homo sapien genes evolved during a few Ice Ages, global famines, the
invasion of the Mongols, the Black Plague, the Inquisition and World
Wars I and II by adapting to often-rapid change. This would be a clue
that, by cooperating, we can make it through a few more catastrophes.
Early cultures created peer-to-peer networks (where everyone is part of
a dynamic collective focused on the good of the tribe).
peer-to-peer networks, called P2P, are very different and virtual. They
help improve our ability to problem solve in real-time, evolve an
individual’s critical and creative thinking and intelligence by
presenting tasks that we’ve never had to solve before and often doing
this with people unlike us. This provides an additional benefit: By
doing something new and different, we build new memory stores and
neural pathways and that improves our brains.
Greene Hill Food Co-op logo design by Base Design,
bag manufactured and printed by a local woman-owned business.
comfortable with P2P networks and they have become ubiquitous.
Wikipedia, Kickstarter, Brickstarter, Open311, CodeforAmerica, NextDoor
and Neighborland are some of the myriad virtual ways people work
cooperatively and non-hierarchically now. We self-organize, often work
on a volunteer basis with others—as a public service and with limited
oversight (if any) from an authority figure. New technology, since it
allows for decentralized participation, is the master key unlocking
these new doors. You can collaborate across continents without ever
leaving the comfort of your living room. You can work with people you’ll
never see or meet.
We create the technology we need, not the
other way around. We needed to be able to cook food and we figured out
the technology to create fire. We needed to communicate over thousands
of miles instantly, we demanded that technology. We need to live
together so we are creating the technology that allows for democracy.
THE CASE FOR DEMOCRACY
of the planet lives under democracy, which (hypothetically)
decentralizes power. America is arguably the best of the worst. Theory
says two percent of humans are thirsty for power. One to three percent
are sociopathic, lack empathy, or are psychopathic. So even if only a
few of the people who seek power have that combo we are in deep trouble
if our society is ill-equipped to tell the difference. Think Adolph
Hitler, Bernard Madoff, Muammar Gaddaffi. A now classic Yale study
showed that when a man wearing a uniform (an authority figure) told a
volunteer subject to deliver a lethal shock to a person (an actor in the
next room), 60–70 percent of subjects would resist, have stress
reactions but would ultimately comply if told “you have to do this.”
When the uniform was stripped away, the subjects refused.4
if not most, inventions are developed by the simple futzing around of
an individual or small group. Since there is no “one way” to do things
in anti-authoritarian America, this process can get muddled. It can
result in endless debate and inaction within even the most cooperative
of groups. This is particularly manifest since our universal values are
ultimately often left up to individual interpretation. The really bad
news is that so many citizens are not up to the challenge of sorting out
the muddle, are not inquisitive, have limited educational experiences
to bolster them, and/or are often under informed.
LEAVING YOUR COMFORT ZONE
of us popped out of the womb geniuses. It takes hard work and the will
to learn from repeated failures to develop genius even if you start off
with a big brain. Persistence in many ways is more important than
talent or intelligence: trying a new path when one doesn’t pan out, not
being intimidated or defeated when at first you don’t succeed. Many
people, even smart people, miss their potential by getting into a rut,
stuck in a dead-end mindset. Squirrels and chimps don’t innovate. They
don’t have the brain power to plan like humans, to experiment, dare to
try something untested. And they only know how to do things “one way”
that locks them in a holding pattern.
The brand implementation was funded by a grant from Ideas that Matter, Sappi Paper.
Barack Obama learned some
hard lessons in his first term as President. And so did we. It doesn’t
matter how much of a genius Obama is or how much power he has. He needs
us to push back, to speak out, experiment and to see ourselves as
responsible members of this giant cooperative, the US of A. He is still
a community organizer, we are the community.
DO UNTO OTHERS WHAT THEY WANT DONE TO THEM
and Monique Sternin futzed around, studying malnutrition in an
impoverished village in Vietnam in the 1990s. And in that process they
tried something new.5 They looked for the outliers—those few
families who looked healthy. They analyzed the ingredients they
subsisted on which differed substantially from that of the other
families. The Sternins held a party and invited the entire village to
make a big feast together asking the villagers to bring the nutritional
ingredients they identified to the feast to cook. The Sternins could
have simply imposed a new diet on the village. Or they could have relied
on the leaders of the community to tell them what the problem was.
Instead, as the cliché goes, they looked for the solution in the
problem. The village enjoyed the feast of their own making. They changed
their diet. Malnutrition fell by 85 percent over 2 years. It took a
village. It still takes a village, many, many villages, and many
open-hearted, thoughtful cooperators like the Sternins, like Milton
Glaser, like Barack Obama. We can learn from each other. We are going in
the right direction if you look at the larger picture and see yourself
in it: It’s all about me and it’s all about we. CA
1. “Chip Kidd talks with Milton Glaser,” the Believer, September 2003.