Weare a species with unprecedented cooperation between unrelated individuals, even total strangers; mushroom colonies are green with envy at the human ability to make a wave in a soccer stadium.
We work collectively as hunter-gatherers or IT executives.
The same is true when we go to war or help disaster victims in other parts of the world.
We work in teams to hijack planes and fly them into buildings or to award a Nobel Peace Prize.
Rules, laws, contracts, punishments, social conscience, an inner voice, morality, ethics, divine retribution, nursery rhymes about sharing — they are all driven by the third pillar of the evolution of behavior, namely the fact that it is evolutionarily advantageous when non-relatives cooperate.
One manifestation of this strong human tendency was recently appreciated by anthropologists.
The standard hunter-gatherer view was that their cooperative, egalitarian nature reflected a high degree of kinship within the group, i.e., kin selection.
According to the “man-the-hunter” version of hunter-gatherers, this was due to patrilocality (i.e., a woman moves into her new husband’s group after marriage), while the “groovy-hunter” version related this to matrilocality (i.e., the opposite).
However, a study of more than five thousand people from thirty-two hunter-gatherer societies around the world showed that only about 40 percent of people within groups are related by blood.
In other words, the cooperative nature of hunter-gatherer societies, the social building block of 99 percent of hominin history, relies at least as much on mutual altruism among nonrelatives as on kin selection.
Humans are thus characterized by cooperation among non-kin.
Moreover, it is not just the fact that groups of nice chicks outcompete groups of mean chicks that has revived group selection.
It is at the core of cooperation and competition between groups of people and cultures.
Humans thus deviate from the strict predictions about the emergence of behavior.
Start being selfishly altruistic because there is a purely selfish reason to make the world a better place.
In a positive-sum world, the more people are doing well, the better your own life is.
This is due to the nature of innovation.
It is fundamentally determined by supply and demand.
Supply increases when more people have the freedom and education to contribute to society.
Furthermore, the work of a poor farmer in a developing country is not directly useful for you.
But if his wealth increases, it could be that his children study and develop things that are useful to him.
Unfortunately, there are some of the smartest minds of our generation working on problems that cause the world to become more complicated by the minute.
As inventors, researchers, engineers or thinkers, they develop new ideas which are fundamentally flawed and need instant fixing.
This is due to a rapidly-changing macro economy on all levels. We could raise a child from 70.000 years ago perfectly fine in today’s world.
How are we supposed then to get a grip on reality today if our minds are constantly occupied by the latest tech, advancements and emerging problems on a global scale?
We still rely on our monkey brains to do the problem-solving in an ever more complicated world.
I was heavily inspired by Robert Sapolsky’s work for this article.