (or stay) in the environment than anything else. Darwinism is a generalized theory of origins, of which evolution is just one species.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 12, 2016 – Finished Reading
August 14, 2016 – Shelved

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