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le 7 avril 2011
The book starts at a very gentle pace, perhaps because the co-author, Roger Highfield wanted to add a human and personal touch to a book that depends on maths and logic quite a bit. If you were looking for real science to sink your teeth into and if you thumb through it in a bookstore, and read the first little, you may decide that this is another biographic biopic and set it aside as unlikely to satisfy what you have a need for just then.
But when you get to the end of the introduction to the prisoner's dilemma, you suddenly realise that the book which was hovering over the launch pad as if it would settle back and put its engines off, is now taking off majestically. For me, the realisation happened when Nowak completed the introduction to the dilemma and then made the startling declaration that it was not just another of the many games in game theory, but a powerful and complex thought system, according to him, something that far exceeds chess in its possibilities.
The rest of the book then becomes a dazzling account of Nowak's research and philosophy. Direct reciprocity, then indirect, then the formation of civilizations and so on, the tools, including the fascinating Game of Life, all presented with his gentle warmth and humanity.
By the end of the book, you will regret it is over, and sit back in the happy feeling that all is not lost for humanity and that we could still achieve a world, built on solid math and logic and reason, that has room for kindness, charity, selflessness and peace.
A different world indeed, from that sketched out for us by Dawkins and a world that Dennett is slowly coming round to.