Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We are all “Trading with complete strangers”

Follow up of Sauvik's Catallactics in Open Society article.

“Even the simple acts of buying food and clothing depend on an astonishing web of interaction that spans the globe. How did humans develop the ability to trust total strangers with providing our most basic needs?”

From The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life, by Paul Seabrigh

  • It is a phenomenon as remarkable and uniquely human as language itself. Most human beings now obtain a large share of the provision for their daily lives from others to whom they are not related by blood or marriage. Even in poor rural societies people depend significantly on nonrelatives for food, clothing, medicine, protection, and shelter. In cities, most of these nonrelatives crucial to our survival are complete strangers. Nature knows no other examples of such complex mutual dependence among strangers. A division of labor occurs, it is true, in some other species, such as the social insects, but chiefly among close relatives—the workers in a beehive or an ant colony are sisters. There are some cases of apparent cooperation between colonies of ants founded by unrelated queens, though the explanation of this phenomenon remains controversial...

    Full Introduction chapter is here

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