Bioethics Blogs

What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There: Failure Modes on the Way to Global Cooperation

By Joao Fabiano and Diego Caleiro (UC Berkeley, Biological Anthropology)

From single-celled to pluricellular to multicellular organisms or from hunter-gatherers to the EU, the history of evolutionary forces that resulted in human society is a history where cooperation has emerged at increasingly large scales. The major life transitions and, once human, the major cultural transitions have rearranged the fitness landscape of evolving entities in ways that increased the size of the largest existing coalitions. Notwithstanding, it seems that freewheeling evolution will not lead to satisfactory levels of global human cooperation in time to prevent severe risks. Nor it will lead to the preservation of human values in the long run; humans, human values, and human cooperation are in no way the end-point of evolutionary processes. One proposed solution for the lack of global cooperation is increasing our cooperativeness with the use of enhancement technologies. One proposed solution for the value preservation problem would be placing permanent constraints on these contingent multi-level evolutionary forces necessary for the continuity of human values; placing such constraints would also require a strong global cooperative structure.

We will gather a list of possible paths towards massive global cooperation and discuss how all of them fail; thereby drawing attention to the obstacles to achieving such state. By massive global cooperation we mean one where there are no strong sub-groups aggressively competing between themselves or with the global group. Arguably, this level of cooperation would both (1) drastically decrease risks that arise due to our inability for large-scale cooperation (e.g. the Ultimate Harm), and (2) would guarantee our values are preserved even if evolutionary unfit.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.