Evolutionary Games and Computer Simulations

Bernardo A. Huberman and Natalie S. Glance


The prisoner's dilemma has long been considered the paradigm for studying the emergence of cooperation among selfish individuals. Because of its importance, it has been studied through computer experiments as well as in the laboratory and by analytical means. However, there are important differences between the way a system composed of many interacting elements is simulated by a digital machine and the manner in which it behaves when studied in real experiments. In some instances, these disparities can be marked enough so as to cast doubt on the implications of cellular automata type simulations for the study of cooperation in social systems. In particular, if such a simulation imposes space-time granularity, then its ability to describe the real world may be compromised. Indeed, we show that the results of digital simulations regarding territoriality and cooperation differ greatly when time is discrete as opposed to continuous.
postcript (607K)