Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Survival of the fittest?

At a recent course at work, we were given an exercise where we had to work together to achieve a certain outcome.  The trainer talked about the importance of cooperation at work, and about common goals.

Then we were put into two groups and given the task.

Immediately each group huddled away from the other, and started to work in competition.  We refused to share information, became suspicious of anyone from the other group who came too close to our part of the room, at the same time sending "spies" over to see what the others were up to.

It was almost comical how quickly we reverted to a tribal mentality, trying to "win", trying to outdo each other.  Especially when the whole point was to work together.

We didn't pass that particular task, perhaps unsurprisingly.  But we did learn from it.

It made me reflect just how much of our day to day lives are about competing with each other - on a personal, local, national and even international level.  How we scrabble around to take as much as possible even when we know that by doing so, we're taking from other people.  Our society seems to have conditioned us to be like that for so long that it almost seems "natural".  We don't even think about it, normally.

To do differently requires us to step outside our evolutionary selves, those early homo sapiens still battling it out with the other animals on the early African grasslands.  In a recent issue of National Geographic, there was an excellent article on what it coined the Anthropocene Age, a geological epoch where mankind has the ability to completely reshape the planet.  With such unprecedented power in our hands, it seems that there is nothing that is beyond the human race.  Except perhaps the ability to work together in support of a common goal, a goal for the common good.

I talked yesterday about the need for concerted action to tackle the challenges facing us in uncertain times.  But, working together, we put a man on the moon; it can't be beyond us to tackle climate change and peak oil in a way that is far and equitable to all?  A challenge on such a global scale would surely be a great opportunity, a historical opportunity, to change the way we live as a species.  To determine our own evolution, become something more than the humans we currently seem to be.

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