…lacks flexibility. Bees cooperate in very sophisticated ways, but they cannot reinvent their social system overnight. If a hive faces a new threat or a new opportunity, the bees cannot, for example, guillotine the queen and establish a republic.
Social mammals such as elephants and chimpanzees cooperate far more flexible than bees, but they do so only with a small number.
…Their cooperation is based on personal acquaintance. If I am a chimpanzee and you are a chimpanzee and I want to cooperate with you, I must know you personally: what kind of chimp are you? Are you a nice chimp? Are you an evil chimp? How can I cooperate with you if I don’t know you? To the best of our knowledge, only Sapiens can cooperate in very flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. This concrete capability – rather than an eternal soul or some unique kind of consciousness – explains our mastery of planet Earth.
Long Live the Revolution!
History provides ample evidence for the crucial importance of large-scale cooperation. Victory almost invariably went to those who cooperated better not only in struggles between Homo sapiens and other animals, but also in conflicts between different human groups. Thus Rome conquered Greece not because the Romans had larger brains or better toolmaking techniques, but because they were able to cooperate more effectively. Throughout history, disciplined armies easily routed disorganized hordes, and unified elites dominated the disorderly masses. In 1914, for example, 3 million Russian noblemen, officials and business people lorded it over 180 million peasants and workers. The Russian elite knew how to cooperate in defence of its common interests, whereas the 180 million commoners were incapable of effective mobilization.
Indeed, much of the elite’s efforts focused on ensuring that the 180 million people at the bottom would never learn to cooperate.
In order to mount a revolution, numbers are never enough.
Revolutions are usually made by small networks of agitators