As a member of society, an individual, and as a human, my greatest weakness is by far in group collaboration; as far back as I can remember, my greatest deficiencies as a person have always been in my ability to effectively work with people on multi-person assignments. In the second grade, I got what would be my only “C”– it was the only project I did that required working with other people. I hated it very much, and tried my very best to make sure that I didn’t have to participate in group projects at all– so much in fact, that I often deliberately did the work of all my peers on projects where group participation was involved– I found that I could produce a superior product on my own, and as groups never output anything of real value, I deemed the very concept of “collaboration” to be inefficient, counter-intuitive, and possessing no merit whatsoever.
As I grew older and more intellectual, I perceived “group” involvement as the product of a need for social integration, “belonging”, and the inflation of one’s own Ego through participation in a cause extrinsic of oneself. The value of collaboration was a construct of the Ego solidified by being projected onto the SuperEgo, ultimately birthing what we know as Society. I further posited that Society, as the manifestation of the human SuperEgo, is inherently corrupt, inefficient, and utterly lacking in utilitarian value– after all, I know I could accomplish far more as an individual than Society (or at the least the American Society that I live in) ever has collectively. This kind of huge gap in power justified, from my perspective, the view that collaboration of any kind, and especially collaboration on a societal level, is a waste of time, energy, and resources.
However, it turns out that I was quite naive in such thinking, and completely misunderstand the complexities of Society of even of life itself, owing mainly to my own ignorance, and that ignorance was magnified by my own pretense of having abilities which, although theoretically possible for me to possess, I am far from being able to live up to, much less make a productive use of. Yes I can single-handedly solve world hunger, cure cancer, end world war, even give humanity immortality. I can, but I by no means actually will– after all, the necessary motivation for the accomplish such things must be far more than “to prove a point”; I must genuinely want to do such things, and to have the motivation to manifest such broadly humanitarian wonders, I must have the equivalent measure of humanitarian motivation, which I do not. After all, if I had such a strong and intensely pro-social motivation as that, I would have no problem collaborating, and together with other like-minded individuals, bring about these changes more efficiently.
Yes, collaboration can indeed more efficient than the work of a single individual, and it was not until I got involved in the concept of “open source” that I began to recognize this potential. I saw first-hand, in my use of Linux and open source software, how amazing of software that collaboration on open-source projects could produce. The behemoths of Red Hat, Ubuntu, Android, Google Chrome, Firefox, Vuze, Java, and Wikipedia– these could have never existed without the collaboration of thousands– sometimes tens of thousands of individuals working together on these projects.
But the importance of collaboration stretches even far beyond what I saw in open-source, which its value so crucial to civilization, that it actually justifies the existence of society. As I’m learning more and more about in Adam Smith’s “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” (the book which provided the foundation for the field of economics), collaboration is absolutely necessary for maximum efficiency in civilization; even the most mundane of objects, like a needle or pencil, could not be produced efficiently without the involvement of dozens, and ultimately hundreds of individuals dedicated to each individual step of the manufacturing process; even more so is it necessary in an entity as complex and multi-faceted as Society, to be maintained and improved upon via the group effort of its members.
Even now, I am at but at the tip of the iceberg of understanding the value of collaboration, but now, at the very least, I understand very well how important that it truly is!