Increased Integration of the Scale of Cooperation Throughout History

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Daniel Christian Wahl citing John Stewart:

"“Integration has proceeded through a stepwise process in which living entities at one level are integrated into cooperative groups that become larger-scale entities at the next level, and so on, producing cooperative organizations of increasing scale”.

Cooperative advantage has driven major inventions throughout evolution: endosymbiosis — the evolutionary step towards nucleated cells (eukaryotic cells); multi- cellular organisms cooperatively integrate many such cells; and “cooperative groups of these organisms produce animal societies”. The trend towards increasing complexity of living networks through diversification and integration is a core pattern in the evolution of life, from the scale of molecules to cells, organs, organisms, communities and ecosystems, to biomes and the biosphere.

John Stewart argues that this “trend towards increasing integration has continued during human evolution with the progressive increase in the scale of human groups and societies”. He postulates that increasing diversification and integration “are likely to culminate in the emergence of a global entity. […] This entity would emerge from the integration of the living processes, matter, energy and technology of the planet into a global cooperative organization”.


Stewart observes that “whatever the evolutionary challenges, living processes can respond to them more effectively if they are cooperative organizations and if their actions are coordinated”. Life as a scale-linking planetary process thrives through the integration of diversity into circular flows of energy, matter and information which facilitate the emergence of collaborative and regenerative processes at local, regional and global scale. This creates shared abundance at multiple scales as the basis for individual and collective evolutionary success.

Integration through collaboration offers a number of advantages:

  • the opportunity to distribute key tasks in decentralized ecologies of collaboration
  • the opportunity to create abundance within planetary boundaries through the

sharing of common resource pools

  • an increased capacity for collective intelligence to inform our collective resilience, adaptive capacity and transformability
  • increased resource effectiveness as less energy and fewer resources are wasted on competitive interactions that damage systemic health
  • the opportunity to create networks of mutual support characterized by non-zero sum or win-win-win relationships"


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