cooperation

Crocodiles work as a team to hunt their prey

Recent studies have found that crocodiles and their relatives are highly intelligent animals capable of sophisticated behavior such as advanced parental care, complex communication and use of tools for hunting.

New University of Tennessee, Knoxville, research published in the journal Ethology Ecology and Evolution shows just how sophisticated their hunting techniques can be.

Crocodiles and alligators were observed conducting highly organized game drives. For example, crocodiles would swim in a circle around a shoal of fish, gradually making the circle tighter until the fish were forced into a tight “bait ball.” Then the crocodiles would take turns cutting across the center of the circle, snatching the fish.

Sometimes animals of different size would take up different roles. Larger alligators would drive a fish from the deeper part of a lake into the shallows, where smaller, more agile alligators would block its escape. In one case, a huge saltwater crocodile scared a pig into running off a trail and into a lagoon where two smaller crocodiles were waiting in ambush — the circumstances suggested that the three crocodiles had anticipated each other’s positions and actions without being able to see each other.

Vladimir Dinets. Apparent coordination and collaboration in cooperatively hunting crocodilians. Ethology Ecology & Evolution, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/03949370.2014.915432

It’s time to start imagining a society that isn’t dominated by police.

After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands. The moderates in this debate typically qualify their rhetoric with “We all know we need police, but…” It’s a familiar refrain to those of us who’ve spent years in the streets and the barrios organizing around police violence, only to be confronted by officers who snarl, “But who’ll help you if you get robbed?” We can put a man on the moon, but we’re still lacking creativity down here on Earth.

But police are not a permanent fixture in society. While law enforcers have existed in one form or another for centuries, the modern police have their roots in the relatively recent rise of modern property relations 200 years ago, and the "disorderly conduct" of the urban poor. Like every structure we’ve known all our lives, it seems that the policing paradigm is inescapable and everlasting, and the only thing keeping us from the precipice of a dystopic Wild West scenario. It’s not. Rather than be scared of our impending Road Warrior future, check out just a few of the practicable, real-world alternatives to the modern system known as policing:

  1. Unarmed mediation and intervention teams


Unarmed but trained people, often formerly violent offenders themselves, patrolling their neighborhoods to curb violence right where it starts. This is real and it exists in cities from Detroit to Los Angeles. Stop believing that police are heroes because they are the only ones willing to get in the way of knives or guns – so are the members of groups like Cure Violence, who were the subject of the 2012 documentary The Interrupters. There are also feminist models that specifically organize patrols of local women, who reduce everything from cat-calling and partner violence to gang murders in places like Brooklyn. While police forces have benefited from military-grade weapons and equipment, some of the most violent neighborhoods have found success through peace rather than war.

  1. The decriminalization of almost every crime


What is considered criminal is something too often debated only in critical criminology seminars, and too rarely in the mainstream. Violent offenses count for a fraction of the 11 to 14 million arrests every year, and yet there is no real conversation about what constitutes a crime and what permits society to put a person in chains and a cage. Decriminalization doesn’t work on its own: The cannabis trade that used to employ poor Blacks, Latinos, indigenous and poor whites in its distribution is now starting to be monopolized by already-rich landowners. That means that wide-scale decriminalization will need to come with economic programs and community projects. To quote investigative journalist Christian Parenti’s remarks on criminal justice reform in his book Lockdown America, what we really need most of all is “less.”


  1. Restorative Justice


Also known as reparative or transformative justice, these models represent an alternative to courts and jails. From hippie communes to the IRA and anti-Apartheid South African guerrillas to even some U.S. cities like Philadelphia’s experiment with community courts, spaces are created where accountability is understood as a community issue and the entire community, along with the so-called perpetrator and the victim of a given offense, try to restore and even transform everyone in the process. It has also been used uninterrupted by indigenous and Afro-descendant communities like San Basilio de Palenque in Colombia for centuries, and it remains perhaps the most widespread and far-reaching of the alternatives to the adversarial court system.

  1. Direct democracy at the community level


Reducing crime is not about social control. It’s not about cops, and it’s not a bait-and-switch with another callous institution. It’s giving people a sense of purpose. Communities that have tools to engage with each other about problems and disputes don’t have to consider what to do after anti-social behaviors are exhibited in the first place. A more healthy political culture where people feel more involved is a powerful building block to a less violent world.

  1. Community patrols 


This one is a wildcard. Community patrols can have dangerous racial overtones, from pogroms to the KKK to George Zimmerman. But they can also be an option that replaces police with affected community members when police are very obviously the criminals. In Mexico, where one of the world’s most corrupt police forces only has credibility as a criminal syndicate, there have been armed groups of Policia Comunitaria and Autodefensas organized by local residents for self-defense from narcotraffickers, femicide and police. Obviously these could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact. Power corrupts, but perhaps in Mexico, withering power won’t have enough time to corrupt.

  1. Here’s a crazy one: mental health care


In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed up the last trauma clinics in some of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. In New York, Rikers Island jails as many people with mental illnesses "as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined," which is reportedly 40% of the people jailed at Rikers. We have created a tremendous amount of mental illness, and in the real debt and austerity dystopia we’re living in, we have refused to treat each other for our physical and mental wounds. Mental health has often been a trapdoor for other forms of institutionalized social control as bad as any prison, but shifting toward preventative, supportive and independent living care can help keep those most impacted from ending up in handcuffs or dead on the street.

A new study of hunter-gatherers suggests social networks sparked evolution of cooperation

  • by Jake Miller

"Ancient humans may not have had the luxury of updating their Facebook status, but social networks were nevertheless an essential component of their lives, a new study suggests.

The study’s findings describe elements of social network structures that may have been present early in human history, suggesting how our ancestors may have formed ties with both kin and non-kin based on shared attributes, including the tendency to cooperate. According to the paper, social networks likely contributed to the evolution of cooperation.

“The astonishing thing is that ancient human social networks so very much resemble what we see today,” said Nicholas Christakis, professor of medical sociology and medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and senior author on the study. “From the time we were around campfires and had words floating through the air, to today when we have digital packets floating through the ether, we’ve made networks of basically the same kind.”

“We found that what modern people are doing with online social networks is what we’ve always done—not just before Facebook, but before agriculture,” said study co-author James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, who, with Christakis, has authored a number of seminal studies of human social networks.

Roots of altruism

The natural world, red in tooth and claw, has a gentle side. While individuals compete fiercely to ensure the proliferation of their progeny, a few animals, including humans, also cooperate and act altruistically. Researchers have wondered if human social networks are a product of modern lifestyles, or if they could have emerged under the kind of conditions that our distant ancestors faced. This question has been challenging for classic evolutionary theory to explain neatly.

For cooperation to arise, an altruistic act, like sharing food with a non-relative, must have a net benefit for the sharers. Otherwise, purely self-serving individuals would outcompete and eventually replace the selfless. All theoretical explanations for the evolution of cooperation—kin selection, reciprocal altruism, group selection—rely on the existence of some system that allows cooperators to group together with other individuals who tend to share.

“If you can get cooperators to cluster together in social space, cooperation can evolve,” said Coren Apicella, a post-doctoral research fellow in Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School and first author on the paper. “Social networks allow this to happen.”

While it is not possible to quiz our distant ancestors about their friendships or habits of sharing and collaborating, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Cambridge have characterized the structure of social networks among the Hadza, an ethnic group in the Lake Eyasi region of Tanzania, one of the last surviving groups of hunter gathers. (There are less than 1,000 Hadza left who live in the traditional way).

Getting connected

The Hadza lifestyle predates the invention of agriculture. The Hadza eat a wide range of wild foods, foraging for tubers, nuts, and fruit and hunting a great variety of animals, including flamingos, shrews, and giraffes. Honey is one of their favorite foods, known by half a dozen different names in Hadzane, their primary language.

Apicella took the lead in collecting the data for the study, interviewing 205 adult Hadza over the course two months, measuring their tendency to cooperate and mapping their friendships.

Apicella, Fowler and Christakis designed the study and experiments, working with Frank Marlowe, lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology of the University of Cambridge, and author of the only book-length ethnography on the Hadza in English.

Collecting the data was not easy. The nomadic Hadza roam over 4,000 rugged square kilometers. Apicella and her research assistants travelled the region by Land Cruiser battling mud-drenched trails—at one point forcing her and her colleagues to pave the ground with felled trees—and, on an earlier trip, even fleeing a horde of marauding elephants.

In order to construct a social network, Apicella and her colleagues took a dual approach. First, they asked Hadza adults to identify individuals they would prefer to live with in their next encampment. Second, they gave each adult three straws of honey and were told they could give these straws as gifts to anyone in their camp. This generated 1,263 campmate ties and 426 gift ties.

In a separate activity, the researchers measured levels of cooperation by giving the Hadza additional honey straws that they could either keep for themselves or donate to the group” (read more).

(Source: Heritage Daily)

The Perfect Tie for Every Outfit

The piece: http://tartangrand.com/product/kensington-tie/

Most guys don’t wear ties every day so when you get a chance to look a little bit spiffy, I think it’s important to make the best of it. How I judge a tie is by the number of compliments I get on it. Average ties blend with your look. Great ties create your look.

This past week, I was lucky enough to stumble across a fantastic piece from an independent Canadian brand, Tartan Grand. They call it the Kensington Handmade Tie and it’s a 100% wool skinny tie that I love to wear with white and neutral coloured shirts. The first thing that caught my attention was the subtle details of the design. It’s a salt and pepper-ish light grey with little specks of colour that make the tie really stand out.

And I was extremely impressed with the quality of the wool construction. With a lot of the wool ties I come across, the wool is either too soft or too tough and often a little too thick. This one is a balanced piece. What’s more important in fashion than balance?

It’s a versatile piece that works well with casual and formal outfits. I’ve worn it to both with excellent results.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I got. You can buy it here for a $34: http://tartangrand.com/product/kensington-tie/ and you can use my exclusive promo code “MENSTYLE1” for 15% off. Watch out for a contest for a free tie next week!  

Helen Keller, "On Competition," 1918

People who think about such matters realize that the competitive system by which the affairs of the world are conducted today has not proved satisfactory. Growing numbers perceive that there may be a better plan, a better social order. It is self-evident that our institutions should make us all reasonably happy. That the majority of human beings upon this planet are not happy is obvious. People more and more are recognizing that some fundamental changes in the method of conducting the world’s business must take place before all departments of human endeavor coordinate, and that until coordination is secured, there will be injustice, exploitation, waste and wars. Now competition is one of the primary obstacles in the way of coordinating man’s efforts to secure justice, freedom, efficiency and lasting peace.

We have been taught that competition is healthy, necessary, that to destroy it would be to sap the springs of energy and individualism. It is insisted, without it life would be harder and more unpleasant even than it is. No more work would be done than was absolutely necessary. The business man would not rise early. He would not spend the whole day in his office. Industry and trade would stagnate. No new markets would be opened; there would be no fluctuation of prices; there would be no excitement, no incentive. Life would become dull, monotonous. Life would not be worth while without the keen edge of competition. Men would lost ambition, and the race would sink into dull sameness, compared with which peas in a pod would present a pleasing variety.

This whole argument is a fallacy. Whatever is worth while in our civilization has survived in spite of competition. Under the competitive system the work of the world is badly done. The result is waste and ruin. Things will never be better until cooperative production is substituted for competitive production.

Primarily; industrial life is rent by competition. Profit is the aim, and the public good is a secondary consideration. Competition sins against its own pet god efficiency. In spite of all the struggle, toil and fierce effort the result is a depressing state of destitution for the majority of mankind. Competition diverts man’s energies into useless channels and degrades his character. It is immoral as well as inefficient, since its commandment is, “Thou shalt compete against thy neighbor.” Truthfulness, honesty, consideration for others, such a rule does not foster. But it does foster selfishness, want of sympathy, cheating, adulteration of goods and the making  of worthless cheap wares. Competitors are indifferent to each other’s welfare. Indeed, they are glad of each others’ failure because they find their advantage in it. Compassion is deadened in them by the necessity they are under of nullifying the efforts of their fellow-competitors.

This order is founded upon injustice and supported by force. It gives the land on which all must live into the hands of a few; it squanders vast sums on war, and meets the demands of working-men for higher wages and better conditions with indifference or resistance. Under such a system unhappiness is the rule, and happiness the exception. Disease is common; sound health is rare. The majority are in want while the minority live in luxury.

Finally, to every nation comes a moment when “a good war” is the only remedy for internal disorder. “A good war” is the comfort of despair. That is the sort of war [World War I]that is rending the world today. “Each for himself” is a selfish, soulless rule. “Each for all” is much more stimulative and effective. Cooperation, or combined control, achieves a far greater result not only for the whole, but also for the individual.

Competition is wasteful of labor and laborers. It exploits the workers to such an extent that they are too poor to buy what they themselves produce. In a fever of production competition piles up masses of goods for which there is no market at home. As a consequence of over-production we have armed competition of governments, and the world is periodically plunged into war with the object of opening foreign markets for the surplus. The present world war is a monstrous example of the warfare of competition. Look at all the commercial countries at this moment. What is the supreme aim of their governments? Markets. All over the world they are hunting for undeveloped countries to “shoot” their commodities into, while millions of their own people are hungry, cold and naked. Thus we have the amazing spectacle of great armies and navies composed of the exploited workers competing with each other, enduring terrific hardships and unimaginable sacrifice, in order to dispose of the fruits of their own labor for the benefit of a privileged few in their respective countries! What an outrageous, unthinkable state of affairs! For these reasons competition is a great sin, the cause of incalculable misery, waste and ruin. None of the evils enumerated in this indictment is accidental or temporary. They are an inevitable result of the present social order. Away with this order then — this competitive, capitalistic order with its ruling of class by class, its courts of injustice, its hypocrisies, its clashing interests, its shocking contrasts, its  wars and its uncertain peace. I say, this competitive system has been a long, costly experiment, and has failed.

What Libra values the most: true cooperation. While cooperation doesn’t sound too important it is what Libra ultimately desires from friends and lovers. They want a teammate, a true partner, someone who is an equal not a caretaker, provider, or friends with benefits. Cooperation is key to having this team dynamic.

디자이너에게 부탁하기

최근에는 디자이너에게 딱히 디자인을 의뢰할 일이 없어졌지만, 나는 디자이너에게 부탁할 때 특별히 의식해서 조심하는 부분이 있다. 내가 이걸 의식하기 때문에 다른 사람이 디자이너에게 무언가를 요구할 때도 주의가 갈 때가 많은데, 다른 사람들은 내가 주의하는 것을 신경쓰지 않을 때가 많았다고 느꼈으므로 블로그에 글로 써볼까 한다.

간단한 한 페이지짜리 프로그램 소개문을 디자인한다고 해보자. 나는 디자인을 못하므로 디자이너에게 디자인을 부탁하게 된다. 그런데 결과로 나온 시안을 보니 글씨가 작아서 눈이 나쁜 내게는 잘 읽히지가 않는다. 그래서 디자이너에게 이렇게 말한다.

“본문 글씨가 작은데 좀 키워주실 수 있나요?”

이 부탁을 어떻게 개선할 수 있을까? 나라면 종이를 눈 앞에 바짝 가져다 대고 이렇게 얘기하겠다.

“본문은 읽기가 어렵네요.”

혹은 아예 제3자의 사례를 들어서 설명할 수도 있겠다.

“저희 아버지한테 보여드렸더니 돋보기 안경을 쓰셔도 잘 안 보인다고 하시더라고요.”

나는 디자이너(뿐만 아니라 나 대신 어떤 문제를 해결해주는 사람들)에게 의식적으로 요구사항에서 내가 임의로 선정한 해결책을 배제하려고 노력한다. 왜냐면 그 해결책을 선택하는 것이 바로 그 사람들의 임무이기 때문이다. 글씨를 키워달라는 것은 내가 해결책까지 몽땅 제시했기 때문에 바람직하지 않은 요구다. 글씨를 키우고 싶으면 그냥 AI 파일을 받아서 내가 열어서 글씨 키우면 그만이다. 디자이너는 결코 스스로 포토샵 리모컨이라고 여기지 않으며, 실제로도 그렇다.

해결책을 배제하고, 대신 문제시되는 현상 자체를 잘 묘사하면 된다. 사실, 그것만으로도 대부분의 디자이너들은 만족스러운 해결책을 제시해줄 때가 많다. 본문을 못 읽겠다고 하는데 어떻게든 해결책을 내줄 것이 아닌가. 글씨를 키우거나, 혹은 글씨를 작게 유지해야 하는 이유가 있다면 다른 workaround라도 적용할 것이다. 어쨌든 중요한 것은, ‘본문이 안 읽힌다’라는 문제에 대한 해결책은 디자이너가 선택할 것이고, 만약 그 해결책이 여전히 문제를 만족스럽게 해결 못한다고 해도 “제가 눈이 나빠서 여전히 본문은 보이지가 않네요”라고 얘기하면 그만이라는 것이다.

이런 생각은 예전부터 했지만, 이런 태도를 실제로 지키려고 의식적으로 실천하게 된 것은 어떤 계기가 있기 때문이었다.

작년 초에 PyPy에 버그 리포팅을 할 일이 있었다. 나는 나름대로 문제의 원인도 파악했다고 생각해 내 추측을 함께 적어서 개발자가 디버그를 쉽게 할 수 있도록 썼다. 혹시나 해서 PyPy 커미터인 서상현 씨에게 초안을 보여줬는데 쓱 읽으시더니 해주신 조언이 이랬다. 이미 기여를 많이 해서 훤하게 아는 코드가 아니면 추측은 빼고 현상만 써라. 하긴, 추측이 딱딱 들어맞을 정도로 훤히 아는 코드면 버그 리포팅이 아니라 직접 고친 패치를 보낼 수 있었을 것이다. 가장 좋은 버그 리포팅은 기대한 출력(expected output)과 실제 출력(actual output)을 대비시켜 적는 것이다. 그리고 동일한 출력을 재현할 수 있는 방법을 쓰면 된다.

그런데 이게 결국 디자이너에게 요구 사항을 전달할 때도 마찬가지로 적용할 수 있는 태도이다. 내가 디자인 솔루션을 낼 수 있으면, 그냥 내가 직접 디자인을 하면 된다. 그럴 엄두가 안나면, 당신은 디자인을 못하는 것이니 디자이너에게 해결책을 맡기면 된다.

물론 디자이너가 일부러 “어떻게 하는 것이 좋을까요?”라고 솔루션에 대한 조언을 구한다면, 그 때는 주저하지 않고 자기가 생각하는 방법들을 제시하면 된다. 하지만 묻지도 않았는데 먼저 이렇게 하면 될 것 같다는 둥 해결책을 제시하는 것은 서로를 위해 안 하는 게 낫다고 생각한다.

I really, really dislike...

…the way that people discourage any solidarity between oppressed groups for fear that someone somewhere might make the mistake of thinking that our oppression is too similar.  I understand where the fear comes from, because I’ve seen the same train wrecks passing for advocacy that everyone else has.  But I seriously believe that losing the potential for solidarity between oppressed groups is a far more serious problem.

And I think that this discouragement is a symptom of a larger problem.  Where basically, people are going so much on their feelings, that they don’t think through a situation.  They don’t think through which situation is worse.  They just think through that one situation feels bad (and I know it’s more than that it feels bad, but the bad feeling is what people go on to make these decisions), so then it becomes a situation that must be avoided at all costs.  Even if the costs are so high that they could destroy a lot of important possibilities for solidarity, cooperation, mutual understanding, and helping each other in general.