Jean-Michel Cornu : Cooperation in 28 keywords

4 . Convergence and Conflict

JM Cornu - La Coopération en 28 mots-clés - 4. Convergence et conflit

The third important and also counterintuitive aspect of cooperation is convergence. Why ? Because in fact, it is considered that people should cooperate with altruism. Altruism, what's that ? I shall explain : "I have to do things in the public's interest, even if it's my interest". There is a science of altruism. Altruism exists in the animal kingdom, including humans despite what one might think, but it is somewhat a little more complex and out of the field of what we'll be discussing about today. We are going to talk here, not of the altruism that means : "I do things for the common good against my interest " but of the altruism which says "I do things so that my interest focuses on general interest". So, in fact, cooperation, that I set differently than altruism, complementary, is to have most personal interests in my group focusing on general interest. For that, we have small techniques. We will see several examples of three techniques of convergence.
First, imagine we are on a desert island. You're here, you're sitting quietly on a hammock, it's fine, you have fruit all around, it's paradise. And here I come and I propose to give you a banana or rather sell you a banana. If you have common sense, you stretch your arm, bananas are all around you, you pick it up, you eat it looking at me. In short, the whole economic system crumbles down because we have an abundance of bananas everywhere and therefore it does not work. Besides, if I had sold you my banana for one euro, what would I have done with it? Bought bananas? I would have looked stupid ! So we see that the system does not work. What do we see here? Something very interesting. We observe that here the person, here will tend to, on the contrary... I 'll have a tendancy to give you a banana. Why ? Because as a counterpart, you will esteem me. You might reply : "Yeah, well, it's nice, but you can't live on esteem”. But honestly if you had given me one euro, it wouldn't have fed me either, because in fact I do not know if you've ever tried to eat a 1 euro coin, but it can not be eaten. So that means that my one euro coin or your esteem have to be turned into something else. If you have any respect for me, at some point, when I am going to launch a project, you will be able to follow me. If I 'm a little in poverty at some point, if I have problems, maybe you'll have a tendancy to help me more easily. So, I can turn esteem into something else. We'll see later on that esteem is a very different kind of money than classical currency but it has its regulation mechanism.
So first thing, abundance, an environment of abundance engenders what is called "the gift economy". You may say "Okay, but you're not in paradise island...”. Second solution is actually for the very rich. "What will I do today? Maybe I 'll buy a yacht, well no, actually, I purchased one yesterday". And what can we see? We see that the very rich is generous, giving to charities in order to get people's esteem. So maybe you are looking at me and you're not a billionaire. Well, don't worry, neither am I. So maybe a third solution, we might say, but something very interesting occurred in the scientific community, before the seventies. People were recognized by their reputation, recognition, and esteem from their peers. And so, at this very moment, a long time ago, there was a wall in Berlin, there were people who were scientists in the East, in the West and politicians were frightened because they would not stop to communicating. Because in fact their purpose was just to cooperate, to get everybody's respect, to show what they were doing. It is true that it was not very easy to measure, so one day accountants came and said : "It's simple , we will try to measure precisely what worth somebody is". It's easier to make a payslip. We will make journals, but not too many and we'll just count the number of times the person will be published and she will only be published if other people say : "This is good". The difference is that people actually began to behave not as peers, but as competitors. Because, obviously, ideas could be stolen to be published by others. So PhD students began to hide information to their masters. To make it short, the same persons and I insist, the same ones were less collaborative after the development of scientific journals than before. And we are now in a third stream where, in a certain number of areas, we are beginning to have systems where on the contrary you have re-runs on the internet, with freely available content and we observe that cooperation comes back. So you see it is not a personal matter, it is also a matter of environment. So you 're not scientists, neither rich nor in paradise island but you're probably in a society of information in which we have an abundance of information. And this is the point that we can lean on because with the abundance of information, we can create systems of donation. And therefore, we will give information more easily in a system of abundance .

Second thing is to give your group a long-term vision. Sociologists have studied a small system : it occurs during a party, people are sharing a meal and rather than recounting at the end what everyone has eaten, they decide altogether to share the bill. Let's say they were twelve, for example, and they shared the bill between the 12 of them, no matter wether one ate a little more or a little less than the others. When doing this, we observe two attitudes : the first is : "Well, finally, I ate more, less, I don't know, but I talked with my neighbors, I spent a good time and at the end I payed a little more or a little less. But I payed like everyone else, that is to say a little more or a little less than what I ate. Second solution : “I eat, I eat, I eat as much as possible to be sure that others will pay for me, rather than me paying for others”. And what can we see ? We see that if people have the feeling that it's the first and last time they are having a meal together, the number of cooperative people plumets and the number of people binging in order to take advantage of others – profiteers - will increase. If on the contrary, a long-term vision is given by saying "We will share meals again, see each other again, etc", it is observed that the number of people cooperating increases. Then a second solution is, after the overall abundance, to give a long term vision.
Third thing. We were talking about recognition systems and that means prestige and esteem. To be true, I'm cheating a little, I am slightly changing the definition of "prestige" and "esteem". Generally we don't have the vocabulary to grasp a concept. What is prestige ? Prestige is given by a person, a leader in general, who will give it according to what you have done and will not take it back. So that means typically : “ I give you a raise, I give you a medal” or what ever you want, and usually it is given rather to bootlickers than to people who really did things. That means that people who do not take much time doing things but who spend time trying to lick my shoes are more likely to have prestige. Esteem is very different. First because of prestige... You have a system called the “Peter Principle” which says : “you have done well so I promote you”. You were sub-sub-sub-sub-chief, you are now sub-sub-sub-chief. And then as you're good, you get to do your job, I give you extra prestige, you are appointed sub-sub-chief. And then you become sub-chief and there, you fail to do your job. You can not do it, but I can not downgrade you, it rarely happens anyway. On the other hand, I will not promote you either and you will not be chief. So you will become an incompetent sub-chief. And a balanced society is a society where everyone comes to his level of incompetence. So esteem enables to avoid that, it is very different. Esteem is something given by the group. It can be given and withdrawn. Let's imagine : you do something for me. I am ungrateful but someone in the group or the whole group sees what you did and esteems you. Even if I don't esteem you in return, you get the respect of everybody. But if you get big-headed, as they say, and you start to think you are really somebody, you'll just lose this esteem. So esteem is a much more interesting regulatory mechanism than prestige, and to distinguish esteem from prestige allows the converging of interests - not the interest to lick the boss boots, but on the contrary the interest of having a real mechanism which makes things interesting for the group. We have then an aspect of convergence but let's imagine that it works very well : the problem will be that we'll end up with a herd of sheeps. With everyone heading in the same direction. In fact, we need a little bit of difference, that is to say people who go from right to left, who will bring new ideas. If everyone focuses on the same thing too, that is to say, if you get all your group heading in the same direction, you will only have one leader and it will not be very interesting. So a little bit of difference and I would say, a small opposition peak allows questioning. Finally the diagram here on the right, with small arrows, is interesting because the most balanced group is not the group going in all directions, nor the group where everyone goes in the same direction. It is the group that is flame shaped. That is to say a lot of convergence, a little divergence for new ideas and even a hint, as they say in cooking, of conflict and opposition to allow questioning.
A word though, because when we talk about convergence, we also talk about conflict. So, briefly about conflict, it's important to make a difference between crisis and conflict. A crisis is when things go in all directions, remember the flame, it goes here, it comes from there, well, it can be tiring , it's true, but it is a very creative time, very interesting. A conflict happens when things go in only two directions : it is a " bi- polarized " crisis which starts in two directions and we can not get out of it. Generally it looks like “tug of war” and if you stay at this point, I suggest that you read two books : "The Prince " by Machiavelli and "The Art of War" from Sun Tzu, the best ways to defeat the other. Full stop. And we go to war, that's all ! One could imagine having a mediator, a refereeing, but the problem still occurs anyway, because look at this referee, his clothes are red or green and who is red here ? So in fact, the way to win, is not "How can I be stronger than the other ? "but" How can I bribe the referee ?" So, we have not completely solved the problem with arbitration. The referee should not have any interests with anyone. This was tried with the Emperor of China whom was completely out of the society, but it did not work that well. It is rather difficult to have a referee totally outside the system, even though everyone would like it very much, of course. Third solution : imagine we have fun and we tie the referee in the middle of the group. There, he actually becomes a kind of dead weight and there you will see that people - then we will represent him as a big elephant - will pull slightly to the side, that is to say, that instead of pulling away, they will start to focus slightly on the same idea and you see that here, there is a part of opposition and a part of convergence. And at this point, there is a convergence of interest and it is very interesting. In fact, we'll try again to have everyone converging. But to be honest, I am cheating a little because I present things as if we were outside. Imagine yourself in the place of someone who is pulling the rope, what you would see is not that at all, what you would see would be a bit like paths and you walking on them. And what is very interesting is, look at these little trails here, that's what you see when you are walking around. When I am thinking, I follow my own trail. When I am trying to defend my interests, I also follow my own vision, called "egocentric", which means seen by myself but if you look at it from the outside, you begin to see some interesting things, here, in cooperation. But also, for example on trails, for example on the trails that you see here, this is what it looks like from above, which was totally invisible, it is also a Nazca, with a magnificent bird that is absolutely invisible from the ground. All that to say, in fact, that one of the key aspects to understand the conflicts is to change the way of looking, to have an overview, a central view that we call "allocentric", as if we were looking from above to have a vision of all the different points of view, not to choose the best ones but to understand how they become complementary.
We could speak for hours about conflict but this was just to show how convergence and conflict, in fact, are rather counterintuitive elements because in the convergence, as seen earlier, we try to make things leading to the same point rather than being altruist. And in conflict, we will instead try to step back and turn conflict into crisis. So if you have two competitors, introduce a third one aiming in another direction and you will achieve greater things.