General Replicator Theory


Kevin Aylward B.Sc.



This paper is to address the somewhat paradoxical situation of altruism, that is helping others with no apparent payback.

It is argued here that a fundamental reason for pure altruism is due to the self referral nature of morals and emotions, and the fundamental properties of meme traits

A key point here, is that the reason why something evolves initially, is not necessarily directly related to how things appear after significant generations. The environments that traits exist in, is fundamentally modified by the same traits that get selected for in that environment, causing the environment to change. 

Mutual  Co-operation

Most apparent altruism, is simple the result of meme programming of the "help others" moral that instruct the "Help Others" emotion that has evolved as a result of the prisoners dilemma selfish advantage to individuals by success of the group.

Consider chance mutations that resulted in two Replicators deciding to aid each. If we make the reasonable assumption that two replicators can defeat a single Replicator, these selfish pairs, could immediately steal the resources of all those single Replicators and kill them. It wouldn't take long for essentially all loners to be driven to extinction. Consider now mutations that cause these Replicators to up the odds to 3's and 4's. It can be seen that an evolutionary selection process will generate larger and larger groups, with members co-operating with each other, for the selfish advantage of each member. Of course, suitable punishment for defectors would also have to evolve, since those pair uppers require suitable responses to non payback, i.e. the help others trait must be conditional.

It is therefore trivially obvious as to why general society has evolved to be social. Any remaining loners simply don't have a chance.

Comment - The argument relies on the probability of continued success. For example, suppose that there is a 50% chance that a lone individual can steal the resources (R) of another and kill that competitor, and, for the sake of argument the pair has a 95% chance to do the same. Although in the first encounter, the average advantage for the loner is 0.5R, where as for the pair, it is only 0.95/2=0.475R, at the next encounter the loner undergoes a further 0.5 chance to lose all of its resources and its life, i.e. 0.25, where as for the pair, its only 0.451. The point being, that it is a cumulate effect. In the long run, pairs have a much greater change of surviving, and hence passing on those genes and memes.

Comment - whether or not the Replicant is this example are genes are memes, or both, is immaterial as far as he basic argument is concerned. In reality, memes are probably more significant, as it is difficult for genes to evaluate cumulative effects that would result in the net advantage to the Replicator. In addition, the general properties of memes result in memes acting in such a manner as to increases all Replicator numbers, not just the numbers of the host Replicator. Thus, by their inherent nature, memes instigate co-operation, by inducing Replicators to agree to the same memes. Since a meme based co-operation trait does indeed result in maximizing host total Replicators numbers, it will selected for.

Pure Altruism 

It has been shown that a Self-Referral Meme-Gene Loop can be instigated. This leads to the fundamental reason for pure altruism as due to the following set of conditions:

1 Doing things for others makes individuals feel good, or not feel bad. see psychology.

2 Individuals feel good because environmentally programmed meme morals program which emotion is instigated for a particular environment.

3 Memes act to maximize the total number of Replicators, not individual Replicators, so self-sacrifice of individual Replicators can sometimes maximize the total numbers of Replicators carrying that meme.

Statement 3 is the fundamental reason why memes of self-sacrifice are not simply weeded out by evolutionary selection. If memes behaved as genes behaved, self-sacrifice of unrelated Replicators would be problematic to resolve.

The key principle here is that whilst the vehicle carrying the memes and genes might well be effectively altruistic, from the point of view of the vehicle's drivers, i.e. the memes and genes, the drivers are themselves selfish.

The reason why individuals can feel good, even though it does not appear to maximize their own interests is due to the self referral nature of morals and emotions, i.e. memes and genes, bootstrapped by the basic self-sacrificial properties of memes. Self-referral or circulatory conditions can allow for any set of self consistent behavior to be instigated, irrespective of any absolute "right" and "wrong" to an individual. Adaptability to all environments, necessarily require that a completely general purpose Replicator evolves, and so such self-referral code must therefore always occur. Because the properties of general memes mandate maximizing total numbers of Replicators, self-sacrifice of a few, may indeed result in net increase of Replicators holding that meme. Therefore that meme will persist.

For example, if it is determined that a simple "help others" meme set aids genetic replication rates, that is, a set of help and punish the defectors meme set, then this meme-gene loop will attempt to reject subsequent behavior that is at odds to this loop under the normal rules of maximization of traits. That is, a defector seen to be not helping others, will not be as popular in attracting mates and therefore not pass on that defection trait. This is because the loop has already recognized that non helpers should be punished. The emotion has already been programmed that "ignore others" make people feel bad, so it makes us feel uncomfortable to not place money in the charity collection tin, and subsequently be scorned by those that see us as being "too" selfish. Now the real behavior of the meme starts to kick. The emotion of "help others" has now been fully instigated into the individual, and since the basic properties of the meme result in maximizing total Replicator numbers, it is immaterial whether a particular individual is sacrificed, so long as that sacrifice results in a greater number of total Replicators supporting that "help others" meme.

Apparent Altruism

In the majority of cases, the "help other" moral and emotion is being motivated by the erroneous belief that there will be a pay back For example, the Christian religion preaches that if you give, you will get everlasting life by going to heaven. This would account for 90% of the possible cases in the US. Since there is a moral meme to "help others", and also a meme that "if everyone is doing it, it should be good for me to" the other 10% might well continue to do likewise. Stepping out of the pack usually results in a net punishment that makes such behavior still net detrimental to replication rates. Certainly a belief in the Christian religion, allows easier access to 90% of the population.

The basics of the above, is that the "feel good" emotion is programmed by genes and memes. We can actually be programmed to "feel good" pretty much about anything, in principle, even slicing off the heads of babies, because in principle, this trait might be advantages in a general environment. Yes, this author realizes the impact of this, but it seems a necessary consequence of the facts of evolution, despite our distaste for the particular example described here. 


1An issue in pure gene based explanations for non related self sacrifice is, how do they know that there will be a pay back for its gene type? In principle, an individual with a specific gene type, say A, can sacrifices itself for a gene type B, on the assumption that gene type Bs will at some later time help out other type As, in such a manner that there will be a net increase in the numbers of type A. However, the physical mechanism for this is problematic. Without memory, its difficult to understand how a gene can be very effective in determining when self sacrifice is in the interests of its own gene family. It needs to know what alien families will reciprocate. But memory function is nothing more than a meme, so one is led back to an explanation that involves memes.

These papers may be freely copied only for non commercial use,

provided full credit is given to the author.

Kevin Aylward 2003 - all rights reserved