What if we’ve hit the limit of our capacity to get along? I don’t mean in the Mister Rogers way. I’m not talking about the tenor of our politics. My concern is more fundamental: Are we capable as a species of coordinating our actions at a scale necessary to address the most dire problems we face?
Because, I mean, look at us. With the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, humanity is contending with global, collective threats. But for both, our response has been bogged down less by a lack of ideas or invention than by a failure to align our actions as groups, either within nations or as a world community. We had little trouble producing effective vaccines against this scourge in record time — but how much does that matter if we can’t get it to most of the world’s people and if even those who have access to the shots won’t bother?
Global failures of cooperation are, of course, nothing new; we did have those two world wars. But now we’re facing something perhaps even more worrying than nationalist enmity and territorial ambition. What if humanity’s capacity to cooperate has been undone by the very technology we thought would bring us all together?
The internet didn’t start the fire, but it’s undeniable that it has fostered a sour and fragmented global polity — an atmosphere of pervasive mistrust, corroding institutions and a collective retreat into the comforting bosom of confirmation bias. All of this has undermined our greatest trick: doing good things together.
As the pioneering political economist Elinor Ostrom showed over a lifetime of research, there are countless examples of people coming together to create rules and institutions to manage common resources. People aren’t profit-maximizing automatons; time and again, she found, we can make individual sacrifices in the interest of collective good.
Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009. In her prize lecture she wrote that “humans have a more complex motivational structure and more capability to solve social dilemmas” than rational-choice economists have given us credit for. The key to unlocking these capabilities, she said, was building the right institutions. Capitalist markets and nation-states had taken us only so far. Now, she suggested, we needed to imagine new kinds of groups that could improve how humans innovate, learn and adapt together to take on looming environmental challenges.
She died in 2012, so she did not witness what came next: the rise across much of the world of conspiratorial alternate realities and intense polarization that have hampered progress on so many global problems. As a species, we are still searching for the institutions Ostrom predicted we’d need to focus humanity’s collective power. I hope she was right that we are up to the task — but I can’t say I’m optimistic.
Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of the cell. They help turn the energy we take from food into energy that the cell can use. But, there is more to mitochondria than energy production.
Present in nearly all types of human cell, mitochondria are vital to our survival. They generate the majority of our adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of the cell.
Mitochondria are also involved in other tasks, such as signaling between cells and cell death, otherwise known as apoptosis.
Never Doubt That A Small Group Of Thoughtful Committed Citizens Can Change The World: Indeed It's The Only Thing That Ever Has.