SCHOOL OF COMPUTER SCIENCE AND SOFTWARE ENGINEERING
MONASH UNIVERSITY

TECHNICAL REPORT 2001/89



Suicide as an evolutionarily stable strategy

S Mascaro, K B Korb and A E Nicholson

ABSTRACT

Research into ethics has traditionally been the domain of philosophers and theologians, pursuing their investigations a priori, since social experimentation is not a viable option.  After Axelrod's work on the evolution of behaviour in the iterated prisoner's dilemma (Axelrod 1984), artificial life (a-life) methods have been applied to social simulation.  Here we use an a-life simulation to pursue experiments with ethics.  We use a utilitarian model for assessing what is ethical, as it offers a direct and computationally clear means of measuring the ethical value of actions, based on the utility of outcomes.  We investigate the particular action of altruistic suicide fostering the survival of others.  Our experimental simulation results demonstrate that suicide can be an evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS).