The Forest of Friendship

We often imagine that unregulated competition produces optimal outcomes, behaviours, efficiencies, but trees and baggage carousels are two examples where the stable solution is worse for everyone than another strategy. This I find surprising and interesting – that evolution doesn’t come to the best solution, it comes to the most stable one.

The Forest of Friendship was a concept I first came across in Richard Dawkin’s book “The Greatest Show on Earth.” One point I’d like to clarify is that being taller comes with a cost – having a longer trunk requires costly expenditure of energy. However, in a forest of uniformly short trees, being a little taller conveys an advantage. That is until all the other trees catch up, at which time the extra height no longer provides a benefit. So over time as the whole forest rises up the conditions are getting worse for each tree, but they are powerless to stop the evolutionary arms race.

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