Additionally, Yochai Benkler is interviewed by David Weinberger and
delves in to many of the themes of the book in this week's Radio
In the book, Yochai draws on cutting-edge findings from neuroscience,
economics, sociology, evolutionary biology, political science, and a
wealth of real world examples to debunk this long-held myth and reveal
how we can harness the power of human cooperation to improve business
processes, design smarter technology, reform our economic systems,
maximize volunteer contributions to science, reduce crime, improve the
efficacy of civic movements, and more.
Yochai offers a preview of some of the material he addresses in the
book in an essay found in the Harvard Business
In 1976, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins wrote in The Selfish
Gene, “If you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals
cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can
expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach
generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.” By 2006, the
tide had started to turn. Harvard University mathematical biologist
Martin Nowak could declare, in an overview of the evolution of
cooperation in Science magazine, “Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of
evolution is its ability to generate cooperation in a competitive
world. Thus, we might add ‘natural cooperation’ as a third fundamental
principle of evolution beside mutation and natural selection.”
Why is this deep-rooted belief about human selfishness beginning to
change? To some extent, the answer is specific to evolutionary biology.
But similar ideas challenging the notion that people are born selfish
have surfaced in several other fields, such as psychology, sociology,
political science, and experimental economics. Together, these ideas
are tracing a new intellectual arc in the disciplines concerned with
human action and motivation.
Much of the book is informed by research undertaken by the Berkman
Project (lead by Yochai). Congratulations to Yochai, and the whole Cooperation project team, on
this tremendous accomplishment!