Competition and cooperation
Specialisation has taken us to a new level of focus. We saw it coming a long time ago. I remember meeting a scientist back in the early 70’s who sole purpose was to measure the length of an artificial fibre. Not the thickness but the length. It was a very demanding job. He worked for du Pont when they were producing a new era of fabrics whose main requirement was stability. Up to that point I thought a piece of string was as long as you wanted it to be.
Specialisation has come a long way since then. It has brought with it a drift away from thought, both philosophical and political. Philosophy is now largely confined to certain branches of science, maths in particular. It is not philosophy as we know it from the great philosophers of the past, more a didactic “angels on the head of a pin” type of philosophy. Not always apparently applicable to our daily lives and concerns.
Political thought has deteriorated – if that is possible – from an attempt at a world of wholeness to a scramble for advantage. We have seen a dramatic version of this in the recent start to the break-up of Europe and the rising protectionism of America. It is a form of specialisation, looking after No 1. Democracy feeds it when it becomes totally selfish.
Each of us is concerned with those things that affect us quickly for good or bad. The poor survivors of the recent Haiti hurricane must think first of survival and restoring a safer way of life. Many people will help them do so; there is still much generosity in the world. But I see a lot of people who don’t know where Haiti is, how big is the population, what problems are facing them. Crazy not to know – it has been the main item of news recently.
We have access to more current affairs knowledge than ever before and yet many people do not recognise the importance of keeping up to date with what is happening to our world. They do not see that what affects others has meaning for us. At its simplest Hurricane Matthew tells us a further chapter about climate change. Think again and ask what that change is going to require of each of us by way of support of others. No man is an island.
Your job is probably specialised. Your KPIs have to do with very present achievements. Your future demands immediate delivery. But your children’s and grandchildren’s future requires an ability to cooperate as much as to compete. Our new inventions will make life easier, longer and probably a lot less painful for us. How we share these new-found benefits will determine whether our world society survives or fights to the extinction of the race.
Today we need greater understanding of how the other half lives. When we have it we can think about their role in maintaining the species.
That is how we discover our own.