Posts Tagged Cooperation

A short conversation about cooperation

1: An Introduction

Cooperation is at the heart of all life. Competition is just a side-show.

In our bodies, 37 trillion cells cooperate. Multi-celled organisms are cooperative endeavours. Bacteria cooperate. Herds, flocks, shoals and swarms cooperate. Families, tribes, cities, nations cooperate…

 

 

2: The Basis of Life

Before multi-celled organisms can compete the cells out of which they are made must collaborate: each cell cooperating with others to form the organism itself. Cooperation is a necessary precondition for competition. Even single-celled life achieved complexity through symbiosis – in other words, through cooperation.

 

 

3: An Act of Selflessness

Having offspring in any species and ensuring their survival is an act of selfless cooperation, with no guarantee of future benefit for the parent organisms. Individual selflessness is widespread – found throughout nature. Is it the gene, then, which is selfish? Acting competitively on behalf of its strain?

 

 

4: Agency

Yet genes have no agency. They merely encode patterns. They are passive devices for passing information down generations. Only when genes are embodied in the individual do they gain agency… and individuals cooperate. Selflessness and action for the common good are encoded in our genes.

 

 

5: Social Cooperation

Cooperation is at the heart of society. Our billionaires could not become billionaires without roads, energy supplies, infrastructure, education, government research, the innovations of others… i.e. without other people.

Economic competition is sustained by economic cooperation: by agreements, rules and laws.

 

 

6: Greed

Selfishness and private greed – sustained by the ideology of competition – in fact stifle competition, depriving the economic cycle of hoarded wealth.

Private greed is the enemy of both cooperation and the cooperative impulse: the rich are less charitable than the poor (see https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/environment/poor-people-really-are-more-charitable-than-the-rich-according-to-new-research/28/06/).

 

 

7: Communication = Cooperation

Even language is a cooperative construct. We would have no words, no poetry or literature without the cooperative act of establishing meaning. Our minds are products of cooperative interaction with others. Sentience is a group activity. ‘Others’ define us and help us make sense of our world.

 

 

8: An Ideological Error

It is a misinterpretation of nature to highlight competition above all things. The notion that competition is the basis of life or society is an erroneous ideology. The ideology itself could not exist without cooperation. Society, science, technology and language are all cooperative acts.

 

 

9: Interdependence

In summary: we need each other. We are all in the same boat. Competition is the smaller part of what we can offer one another and our society. Cooperation is the builder of our world – our greatest and most valuable skill.

 

Think of what we have achieved through cooperation: medicine, space flight, the internet, smart phones, immense cities which sustain vast numbers of cooperating individuals, an incredible technological civilisation…

 

Think of what we have yet to achieve – together.

 

 

 

www.ethicalintelligence.org  “The ethics of common sense”

Twitter & Facebook: @EthicalRenewal

 

For a detailed discussion of cooperation, see Ethical Intelligence by Luke Andreski:

www.amazon.co.uk/Ethical-Intelligence-Luke-Andreski/dp/179580579X

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