It sounds reasonable @ this Long Now Talk by Edward O. Wilson:

Individual selection of genetic traits occurs when individuals compete with members of the same group on the basis of these traits.

Group selection of genetic traits occurs when groups compete with other groups on the basis of interactions of social individuals within these groups.

Looking at larger cooperations and alliances, both types of selection occur at once.

Overall, individual selection engenders selfish behavior (sin),
and group selection engenders cooperative behavior (virtue).


How to explain the fact that organisations and teams and governments (formed through both group selection and individual selection) can give rise to competitive behavior as well? For instance, starting a war together with a set of warlords, does both give rise to cooperative behavior and -at the same time- to competitive behavior. The same is through when starting a coalition with a set of universities.
Individual selection and group selection have different origins and cause different behavior. Let us not forget they do occur at the same time, and might influence each other as well.

As Steward Brand summarizes the second half:

Wilson’s alternative (to the mathematical prove against the influence of kin selection) he calls “multi-level selection,” where individual selection and group selection proceed together (with kin selection a continuing bit player). In our eusocial species, that mix of traits makes us “permanently unstable, permanently conflicted” between selfish impulses and cooperative impulses. We negotiate these conflicts endlessly within ourselves and with each other. Wilson sees inherent adaptive value in that constant negotiation. Our vibrant cultural life may be driven in part by it.

source: (at 34 min 50)

And here is some critique regarding Wilson’s multi-level selection.


Behavioral Timemachine

Interesting quote here, by Daniel Goldstein in his TED-talk (nov 2011), about the visual feedback of his behavioral time machine:

It’s not telling you which way to put the slider, it’s just reminding you that you are connected to and legally tied to this future self.

He uses a visual reminder to balance out an internal conflict of loyalty. In this case a conflict between a present and a future self.


Why not take this principle of a visual reminder into a context of inter-organisatonal cooperation? Imagine:

  1. using a trackrecord of emotions in an complex decision making arena, or
  2. a way to more easily discuss different scenarios, or
  3. a way to more easily discuss possible strategies of an alliance adapting to a dynamic context, or
  4. the repetative use of a recognizable visual grid for explaining – or better for reminding – and sharing the conflicts of loyalties at stake.

It is all about visualizing trade offs, as a reminder to some elements in ‘the equation of decision making’ that are easily forgotten, whether these elements accidentally repressed or not.


An act for the encouragement of learning

So if universities are here to develop and transfer knowledge, how should they be dealing with intellectual property?

This relates to the current debat about open access (2012: Harvard vs Elsevier), a case where research creates knowledge funded by the public domain. Although, it is clear that also Elsevier that uses the same principles of creativity, as suggested by ‘everything is a remix’ : copy – transform – combine.