Maynard Smith saw evolution as a very complex mathematical equation that played out over time. Genes spread or faded depending on their fitness, which depended in turn on changes in the environment. Maynard Smith came up with brilliant new formulas to describe that change, in some cases borrowing methods from other disciplines. For example, economists have delved deep into game theory over the years, working out the ways in which players with different strategies can wind up winning or losing. Maynard Smith had the brilliant idea of apply game theory to evolution. The players in his game might be a population of elephant seals, each with its own genetically determined strategies for finding a mate. Different strategies would have different levels of success. One strategy might be to confront the biggest male on the beach, drive him away, and take his harem. That might work if a male was also big, but if he was small it was a strategy doomed to failure. So perhaps instead he might skulk at the edges of the colony and mate secretly with females from time to time, trying to avoid getting killed by the harem leader. It?s not a solution guaranteed to produce a lot of kids. But Maynard Smith showed that it?s also not necessarily a one-way ticket to extinction. Instead, it?s possible that the two strategies, one dominant and one minor, can come to a stable coexistence.
Maynard Smith realized that some of the equations that he developed for these sorts of social interactions might also carry over to more fundamental questions about the evolution of life. When life was just getting started on Earth, for example, genes might have settled into certain strategies for getting replicated?arranged on chromosomes, for example–in the same way animals settle into strategies for surviving. Maynard Smith came to see the history of life as a series of transitions to new ways of processing information–from the origin of life to the first sexually reproducing cells to the appearance of multicellular life to the emergence of animal societies, and finally, human language and culture. Each new transition created a new playing field for a new set of games.
[Estoy escuchando: «Non-stop flight» de Artie Shaw en el disco Jazz Masters Artie Shaw]