In the social sciences, under the aegis of Game Theory, it is explained how in multi player systems, views and behaviour patterns that harm all players nevertheless manage to take root and spread. Arms races are a famous example. Many arms races bankrupt all those who take part in them, without really changing the military balance of power. When Pakistan buys advanced aeroplanes, India responds in kind. When India develops nuclear bombs, Pakistan follows suit.
When Pakistan enlarges its navy, India counters. At the end of the process, the balance of power may remain much as it was, but meanwhile billions of dollars that could have been invested in education or health are spent on weapons. Yet the arms race dynamic is hard to resist. ‘Arms racing’ is a pattern of behaviour that spreads itself like a virus from one country to another, harming everyone, but benefiting itself, under the evolutionary criteria of survival and reproduction. (Keep in mind that an arms race, like a gene, has no awareness – it does not consciously seek to survive and reproduce. Its spread is the unintended result of a powerful dynamic.)
Excerpt from Sapiens, a brief history of humankind
by Professor Yuval Noah Harari