I was part of the herd that went to hear Howard Rheingold and Mark Earls speak about collaboration.
Howard began with some tales of collaboration, or rather lack of: politics is about "your side winning," and biology is war…
But, over the last few years Howard explained that he’s been tracking the emergence of a “new narrative; one in which competition is still central but no longer all encompasing and shrinks just a little bit to leave room for some of the new knowledge that’s developing over a wide variety of field about complex interdependencies and cooperative arrangements.”
Howard went on to talk about three “mythic narratives” one of which was the prisoner’s dilema in which (more or less) the prisoners need to cooperate in order to win. (For a little blurb on this see here).
Then Howard brought up his second mythic narrative, the tragedy of the commons (see G. Hardin, Science 162, 1243 (1968).) Basically, human behaviour is dog-eat-dog and when there’s something like, oh, let’s say a nice green pasture, people will keep adding one more sheep to the field in the end “desertifying” it as Howard says. Moving from that idea that humans inherently want to maximise their own gain, Howard referred to Elinor Ostrum, a political scientist, who asked important questions of groups who did not deforestlands or over fish etc…how did some of these communities manage their resources? Or, in Ostrom’s words:
“The central question in this study is how a group of principals who are in an interdependent situation can organize and govern themselves to obtain continuing joint benefits when all face temptations to free-ride, shirk, or otherwise act opportunistically.”
xposted from my blog where you can read more.