The case for cooperation

Perhaps this is unique to China, where the sheer number of other persons drowns out your cries of individualism. But I sense that there exists a prevailing trend of anti-collaboration that has only recently subsided. I don’t say competition, because that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about the generally-accepted notion that, if you go sharing your success secrets with others, you’ll be at a disadvantage, and because of this, you shouldn’t cooperate with anyone.

I mean, it does make sense. That is, if you dehumanize people into little nodes of information. But because of this reasoning, there is a lot of anti-collaborative hostility beneath the surface. It makes certain social situations very tense, especially the ones involving direct competition for some limited opportunity1. Of course, it’s a big problem if everyone starts thinking this way.

Maybe it’s not our fault. Maybe we’re just raised this way2. But the real problem is that we never stop to reconsider. If all cooperation is bad for the interests of the individual, how does anybody get anything done? Now, some people will consider that helping others indirectly helps yourself because you are “somebody else” to everybody else and some weird Marxist chain of bullshit. But instead, consider this: collaboration is a self-seeking, self-interested activity. Aside from the virtuous i-like-helping-people attitude, sharing your methods and opportunities puts you in a higher position with people. It’s like a moral-balance reserves thing, where people feel obligated to return the favor. It might sound evil that we’ll befriend people for self-gain, but it’s not like we befriend people so that they’ll hate us3. Overall, things typically turn out better when you’re not so averse to sharing.

Think about it: the same thing applies for lying.

  1. I always think of competitive inhibition with enzymes and inhibitors, except everybody’s got a contrived smile glued to their face. ↩︎
  2. I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY, I WAS... nevermind. ↩︎
  3. I realize that I skip around with the pronouns a lot. It goes from I to we to you.. well I guess it’s not that important. ↩︎

3 CommentsAdd one

Number One Fan
Fri, 29 Apr 2011 05:38:45 GMT

So, it’s OK to share ideas and stuff, “where people feel obligated to return the favor.”

But it’s not OK for me to want to wrap Christmas gifts and stuff, because you think it’s just a selfish act of giving out stuff to get stuff in return?

Wed, 27 Apr 2011 20:50:52 GMT

Your skipping around with pronouns is used to appeal to ethos.

Wed, 27 Apr 2011 05:21:20 GMT

I almost feel like .. this has something to do with the trash I picked up afterschool today. Often times, I can’t tell what you’re thinking .. I need to get into Vincent mode and start making mental notes ... but that just seems a bit creepy.

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