For over a decade now, the anthropologist Michael Tomasello has investigated the main differences between our species and the rest of the animal kingdom. Tomasello, who is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, has come up with a vast theory, based on the phenomenon of cooperation, as the main defining characteristic of our species.e

This theory has been fairly controversial, generating scientific debates that claim that other species, for example chimpanzees, are capable of cooperating among themselves, generally with the purpose of obtaining food, and even to feed their ill companions. Facing this statement, Tomasello devoted himself to an intensive study of the species and concluded that when these cooperate they do so based on a “for me” —or, they cooperate once they have seen to their own basic needs.

Moreover, human babies can point at an object with their finger, from the age of nine months onwards, not only to possess it, but also to make the other person think of the object. This is, according to the anthropologist, of a level of communication in which the child not only wants the toy, but he can also evoke it in the other person, share the feeling that it evokes in him.

Following this train of thought, in emergencies where humans perceive the danger that someone else is experiencing, often without speaking, so that in these circumstances they transfer their sense of empathy to help out. Tomasello believes that this manifestation of generosity constitutes the main defining feature that sets us apart from other species.

To him, the human being retains and intrinsic need to share and help. Social networks’ rise in popularity could be interpreted as a mass example of the latter. The exchange of information exposes a form of cooperation, which manifests the interest of making what we consider important accessible to others. In this sense, cooperation would be one of the finest evolutionary reaches of our kind, and better yet, it might actually increase over time.

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For over a decade now, the anthropologist Michael Tomasello has investigated the main differences between our species and the rest of the animal kingdom. Tomasello, who is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, has come up with a vast theory, based on the phenomenon of cooperation, as the main defining characteristic of our species.e

This theory has been fairly controversial, generating scientific debates that claim that other species, for example chimpanzees, are capable of cooperating among themselves, generally with the purpose of obtaining food, and even to feed their ill companions. Facing this statement, Tomasello devoted himself to an intensive study of the species and concluded that when these cooperate they do so based on a “for me” —or, they cooperate once they have seen to their own basic needs.

Moreover, human babies can point at an object with their finger, from the age of nine months onwards, not only to possess it, but also to make the other person think of the object. This is, according to the anthropologist, of a level of communication in which the child not only wants the toy, but he can also evoke it in the other person, share the feeling that it evokes in him.

Following this train of thought, in emergencies where humans perceive the danger that someone else is experiencing, often without speaking, so that in these circumstances they transfer their sense of empathy to help out. Tomasello believes that this manifestation of generosity constitutes the main defining feature that sets us apart from other species.

To him, the human being retains and intrinsic need to share and help. Social networks’ rise in popularity could be interpreted as a mass example of the latter. The exchange of information exposes a form of cooperation, which manifests the interest of making what we consider important accessible to others. In this sense, cooperation would be one of the finest evolutionary reaches of our kind, and better yet, it might actually increase over time.

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