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ASU symposium examines cheating

Disciplines include psychology, sociology, politics, anthropology, archeology.
February 16, 2017

Cooperation and Conflict Symposium brings experts from around the world to discuss the many and varied forms of foul play

The guy at work who contributes squat to a team project. The one who develops alligator arms every time the check arrives. The people you’ve had for dinner 20 times who always show up empty-handed.

Does it make you feel any better that ants, bees and wasps suffer from similar company?

Arizona State University’s first Cooperation and Conflict Symposium was held Thursday, bringing scholars from around campus and the world to discuss “Solving the problem of cheating in large-scale cooperative systems.”

The symposium’s scientists peered through the lens of different disciplines to see how the problem of cheating is addressed, and how cheating is detected, controlled and eliminated.

The event was the brainchild of Athena Aktipis, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, and Michael Hechter, a Foundation Professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. The idea for the symposium began when Aktipis and Hechter started talking about how if you look at how lots of different social organizations work — everything from groups of humans to groups of cells interacting — there are some principles and ideas that apply across all these systems.

“All of these systems have in common that social interactions are happening among the individuals that make them up,” Aktipis said. “We tend to think of social interactions as something that humans do, but it’s actually something that happens across lots of different scales of life. … Cells also have social interaction. They send signals, they respond to signals, they change their behavior and what they’re expressing based on inputs from each other. So sociality is everywhere.”

And so is cheating and the risk of being exploited. That tension exists across all systems, whether human, cell or animal.

“So the idea for the symposium was to see if we could learn about how cheating is limited by looking across lots of systems,” Aktipis said.

Assistant professor Joe Blattman
ASU School of Life Sciences assistant professor Joe Blattman explains his quantitative analysis of viruses and their roles as cheaters or parasites at the ASU Cooperation and Conflict Symposium on Thursday. Twenty speakers from the U.S. and Europe spoke to around 50 people and a live-streaming audience about solving the problem of cheating in large-scale cooperative systems. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Speakers came from across a wide array of disciplines, including a psychologist, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, immunologists, an archaeologist and an emergency medical doctor.

“We’re all over the map in terms of disciplines, but we’re all focusing on the same problem, which is how to get large-scale cooperation to be viable across multiple systems and how to limit cheating,” Aktipis said.

Are there general principles underlying cooperation?

When you go from small-scale cooperation to large-scale cooperation, cheating increases.

Vampire bats, social insects and people living pastoral lifestyles all share in times of need.

“It doesn’t always work perfectly,” Aktipis said. Cancer, for example, is multicellular cheating; it avoids cell death, monopolizes resources and shrinks the labor pool.

“What this means is you need cheater-detection systems in cellular societies,” she said.

Multicellular bodies detect cheating with an alarm system. At the cellular level, it monitors things like DNA damage. Neighborhood monitoring tracks cell adhesion and architecture. System-wide surveillance eyeballs regions with abnormal proliferation, resource use and waste production.

“As we look at one system and compare it to another … what are the general principles?” Aktipis asked.

Lee Cronk, an anthropology professor at Rutgers University, discussed coordination strategies. Walking up and down a sidewalk without bumping into anyone is a coordination strategy.

Two things interfere with cooperation, according to Cronk: free riders and problems where no one can benefit from cheating. The classic example of the latter is the prisoner’s dilemma, a game that shows why two completely "rational" individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so. 

“If you can find a way to get both parties to understand,” that is the best coordination strategy, Cronk said. Coordination can happen on large scales, he said. He cited international trade as an example. “It’s happening on a planet-wide scale,” he said.

But does it eliminate cheating? No. Swindlers, gamblers and others will always cheat.

Oliver Scott Curry, an anthropologist from Oxford, discussed “Bastards, Deviants, Rebels and Scumbags: Other types of cooperation and defection.”

“The main point I want to make this morning is that there are many different types of cooperation,” Scott Curry said. “There are also many types of bad guys.”

The good news is humans are adept at detecting bastards and deviants. These are ancient problems, not new problems. One way to solve cheating is by conditional cooperation, colloquially known as “tit for tat.”

“Life is full of these types of problems,” Scott Curry said.

Regardless of field, the same fundamental problems arise that could benefit from interdisciplinary collaboration.

“Things like cells interacting are going to have different mechanisms compared to how humans interact,” Aktipis said. “But some of the fundamental interactions can be parallel, which means there’s an opportunity to learn from each other, to gain insight into the work each of us is doing. When we start getting synergies in terms of understating the fundamental architecture of how these systems work, each discipline is much more empowered to make an impact because they’re leveraging the strengths from other disciplines as well.”

Written by Emma Greguska and Scott Seckel/ASU Now

 

Top photo: University of Maryland biology professor Gerald Wilkinson asks a question to ASU's Joe Blattman following his talk about viruses and their roles as cheaters or parasites, at the ASU Cooperation and Conflict Symposium on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 
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A visual sonnet

ASU photographs inspire poems by Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos.
February 16, 2017

Project to celebrate National Poetry Month combines the words of Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos and images by ASU Now

In anticipation of National Poetry Month in April, Arizona Poet Laureate and Regents' Professor Alberto Ríos and ASU Now photographers Charlie Leight and Deanna Dent are collaborating to create a "visual sonnet." Each week we share a new image and poem on our @asunow Instagram account. When completed, the entire project - 14 images and poems, reflecting the number of lines in a sonnet - will be found on this page, culminating on April 27.

All images were captured not for "work," but as images that stood out to each photographer. Ríos then wrote short poems adapted to the images without knowing their initial context.

This isn't the first team project for Ríos, who often collaborates with community members and artists from different parts of Arizona. He knows the power that can come from combining ideas. 

"The best of collaboration suggests two or more people working not in service to each other, but to the idea they envision, differently," he said. "This seems an awkward assumption, but let me say it this way: I can say 'blue' to you and I will mean what I mean, but you will hear 'blue' and think what you think it means.

"Through our different understandings, though, together we create a third blue, a blue of difference, a blue that suddenly makes three blues where only two began. Something magical and transformative happens in that moment. Putting our blues together makes something happen, something palpably more."  

Ríos suggested the name Ekphrasis for the project, a Greek word summed up in a "verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined." 

A Sonnet of Images 
Ekphrasis.  Translation.  Conversation.

Click on the words below to jump down to that week's photo and poem:

1. In you I have the future...    2. Orange...    3. I play the game...    4. I stretch...  5. I was something...   6. In the great oculus...   7. World, I see you.   8. Great stone comb... 9. A caterpillar... 10. Thoughts lift off me... 11. However this happens... 12. We pledge... 13. We have come upon a man... 14. What is finally left of us...

 

 

 

graduation

1.
In you, I hug the future.
I hold to me the arms of what is going to happen.

I embrace the next edge of civilization,
The farthest forward we as human beings have ventured.

These robes we are wearing are not clothing—
They are the gift-wrapping of everything we know. 

I hold you tight.  I smile through the beautifully curled hair 
Of you.  I put my two hands

On the back of you.  Future,
I want to hold you like there’s no tomorrow— 

Which means, of course, that this tight hug,
Even if I cannot say it, is all tomorrow.

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orange splatter 

2. 
Orange. 
In the dictionaries the earliest uses of the word in English refer to the fruit, that the

Color was later named after the fruit. Before the English-speaking world was exposed to the
Fruit, the color was referred to as “yellow-red” (geoluread in Old English) or “red-yellow.”

The word comes to us from late Middle English: from Old French orenge (in the phrase
Pomme d'orenge), based on Arabic naranj, from Persian narang.

So what, I say.
Do you dance? I ask, but I don’t wait— 

I spin you on the dance floor and watch your dress
Make the brilliant mark of the hard tango turn,

The scribbled signature of urgency made with the body,
The mark left that says I was here, in this moment, in this place.

I was here, that orange says, loudly and so much that to say anything more
We must turn to a next page.  This page, this moment—it is done.

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 child on carpet

3.
I play the game and am the game.  I play chess
And am the knight.  I play the cube

And turn, somehow, yellow into red,
Dream orange into green.  I am the game

Right now and yesterday, right now
And tomorrow.  I am the player and the board both

Trying everything to win.
Winning is a candy in my mouth. 

I lie on the bed of the game.
I am the game of me.

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yoga in the museum 

4.
I stretch among the museum’s images,
Bend my body to their inclinations,

Try out orange and precipice,
Hold the sun and poke the eye of green. 

I stretch.  I grow among the images
And in answer to my lean 

They move themselves for me.  These paintings
And me, we are in this place together.

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Poetry photo

5.
I was something and now I am something else—
I have played the game of tag with myself, 

Standing up a little more with each incarnation
Through the centuries, standing up a little more 

And leaning a little farther forward.  I crouched
For so long, I stooped for so long, 

I ached through it all, all of it, all of me,
Unfolding, all in order to stand today, 

And more.  I am moving so that
I will fly tomorrow, unlikely as it may seem.

I will fly.  And then,
Wherever this trajectory takes me, I will go.

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oculus

6.
In the great oculus I see the fingernail moon,
The opal in the rafters, 

The worn space helmet,
The eye of the weatherless hurricane, 

The adjusting telescope allowing me
A view outward, but, simultaneously, 

The microscope of what can only be called
The gods, the greatness, the Out There, 

Its lens bearing down on me.  In this moment,
I have seen it and it has seen me.

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7.
World, I see you.  Earth, I see you.
Do you see me?

I am here.  I bring with me my child.
I give this child to you 

As I was given.  I give this child
To this great world, unafraid,

Fierce, sturdy, with a ferociousness for good,
I give this child who is me.

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8.
Great stone comb of the four directions—
It is nothing like that.  Don’t be fooled. 

I wear the chicken hat.
I am a man and a beast both. 

I speak and I cluck, I howl and I whisper,
I live in the sunflowers under the sky. 

I am the translation of man to animal,
Hummingbird to ant, lizard to moth. 

I direct the bees and elicit the breeze—
I am the crossroads.  I am the moment 

Oxygen moves into blood, I am when
Peahen screet moves from need into word.

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cacti

9.
A caterpillar sometimes does not move forward,
Does not follow the centuries-old map of work-to-be-done. 

One Tuesday, it looks up.
One Thursday, it looks up again— 

These risings to the air are not much in their movement,
But in the history of things, everything has happened. 

This explains how cactus once moved through the desert,
Starting out as a caterpillar looking to the stars.

-Back to Top-

 

 

capoeria

10.
Thought lifts off me
As if it were a mist. 

I look hard and straight ahead—
That focus, sweat on my brow, 

Me finding water
Miraculously in the desert. 

It makes me think:
Perhaps when mist lifts off the ground, 

The ground itself, like me,
Is thinking.

Perhaps we are complicit
In the journey that comes next: 

I think.
And in that moment, 

I move one step ahead
Even as I am standing still.

-Back to Top-

 

 

poem 11

11.
However this happens, we see images, and they make us think of things—
A slide of a man with a beard, for example, his kind of beard, that fullness— 

It makes us think of the Lost Dutchman, and then, of course,
Of the treasure.  The Superstition Mountains.  Gold. 

We see images and they speak to something we hold inside ourselves—
Perhaps not gold itself, but a desire 

To find what has not been found.  Perhaps these images guide us,
Are themselves maps, and the Great X is not myth after all, 

But something, something like gold, that we have been looking for
But all the while have been thinking someone else would find.

Suddenly, this image is our chance, though no one else would know.
This image, however unlikely, has sparked a fire in us that will not be settled. 

There is something, something that is ours, out there.
We might laugh at the Lost Dutchman’s mine, but we know what is ours.

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poem12

12.
We pledge and are aghast in the same gesture.
We move into the coming years

Clutching the heart, or feeling at the heart constantly,
Checking to gauge what may or may not be held 

In the grace of its rooms.  When all else is full, is crowded,
The heart, we think, is where to go.

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poem 13

13.
We have come upon a man
Who is telling us to stop.  To go another way.

We have come upon a man we do not know,
But we give him the courtesies of humankind. 

We listen.  We are so many, there are many
Thoughts, many words, many ways to move forward. 

And yet, a good voice.  A good reason.  We are one
In that moment.  In that moment, there are no strangers.

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poem14

14.
What is finally left of us
Is sometimes unrecognizable—

That we have been other beasts
Through the centuries 

May be forgotten to us awake,
But it is asleep in our bones, 

The past of us,
The monsters that snarled, but who in turn 

Tamed each other.  We are the alien
And the friend both. 

Our bones are the bones
Of story.

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