TED Conversations

Vera Nova

Director Research Analysis, NOVA Town Futuristic Development

TEDCRED 30+

This conversation is closed.

Is what we call Competitive Advantage stemming from our Prehistoric Instinct of survival - push, kill, get something before others?

It is a primordial prehistoric "motor" in our character that still drives our society of non-stop-competitions, from fashion and "arts" to mindless fields of business fights and bloody war.

We still do not really comprehend how we CAN coexist together in peace. The most important step is to practice collaboration. There is no need to compete if we would be able to openly learn from each other.
Everyone has something unique to offer, but as an individual.
One can compete with him/herself perfecting skills and experience. Every individual remains irreplaceable in a community because of his/her natural uniques.

It will be no harmony and no sound balance in our society as long as we compete for all crazy reasons we can come up with.

Unfair forceful strategies push away true innovative talents and intuitive souls who usually do not fit competitions. However our society desperately needs these unique individuals showing us new ways in our existence.

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  • Feb 25 2014: I have found even with very uncooperative individuals looking for personal glory if you make it a common goal, we can work together. It is tough and I try to finish as soon as I can but it gets the project done. I do not know about where you work but many companies totem pole employees for rating for raises, promotion and firing. This does not aid cooperation. I have always felt the entire team should be rewarded.
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      Feb 25 2014: Wayne, You have an excellent point. Yes, I had to manage, actually "rivive", some businesses since I was very young, learning fast from everyone who worked for me, especially from those who made bad mistakes and put me in trouble. I have also learned this rule - I have to explain WHY my employees Depend on Themsleves in terms of performance and honesty. When someone is cheating this means someone is punishing everyone else in this business, including him/herself.This is a very nearsighted kind of selfishness.

      Doing the best job is rewarding for oneself, and the whole business. Yes, in return I paid these people who were helpful, generously.

      I think though, we are talking (you and I) about a sound sense, or even a deep instinct of "selfishness", that works for us based on our collective collaboration. In business it is a fundamental piece of knowledge - we shall learn (on every man-made "level" or position) how to mutually coexist and collaborate for the same goal - do everything you can to survive, share and prosper.


      My topic is about WHY we get so excited over man-made competitions doing everything for taking someone else's place, get the most attention, or get well paid.

      In some forest in wilderness our halfwild predecessors followed their deep instinct - when one felt strong he would explore his strength to his limit on his own, if one felt weakness he would "glue" to the group, to join "shared" strength.
  • Feb 24 2014: No, I think it is all based on the four loves we are all born with

    Love of self, love of the world, love of the neighbour and love of a higher power. In that order of importance.

    As long as that sequence does not change, we only look after ourself, and do whatever it takes..

    Over time it would be nice if that order of priorities is reversed. And through the ages, I think, it has. By a lot of hard work and many trials/wars. Inside and out.
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      Feb 24 2014: Hello Adrian. I'm not insisting that we are all born with that instinct to compete, push others away or kill. I guess it gets developed within our characters while we grow up, and while we get pushed away by others...

      The more crowded our society becomes the greater this instinct "grows". If one is in a subway in NY during a rush hour one Must fight with others just to get on that train.

      If animals keep pushing their siblings away to get more food, people push away others to get some social position, money, recognition of all sorts... those absolutely ephemeral "things" that have no real value, but rule our burlesque human world. My point is that that primordial and blind instinct of survival is still prevailing in our human society.
      • Feb 24 2014: I don't think that pushing or fighting our way onto a train has anything to do with a "primordial and blind instinct of survival." I think it is an undeveloped human approach to get what we want, now!.

        Is it all about ME FIRST!! or waiting for our legitimate turn?
        Some are raised in a way that diminishes that MINE!! attitude in small kids. I strongly believe that disciplining our child, based on love, develops into self-discipline.

        In a way I do not care where the thought or instinct comes from, but what to do about it.
  • Mar 16 2014: Collaboration is a survival strategy and begins with an understanding between beings. Team sport rivalry and collaboration is a symptom of boredom. It is boring at the top of the food chain. Rivalry is a symptom of boredom.
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    Feb 22 2014: Of the sixty-six TED talks we have under the tag "collaboration," some additional noteworthy speakers who explore different and promising angles are Steven Johnson, Clay Shirky, and Yochai Benkler.

    The history of communities working collaboratively to achieve common goals, small and large, is long. There has been increasing appreciation over time also of the value of diverse participation in generating ideas and crafting and implementing solutions to problems. While some people are happy only working independently or only in situations in which they are considered the leader, I think the vast majority of people are drawn to teams or communities in which different people make unique contributions and don't particularly seek to draw privileged attention to themselves..

    We may sometimes *notice* people more who persistently seek to draw attention to their superiority in one way or another (that's the competitive thing raising its head), but that doesn't mean they are a majority in the population.
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      Feb 22 2014: I agree with everything you wrote, Fritzie.
      Exept one point - not just a few but the whole majority wish to be superior to others, but know too well - they cannot - for whatever reason.. This is the majority of characters deeply hidden wish - to improve their own existence, by changing others.


      One of the main reasons for Not even trying to be "somebody" is that our conventional measurements for "the greatest" are so too narrow and very many cannot fit these artificially established "hights". The worst case is when someone who is really uniquely gifted is unable to compete with the "pushers". The best of the best, but quiet talents often have no chance to get onto those arenas.

      Well, in any case we have enough fights and wars, why not to find some more peaceful ways to coexist within our own communities ?
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        Feb 22 2014: I don't know that it is true that the majority wish to be superior to others. For example, I have long wondered whether people who are inclined to be highly competitive *perceive* others as bent on competing with them when really all they are seeing are their own reflections. Another factor is that people who consistently seek to draw attention to their individual achievements may indeed find that many others prefer not to collaborate with them specifically, but that isn't the same as not wanting to collaborate with others who seem less self-centered.

        People have different strengths. Everyone is "somebody." Some have much more confidence in their abilities than others. I am not sure how much actual ability and confidence are correlated. I agree that the inclination to self-promote is not necessarily closely connected to a person's real gifts.
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          Feb 24 2014: There is one more reason why people's wish to be "superior" to others....I mean in a sense of Changing something major according to their own vision of what would be right to do.

          Among thousands of individuals I somehow knew almost everyone said to me - Oh, if I had some power to change this crazy world!

          This is a common but greatly emotional "sad" wish, for the reason that many people feel no power to change anything they so wish, for the sake of what they feel as "rightness".

          People have different sorts of reasons, different ethical "status" and level of knowledge and maybe it's safer - if many of them would never possess that "power".
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        Feb 24 2014: If the word "power" seems threatening because of suggestions of domination, maybe the word "influence" is better. People working together or even independently can surely influence the world for good. I think we should all feel we can have that sort of influence. The very famous Ghandi quote, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" comes immediately to mind as an always accessible approach to life.

        On TED Drew Dudley's talk on Everyday Leadership is another empowering reminder of what people- anyone- can do to make positive contribution. Clay Shirky in his talk abut collaboration shows how people coming together can act for change through the aggregation of their actions as individuals- he gives Ushahidi (I have probably misspelled this) as an example of how people scattered around a country contributed their eyes to document violence against the populace and thereby become part of a solution.

        People working together, I still believe, can move mountains. I have just been reading Paul Farmer's account of the very successful efforts in the poorest parts of the world that Partners in Health has had as well as the successes over the last decade in getting antiretroviral treatments to AIDS sufferers in the poorest parts of the world, what a few years earlier people had thought could not be done.

        I believe the world is better when diverse people with a range of different types of knowledge and experience put forward their ideas and effort rather than putting trust in the hands of the few presumed somehow to know best. Steven Johnson's TED talk supports this idea, particularly for interdisciplinary convergence. Clay Shirky's TED talk and book Here Comes Everybody effectively makes the same argument. Broad participation in shaping the world seems actually 'safer," in preventing bad policies. Call it checks and balances or law of large numbers- more input protects against skew and error.
    • Feb 25 2014: Could not agree more Fritzie. Unfortunately, those who want to show their superiority are usually shouting and screaming over "dead bodies". We tend to see them more than the rest.
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        Feb 25 2014: There is a quotation I cannot now find that says essentially that you can get a lot done if you don't care who gets the credit. Obviously some people who aggressively seek the spotlight *are* successful as well, but collaboration and synergy among thoughtful, inventive people tends to be easier without lots of prima donnas straining for personal recognition.

        Are you not a design engineer? You probably have seen this play out often.

        As Vera initially wrote, competing like crazy with others is often dysfunctional and I would say completely counterproductive if you actually want people to collaborate with you. We see this sometimes in public life that someone claims to want everyone to work together or to bring everyone together but the person appears, rather, to want everyone else to fall in line behind him, because he is "right" or uniquely insightful for one or another reason he finds convincing and that he has successfully sold to some others. Some such people bristle at being questioned, which makes thoughtful and fruitful collaboration all the harder.

        Wars and "dead bodies", as you put it, do result from such attitudes.

        Fortunately there are loads of collaboratively-minded people as well pursuing goals effectively together, which may be less noticed publicly because there is no particular "poster child" for the undertaking. I have just read a wonderful account of the success of AIDS activism in this century, which involved a massive collaboration of committed people who were not aiming for personal acclaim.

        Successful collaboration, of course, involves speaking the truth to each other rather than just riding a bandwagon and may look like a network of highly engaged, independent creative people.
        • Feb 25 2014: Yes I have in more cases than I care to count, including in Academia. Most companies totem pole their workers and promote, give raises, and fire using this totem pole. And they wonder why some employees are uncooperative and hide data.
  • Mar 20 2014: """You say
    Is what we call Competitive Advantage stemming from our Prehistoric Instinct of survival - push, kill, get something before others?""

    First no one can prove that Prehistoric Instinct of survival existed. Its a theory

    """You say
    It is a primordial prehistoric "motor" in our character that still drives our society of non-stop-competitions, from fashion and "arts" to mindless fields of business fights and bloody war.""

    There is nothing called as prehistoric "motor", Humans fundamentally selfish and its not passed to them through genes. I will say, the first hunger that a baby feels after birth is the root cause for all his selfishness. The urge to fulfill the basic need is the motor and its in no way related to a prehistoric motor.

    """You say
    We still do not really comprehend how we CAN coexist together in peace. The most important step is to practice collaboration. There is no need to compete if we would be able to openly learn from each other.""

    Even if man openly learns from each other, he would still love to show off what he learnt and expect "claps". coexistence will not solve a problem, it will temporarily hold problems.

    """You say
    Everyone has something unique to offer, but as an individual. One can compete with him/herself perfecting skills and experience. """
    In my opinion, instead of offering something unique, a man can follow the footsteps of his ancient forefathers {Who dint pollute the world for their own greed} . Because When everyone offers something unique, that unique might also include gun inventions, bomb invention, nuclear inventions etc.

    """You say
    It will be no harmony and no sound balance in our society as long as we compete for all crazy reasons we can come up with."""
    Think of a drought and you have only one bread to buy from a shop for your son and ten kids are waiting in queue. What will u do?

    In short competitive advantage stems from our selfishness that came from the first hunger as a baby
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      Mar 20 2014: Hello Prakar, Thank you for noticing my topic.

      I see that your argumant against everything I have said is based on your own observation " the first hunger that a baby feels after birth is the root cause for all his selfishness." This cannot explain our contemporary psychology..

      A newborn baby has not built our existing society. This takes millenia of history - we must be blind to deny the PROCESS of how our society is forming.

      But you say "no one can prove that Prehistoric Instinct of survival existed. Its a theory "

      Please read this again: that primordial prehistoric "motor" in our character that still drives our society of non-stop-competitions.



      You say: There is nothing called as prehistoric "motor".
      These prehistoric competitions for vital sources and space and I trust our prehistoric psyche runs on a survival "motor".

      You argue " Humans fundamentally selfish and its not passed to them through genes." I'm not talking about any "genes".

      The last of your two comments on UNIQUENESS. Uniqueness is the law of nature who grants every individual living form its special abilities, strength or weakness, telant and intuition. I said -It will be no harmony and no sound balance in our society unless everyone keeps challenging himself to do his Unique best.

      Your argument : "When everyone offers something unique, that unique might also include gun inventions, bomb invention, nuclear inventions etc."

      You keep forgetting that those "gun inventions" etc are made-up to win bloody competitions.

      You suggest: "instead of offering something unique, a man can follow the footsteps of his ancient forefathers"

      Your arguments are clearly controversial

      I do not think that your theory
      "In short competitive advantage stems from our selfishness that came from the first hunger as a baby"

      is in any way convincing - it is an incomplete observation, isolated from history.
      • Mar 21 2014: Vera Nova,
        Kindly try to answer this questio of mines also:
        """You say
        It will be no harmony and no sound balance in our society as long as we compete for all crazy reasons we can come up with."""
        Think of a drought and you have only one bread to buy from a shop for your son and ten kids are waiting in queue. What will u do?

        ""You say: Uniqueness is the law of nature ""
        The law of nature does not pass anything to humans as humans are also Nature and not seperate from nature. All problems arises only when man including myself fails to realise that we are nature. We see as if nature is seperate from us. Some freethinkers even go to the extent of saying "Nature is god" and they forget that they are nature.

        ""You say:""
        You say: There is nothing called as prehistoric "motor".
        These prehistoric competitions for vital sources and space and I trust our prehistoric psyche runs on a survival "motor".""

        I believe that competitions for vital sources and space exist because of necessity. When a man has no necessity, he will not run for it. A motor as you say , If existed, makes man a machine who runs only on a motor and does not have a self will.

        Yes, In my view a man can follow his ancient forefathers footsteps, which will reduce his dependency on machines which leads to massive environmental pollution.

        I agree, As you have told , These are my observations and it can be an incomplete observation too as you say.
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          Mar 21 2014: Very much like your thought so far "We see as if nature is seperate from us. Some freethinkers even go to the extent of saying "Nature is god" and they forget that they are nature."

          (Though those who believe in Creator think they are a fragment of their Creator.)

          I'll get back to you a little later - thank you :)
  • Feb 27 2014: I will kill anyone to succeed in life because I also want to be called as MAN !!
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    Feb 27 2014: About 10 years ago, Paleontologist Richard Leakey visited Stony Brooks University. NY.

    I attended to see one of the most remarkable individuals of our time and to listen to his unforgettable lecture.

    He started with a story about his trip to London when he needed to replace his artificial limbs (Leakey lost his both legs after his plane crash in 1995.) In London he was crossing a busy street but one of his prosthesis leg broke. It was a rainy evening.

    Leakey could not get up on his own and somehow crawled to the sidewalk. It was an upscale area of London, where he was laying on a sidewalk under the rain, without any help - for over an hour. Well dressed and preoccupied with their own business people were ignoring him. They thought that man must be drunk, Leakey was guessing. After some time a real beggar helped him to get to the phone booth to make an emergency call.

    Then suddenly Leakey has pointed onto an image of the prehistoric skull of a very young man, displayed on the screen. Leakey then told a different story - this prehistoric skull had a horrific head injury but the injury was healed. Leakey explained that it was no possibility for a young injured man to survive even for a few minutes on his own.

    That young man was rescued, taken to a safe place, fed and even cured.

    The comparison that Leakey made was devastating: Postmodern London - and prehistoric African wilderness.
    ...........

    Students were "amused" reacting on Leakey's witty words, laughing and gigling during this lecture.

    I cried - feeling desperate..
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    Feb 23 2014: .
    Yes!
    Your are right. "It will be no harmony and ...."
    if we persist on making invalid happiness --- out of the validity range of our instincts.