Cooperation occurs throughout the biological world, and similar mechanisms and patterns of cooperative organization appear across the hierarchies of biological structures:
Genes organize into genomes, cells into multicellular organisms, organisms into institutions and societies, and species into ecologies. Might there be important analogies between mechanisms at one such level of organization and mechanisms at a different level?
Cooperation benefits a society, while evolution selects at the level of individuals. Despite insights into the mathematics of selection in the presence of cooperation, many aspects of the development of cooperation remain mysterious in practice.
What is an individual? Is individuality discrete or continuous? Can selection act simultaneously on multiple scales? How did cells abandon reproduction to a specialized germ line? How did stable multicellularity evolve in the face of noncooperative advantages?
When does stable cooperation require enforcement? Can the fitness functions of evolutionary theory capture an individual's transfer of fitness to a collective? Are individuals the correct fundamental units of cooperative systems?
The intra-cellular cooperation of genes, molecular machines, and organelles resembles a microscopic city; does the heterogeneity of the conventional units of biology reflect an ancient cooperation predating the origin of life?
Is an ecosystem composed of individuals, or is an individual composed of ecosystems? Can the evolution of cooperation inform engineering or economic regulation?
This workshop will investigate these subtle and provocative issues, which are often ignored or misunderstood.
Talks will cover subjects ranging from cooperation inside of cells, bacterial biofilms, social insect colonies, human institutions and societies, cancer etiology and progression to the question of how single cells subsumed their fitness in favor of multi-cellular collectives.