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The Evolution of Institutions for Resolving Social Dilemmas - Project ID SOC0011

School of Computing

About the Project

Social dilemmas occur frequently in human societies. They are situations where there is a conflict between what is good for one individual versus what is good for the group as a whole. Examples include use of private cars rather than public transportation, exploitation of fishing waters, and consumption of electricity. Empricial studies have shown that some groups are able to successfully resolve these dilemmas by creating, monitoring, and enforcing rules about the use of these resources, such that individuals are incentivised to behave in a way that benefits the group as a whole. The studies also show that this tends to work best when groups devise and enforce their own rules, rather than this being done by an external agency such as a centralised government. However, we still lack a clear understanding of the conditions under which groups can successfully create and enforce their own rules to resolve social dilemmas. The project will address this by combining game theory with evolutionary computation to develop models of when groups are likely to be able to devise and enforce their own rules, and when they are not likely to be able to do so. This work could be applied to a range of application areas depending on the interests of the student, including energy production and consumption on smart grids, and the sharing of computational resources on community clouds.

Academic qualifications
A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in computer science with a good fundamental knowledge of mathematics.

English language requirement
IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available here

Essential attributes:
• Experience of fundamental computer science.
• Competent in software development.
• Knowledge of mathematics.
• Good written and oral communication skills
• Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
• Good time management

Desirable attributes:
Experience of mathematical or simulation modelling applied to evolutionary or social systems.

When applying for this position please quote Project ID SOC0011

Edinburgh Napier University is committed to promoting equality and diversity in our staff and student community

Funding Notes

This is an unfunded position


Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162:1243-1248.
Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons : The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Powers, S. T. (2018). The institutional approach for modeling the evolution of human societies. Artificial Life, 24(1):10-28.

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