The Human Puzzle

  • Patrik LindenforsEmail author


We are made of cooperating parts, both physically and psychologically. But what exactly is cooperation? Is cooperation on all the levels that make up humans and societies a similar process? The main idea is introduced, that cooperation resulting in emergent larger structures has common characteristics:
  1. 1.

    Similarity of cooperating parts.

    1. (a)

      In fraternal cooperation, cooperating parts are on a fundamental level alike.

    2. (b)

      In egalitarian cooperation, cooperating parts are not alike.

  2. 2.

    On each level, there exist control mechanisms that handle constituent parts that, having lost their independence, start acting egoistically.

    1. (a)

      In fraternal cooperation, such internal control mechanisms exist for culling or correcting overly ‘selfish’ genes , cancerous cells, criminal individuals, and bad ideas.

    2. (b)

      In egalitarian cooperation, mutual dependence functions as a similar control mechanism—breaking cooperation entails an immediate loss.

  3. 3.

    On every level, there is a surplus of redundant parts, resulting in robustness and resilience.

  4. 4.

    The constituent cooperating parts do not always reap immediate benefits from the cooperation, but sometimes the cooperation instead benefits some other, underlying unit which is the one that really benefits from the cooperation. All cooperation benefits the copying of the replicators —genes or memes .

  5. 5.

    Emergent properties, where the whole is more than just the sum of its constituent parts, are a result of specialization in the constituent parts.

  6. 6.

    Cooperation creates order from disorder by repeating the same procedure over and over.



Nerve Cell Constituent Part Mutual Benefit Collective Functioning Redundant Part 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Azevedo, F. A. C., Carvalho, L. R. B., Grinberg, L. T., Farfel, J. M., Ferretti, R. E. L., Leite, R. E. P., et al. (2009). Equal numbers of neuronal and nonneuronal cells make the human brain an isometrically scaled-up primate brain. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 513, 532–541.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Dawkins, R. (2001). Eulogy for Douglas Adams. September 17, 2001.
  4. Queller, D. C. (1997). Cooperators since life began. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 72, 184–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Rees, M. (1999). Just six numbers: The deep forces that shape the universe. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Study of Cultural EvolutionStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations