On Sharing Pizzas and Water

Suppose, I brought home 1 large pizza. Every slice of pizza I give to my sister, there is one less pizza slice left for everyone else in the common pool.

Clearly, sharing is the act of giving a part of a larger whole to someone else.

To illustrate further, suppose the cruise ship I was on ran ashore on a deserted island. There are 10 survivors, including myself. But unbeknownst to the rest, I managed to grab 1 litre of clean water when I escaped, while they have nothing. Every drop of water I choose to share will mean that I have less water for myself. Why should I share – especially when my survival hinges upon that measly 1 litre of water, that is barely enough for myself already?

It also seems natural to conclude that everything that we possess, once shared, we retain less of them. So why share?

In psychology, discussions of altruism in homo sapiens often centres around theories such as the ‘Selfish Gene’ proposed by Richard Dawkins, or the long-run benefits of reciprocal altruism. Invoking and discussing psychological theories is not my main objective today.

Rather, I simply want to encourage more people to share. To do this, I will illustrate how sharing can actually lead to increases in the value of what is shared, allowing both the sharers and receivers to benefit.

To see this, we just need to recognise that not all sharing results in losses.

Traditionally, people understood only 2 types of resources – raw materials and energy. These resources, once consumed and/or shared, will decrease in quantity.

However, we need to recognise a third type of resource – ideas. Ideas do not decrease in value when shared or consumed, they grow in value, sometimes exponentially.

Suppose in the classroom, your teacher teaches pythagoras’ theorem. As you and your classmates realise that for any right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is the sum of the squares of the other two sides, does the teacher understand that theorem less clearly? Obviously, the answer is no. Instead, as students gain new knowledge about pythagoras theorem, and the teacher too – learns new things, whether they be new ways of teaching math or more applications of the original theorem.

Knowledge and ideas are such incredible things. They do not diminish in value when shared, rather, they grow in value.

Eminent historian and author Yuval Noah Harari argued that the reason why homo sapiens grew to conquer the world, bringing about the current geological period of ‘anthropocene’, where our human activities left an indelible mark on the planet was due to our ability to cooperate flexibly en masse. Some animals can cooperate on large scale – just look at ants or bees! However, they cannot cooperate flexibly, bees cannot react to happenings in its vicinity and decide to overthrow the queen and establish a republic of bees. They live and function only according to fixed evolutionary instincts. Other animals can cooperate flexibly but only within small groups. A colony of monkeys will eagerly teach its members how and where to find the best bananas. But monkeys do not and cannot travel from one colony to another to share knowledge on banana-gathering. These animals cooperate only when they know each other personally, a foreign monkey will be bashed up, if not brutally murdered in no time. Eventually, the knowledge any colony has will eventually die along with it. He concludes that the only animal capable of flexible, large scale cooperation is homo sapiens.

Yet, look at homo sapiens today. The computer that I use to share my ideas are not created by me. The buses, trains and aeroplanes that bring me all around the world are not created by me. Yet they enable me, and us, to attend school, learn from each other and build upon the knowledge of others – to reach ever greater heights.

If we are convinced, then we can safely say that the world is not built on weapons, money or institutions. It is built on ideas.

To this end, I feel compelled to share the academic works that I have submitted to my school, on this blog. Some of these academic essays, reports, reflections and scripts are well-written and can benefit others who may chance upon them. So why leave them rotting in my private digital storage space, where no one will ever appreciate them again?

I will upload as regularly as I can, while making sure to not violate any academic rules and regulations of my school.

I hope we will all share any ideas we have, today, and everyday.

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One thought on “On Sharing Pizzas and Water

  1. Pingback: On the Balance of Power (Theory) | xiaolong.

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