Could you produce without other people’s help what the company you work for sells? A car, a computer, a pencil, a cup? Most likely not. Most likely almost none of our readers could. Why? Because our society is extremely specialised. It might seem scary to be dependent of others to such an extent that without them, our standard of life would dramatically drop, or we would not even survive. But our level of specialisation is one of the engines of progress. Progress happens when ideas have sex.
In his TED Talk Matt Ridley looks at how humanity made progress by exchanging ideas and objects, otherwise known as trade. He says that exchange creates the momentum for more specialisation, and more specialisation again the momentum for more exchange, and so on. Thus, exchange and specialisation raise our standard of living.
The conclusion Matt Ridley draws is pretty interesting: it is irrelevant whether some groups of people are more intelligent than others. What is important is how well they communicate their ideas and how well they are cooperating. We have created the “collective brain”. The meeting and mating of ideas is causing technological progress!
This talk leads to two topics we have written posts on before, diversity and gratitude. First: diversity. There seems to be a benefit in our being so different from each other. Only due to being diverse, the mating of ideas can work. In his book “The Difference - how the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools, and societies”, Scott E. Page even states that diversity trumps ability. Second: gratitude. Practising gratitude is one of the interventions many Positive Psychology researchers suggest to increase the number of positive emotions in our everyday life. Whenever we hold an object in our hands, we can think of all the people who contributed directly or indirectly to its creation, and be grateful to them. That’s something Buddhists have been practicing for centuries, and now research proves it to be something that can enhance our well-being.
When ideas have sex, they will improve our standard of living and our well-being.