What if we were not so individualistic ?

Card's author : Jean Michel Cornu
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description :

When humans choose themselves to form an alliance with

Many strategies take into account human's egoism: for example systems which force to work for a common cause or for the economy which enables to negotiate a price depending on supply and demand with individualistic and rational « agents ».

Personally, I am interested in strategies of cooperation starting from the same presupposition: the humanbeing has both a selfish and an altruistic side. We must first seek to converge the interest and the collective interest. Worse: in case of a general conflict, someone altruistic would act for other people's interest to the detriment of his own. He would then be disadvantaged in a Darwinian sense...

Yet three pieces of information I recently aknowledged show that human being (as some animals) can do things to get something vital, that are seemingly against his interests : allying with others.

Even animals are sometimes altruistic

Turdoides are birds which feed other members of their group's broods, protecting themselves. Many species have members accepting to be sentries for others. They show then their utility in being part of a coalition.

The man who says all he does facing profiteers

Man too does things which could seem to be against his own interest. Jean-Louis Dessalles from Telecom Paris, in an interesting conference called "human language, a paradox of evolution", shows that language should normally disadvantage its user: the one who shares information while the one who listens has simultaneously his own information and others'.

Yet we are descended from a man who talks. This fundamental invention that occured 100 or 200,000 years ago is even the reason of our intelligence according to Jacques Monod in "le hasard et la nécessité". What kind of Darwinian advantage Nature could give to one who speaks and gives information to others ?

Two attempts to explain

We cannot call simply upon the collective benefit for the species because this argument is not relevant enough facing the inconvenience for the individual to give without expecting in return.

Another attempt to explain: John Miller Smith approached the evolution by the theory of game, showing that something could be done (for example giving an information) in order to get something else fair's fair approach). This needs to speak to those we believe are able to play the game but also to a have a system for detecting cheaters (approach developed by W.D. Halmilton).
But the « Green-Beard theory" images the difficulty of altruistic people to recognize each other:

"Let's assume that altruistic peolpe wear a green beard to identify each other. The few selfish persons from the same species who also wears a green beard will be tempted to cheat... And will succeed once again to the detriment of altruistic people !".

Yet, some researchers of the Ecology Lab of the Pierre et Marie Curie University (ENS-CNRS) and from the Royal Holloway College (London, UK) have shown recently that altruistic people could be one step ahead than cheaters by "modifying slightly and regularly the color of their beards". Simulations showed that in this special case, altruistic people could have a competitive advantage on selfish people but also on selfish cheating people.
Nevertheless: the fair's fair approach, if it enables to understand some altruistic behaviors, is not working with language because we often talk to a set of people.

The wise man points at the moon and the madman looks at the finger

Jean-Louis Dessalles proposes a third very attractive hypothesis. He noticed that the little human being, even before being able to talk, have a trend to point with their finger, i.e. sharing information. It's not the case with animals.
An experience illustrates this:
Some food is hidden under one bowl and nothing under another: showing the right bowl to a chimp does not incite him to get the food whereas going towards the right bowl incites the animal to go and get the food. On the contrary the child will understand the information just by being pointed the right bowl.
The difference is that the animal does not generally integrate in its communication the given information which does not expect a return. Communication helps to show physical strength, sexual attraction but not things useless to the communicator.
Man also communicates this way, but he will also add information without expecting other information back. Doing that, he's gonna show others the qualities which make him worth joining the groupe (self-abnegation, altruism, sincerity...).

The benefit in terms of survival

If mankind spends around 20% of is awake time communicating with others and giving information at loss, it is doubtless because he takes a crucial advantage of it. She must counterbalance the inconvenience of sometimes doing things in the group's interest but to his own detriment.
Human being has little chances to survive on his own. But L'être humain a peu de chances de survivre seul. But unlike other animals, he forms less alliances with others outside his own family. He might then have developed a capacity of elaborate language in order to give information and thus showing that he can be accepted by the group.
Chimps can only unite when two or three (not to be confused with a pack or a herd: in a coalition, individuals have chosen each other). Probably thanks to language, mankind is able to form alliances with several persons. In a small group, choosing individual strength brings more to the whole ; in a large group, strength is brought with the number of members and thus enables the ability to cooperate together.

Conflict of interests and assumption of altruism

This approach may explain a peculiarity of groups: in case of a conflict of interests, there is an unconscious belief that the person will fight for the group to her detriment. Of course, when we discuss of this in full consciousness, we realize that it is not necessarily the case.
This a an annoying consequence: when one is in a conflict of interests he cannot tell others: "Hey, I have a problem,I can't act in the group's interest". And yet, this could help in most cases to find a third way enabling to reconcile individual and collective interests ; but this would mean that we are not just altruistic, contrary to what we have proved unconsciously with our communication to join the group.
Thus, one of the problem making cohabitation harder for mankind is that when a conflict of interests occurs, it cannot be discussed. It stays unsaid and sometimes unconscious (for example utters of anger that we try to justify with objectives purposes when they are just resulting from other causes of which we are not fully conscious...). What is left unsaid makes it difficult to solve problems generated by the group. It seems to come exactly from what enables us to get together: our ability to share information freely to show our capacity to join a coalition !

Hume and mankind's bias

In an audio presentation about "artifice and society in the work of Hume" (recorded anthology of French Thought), Gilles Deleuze demonstrates that for David Hume, man is not selfish but biased. That means that he has a sphere of privileged sympathy.
For Hume, there are three types of sympathy: with close relations, with parents and with fellow human beings. They match the three principles of association which he identified in his works (particularly on association of ideas): similarity, continuity and common causation.
The moral problem then is not to manage selfishness (which is the starting point of the contract often said to be the base of society and institutions, in particular with his XVIIIth century contemporaries), but rather to go beyond the circle of natural sympathies to expand it to the whole society. For Hume, the legislation no longer prevents selfishness (which has not been statisfying till now) but overcomes our biases more constructively to expand the circle (not for the contract anymore but for what Hume called the "main rule").

The purpose(s) of living together

In other words, we could ask the question this way: can we find rules favoring the enlargement of the circle of people choosing themselves (coalitions are often the base of our ability to survive) to expand them to the rest of human kind and beyond the kingdom of life.
But like every question, this question must be completed by its counterpart to enable to go further (in a dialectic approach), and we could also add: how can we prevent the assumption of altruism, that enabled us to enter a coalition, from blinding us collectively to assume the defense of our own interests.