At 1:12:30, Sapolsky talks about how—following success after success of game theory explaining evolutionary outcomes—suddenly the prisoner’s dilemma, repeated games, reciprocity, Tit-for-Tat and David Axelrod failed as a theory! The Naked Mole Rats seemed to have defectors who weren’t being punished.
….until someone observed more closely. Someone kept watching the mole rats—keep in mind this is neither experiment nor Big Data nor data in tables but sense-data from ethnography i.e. anecdote!—
anyway the zoologist kept watching, kept watching the naked mole rats and at last found evidence that vindicated the game-theoretic predictions of reciprocity among unrelated organisms.
The apparent “defectors” were actually not defecting, they were just part of a larger game in which they needed to be fat & lazy first, in order to play their self-sacrificing role in the longer game.
Is there a word for this besides "leakage"? It deserves its own word. When a model is essentially good, but because of either the limits of observation or the simplicity of the model, the thing we’re trying to pin down “leaks” or “escapes” into something we’re not seeing.
By the way, if you’ve never learned anything about game theory, this 72-minute video would make a great introduction to how hairy balls and Kakutani fixed-point theorems were used to make a fun tool for armchair reasoning for politics, love/sex relationships, biology, … at least a simulacrum of success.
If your Youtube doesn’t have speedup and you use Linux, you can use youtubeinmp4.com to download the vid then watch with
mplayer -af scaletempo -speed 1.3 Sapolsky.mp4.
] speeds up and
→ skips ahead a bit.