Countless studies prove that human beings are social beings. We function better and are happiest when we have relationships with others. Family, friends, work colleagues, neighbours – we belong to all of these networks – and more – and within each we create emergent outcomes that are more than the sum of their parts.
Many of our most valuable achievements, from breakthrough scientific endeavours like the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick, to majestic art like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, are the product of more than one person. Even when an individual has a marvellous idea or makes a remarkable discovery, it is generally the case that this can best be developed and enhanced in co-operation with other interested parties.
So it is clear that we (potentially) work well together. But there may be more to it than that. Regardless of how much we may complain about others, on both an informal and formal level human beings tend to congregate. We do this instinctively whether in village or towns or cities, guilds, unions or clubs. Almost in spite of ourselves we band together – not always for the common good – but nevertheless together. And even in the midst of awful human behaviour, such as war, we are most effective (for good and evil) when we work as collaborative, co-operative units.
Our need for human contact is probably most simply demonstrated by our universal acceptance that solitary confinement – the deprivation of human contact – is universally seen as the harshest of punishments. And yet, notwithstanding all of that, most of our problems – personal and social – also spring from this area of life – social interaction.
The situation, therefore is this – we want to live together (mostly), we definitely need to live together, we tend to live together – the question is if we know how to happily live together? Surely it’s in all our interests to try to learn?