The paradox of the adventurous young and the cautious old: natural selection vs. rational calculation

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Abstract

Younger people are more adventurous and less willing to reduce the risk to life. This seems to be fitness reducing since the gene cannot be passed on if one dies before leaving offsprings. However, due to the cumulative nature of knowledge and the complementarity of learning and adventurousness, it is shown in a simple model that it enhances fitness. Nevertheless, the higher willingness of the old to pay to reduce the risk to life may also be due to the rational calculation of expected utility maximization. A positive real rate of interest makes accumulation of wealth desirable and hence may make the dollar value of life increase dramatically until a fairly old age. Even if the lifetime earnings of everyone are the same and everyone can lend and borrow at the same rate of interest, the old may be willing to pay much more to reduce the risk to life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-352
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Volume153
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 1991

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