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Social cooperation is necessary for a sustainable growth, shows study

Commons is defined as any natural or cultural resources that can be accessed by any member of a society. This includes the air we breathe, oceans and rivers, grazing lands, fish stock, forests and even an office computer. ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, a concept which emerged in 1833 and was later revived in 1968 by Garett Hardin in an article of the same name, explores the struggle for such commons. The tragedy occurs when individuals in a society, guided by their own self-interest, would act against the common good and deplete the common shared resource. If commons aren’t protected by laws, then individuals or industries could pollute the air and water resources, destroy forests and deplete other natural resources, like oil. Researchers from IIT- Roorkee and University of Perugia have extensively studied the problem with the help of computer models. They modeled a society with commons, populated by autonomous systems behaving differently; on one extreme individuals only acted on their self-interest, while on the other extreme individuals were only concerned about the welfare of the society. Different scenarios, where the individuals interacted with each other or didn’t interact, were studied. From their study, the researchers propose social cooperation as a key element for sustainability of the society and commons. The study showed sustainability of a city could be significantly increased, if individuals in a society were willing to sacrifice using a common for a short period of time. Previous such studies had considered all the agents in a society behaving on their self-interest alone, while the new study considers our ability for social cooperation for the benefit of the society. The study not only impacts the real world, where it facilitates efficient use of the commons, but also the digital world, by allowing us to design better autonomous systems, like robots and sensors, that can efficiently use commons in the digital world, like processors.