Understanding Human Nature—Part 2, Collaboration

caribou_huntThe road to human survival was enhanced by the ability to control fire and organize into hunting parties. As we moved away from a vegetarian diet and toward more meat consumption, successful outcomes depended on the ability to plan and implement complex hunting strategies. The ability to work together with prior planning and intentionality towards a shared goal and common purpose is a major difference between human cognition and many other animal species.

Improved social behavior within the group was a heritable quality that could be passed to succeeding generations. Over time the groups that were the most socially cooperative out-competed the others for territory and scare resources. “The human specialty is intentionality, fashioned from an extremely large working memory. We not only interact intensely with one another, but to a unique degree we have added the urge to collaborate.” (E.O. Wilson Social Conquest of Earth)

Certain other social traits such as the bonds within the group, the exchange of information, and division of labor among its members were major contributors to the survival of our earliest ancestors. Also important was the practice of reciprocal transactions—both direct and indirect—which were repaid in kind as well as in relationship to reputation and trust.

Many of the thoughts that support this series of blogs originated in the book The Social Conquest of Earth by the 2 time Pulitzer Prize E.O. Wilson.