As E.O. Wilson has said, land-dwelling, eusocial animals with opposable thumbs are in a good position, evolutionarily speaking, among the creatures of Earth. Yet our eusocial tendencies are perpetually at war with our more primitive instincts to kill or to flee. To a great extent, this ambivalence accounts for our inability to solve many of our most persistent human problems in spite of having reached an advanced stage of technological development.
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, whose work on decision-making and its implications for behavioral economics won him the Nobel Prize, proposes adversarial collaboration as a conscious strategy for disagreeing productively. It’s hard work, he says, as it requires a focus on the greater good rather than on our personal comfort, but if your goal is to advance human knowledge – or even your own well-being – adversarial collaboration is a sensible approach.