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Harv Bus Rev. 2011 Jul-Aug;89(7-8):76-85, 164.

The unselfish gene.

Author information

  • Harvard Law School, USA. ybenkler@law.harvard.edu

Abstract

For generations, we have operated on the assumption that human beings are fundamentally selfish, and so we have built systems and organizations around monetary incentives, rewards, and punishments. That hasn't always worked very well. Now the tide is starting to turn. In fields such as evolutionary biology, psychology, sociology, political science, and experimental economics, researchers are seeing evidence that human beings are more cooperative and behave far less selfishly than we have long assumed. The success achieved by such collaborative offerings as Wikipedia, Craigslist, Facebook, and open source software has, in fact, a scientific basis. Dozens of field studies have identified highly successful cooperative systems, which are often more stable than those based on incentives. Moreover, researchers have found neural and possibly genetic evidence of a human predisposition to cooperate. Evolution may actually favor people who collaborate and societies that include such individuals. Organizations would be better off helping us to engage and embrace our generous sentiments rather than assuming that we are driven purely by self-interest. We can build collaborative systems by encouraging communication, ensuring that claims about community are authentic, fostering a feeling of solidarity, being fair, and appealing to people's intrinsic motivations.

PMID:
21800472
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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