Evolutionary stable strategies are immune to treachery

An evolutionarily stable strategy or ESS is defined as a strategy which, if most members of a population adopt it, cannot be bettered by an alternative strategy.*
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An ESS is stable, not because it is particularly good for the individuals participating in it, but simply because it is immune to treachery from within.

It is possible for humans to enter into pacts or conspiracies that are to every individual’s advantage, even if these are not stable in the ESS sense. But this is only possible because every individual uses his conscious foresight, and is able to see that it is in his own long-term interests to obey the rules of the pact. Even in human pacts there is a constant danger that individuals will stand to gain so much in the short term by breaking the pact that the temptation to do so will be overwhelming.
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Maynard Smith’s concept of the ESS will enable us, for the first time, to see clearly how a collection of independent selfish entities can come to resemble a single organized whole.


This is one of the many passages and charts I find in books and articles on a daily basis. They span many disciplines, including:

I occasionally add a personal note to them.

The whole collection is available here.