First published to the AKASHA Foundation blog.
Despite the over-emphasis of competition in Darwin's theory of evolution, the great man himself sensed the importance of cooperation.
I should premise that I use the term Struggle for Existence in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another ...
[On the Origin of Species, Darwin, 1859]
Modern day scientists know that any investment of resources by individuals — of the same species or different — in acts of cooperation could in fact make those individuals vulnerable to non-cooperators, and yet cooperating proves to be a continuing strength rather than a weakness. We see cooperation everywhere we look.
[We have] a new view of continual cooperation, strong interaction, and mutual dependence among life forms. Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.
[Microcosmos, Margulis & Sagan, 1997]
Cooperation confers an irrefutable advantage and we're still grappling with understanding the qualities of the mechanisms that make this the case.
Human beings are brilliant same-species cooperators — hence our parasitic success — and yet a quick scan of typical news headlines would suggest quite the opposite. Without dwelling too deeply on international relations or indeed media theory, the reported character of interactions between the likes of the United States and China and Russia and India and Europe might be said to be more fractious than cooperative. And national news headlines compound the gloom.