CM – Game theory and economics show how evolution can be steered in a better direction


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November 16, 2021

from Public Library of Science

Human behavior drives the evolution of biological organisms in ways that can be highly detrimental to human well-being. It is important to understand people’s incentives in doing so in order to identify strategies and other strategies for improving evolutionary outcomes. In a new study published on November 16 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, researchers working with Troy Day from Queens University and David McAdams from Duke University bring the tools of economics and game theory to evolutionary management.

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From antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten our health to control-resistant plant pests that threaten to undermine global food production, we are now facing the deleterious consequences of our failure to efficiently manage the evolution of the biological world. Day explains: « By modeling the common economic and evolutionary consequences of human actions, we can determine how we can best stimulate evolutionarily desirable behavior. »

At the heart of the new analysis is a simple mathematical formula that determines when doctors, farmers, and other « evolutionary managers » have sufficient incentive to manage the biological resources under their control and the short-term costs of management versus the long-term benefits of delaying adverse development.

When, for example, a patient When arrested in an emergency facility, screening for a dangerous superbug colonization is costly, but protects future patients by allowing superbug carriers to be isolated from others. Whether the facility itself benefits from screening patients depends on how they weigh these costs and benefits.

The researchers take the mathematical model further by implementing game theory that analyzes how individual choices are interrelated and can influence each other – for example doctors in the same facility, whose patients can infect each other, or corn farmers with neighboring fields. Their game theory analysis identifies conditions under which results can be improved through measures that change incentives or facilitate coordination.

« Using the example of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, hospitals could do everything possible to prevent the spread of super bacteria through methods such as contact tracing in the Control community, ”says McAdams. “There would be additional costs to this, and a hospital alone would probably not have the incentive to do so. But if every hospital took this extra step, everyone could collectively benefit from slowing the spread of these bacteria resistance in response to drug treatment or evolutionary changes in response to harvest can have significant economic implications, « adds Day. » We are determining the conditions under which it makes economic sense to employ costly strategies that limit evolution and thereby preserve the value of biological resources for longer.  »

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