When competition doesn’t help
Those of us who are avid cycle sport fans (Or even competitors) know very well the dynamics of collaboration vs competition.
In an individual road race, if no-one has earlier broken away, and stayed away from the peloton (The leading bunch), then when the Peloton nears the finishing line at the end of a long day’s race, we are treated to a cat and mouse game, as the speed drops to sometimes even less than walking pace, as each rider jostles for an optimal energy saving position amongst the bunch, preparing for the final sprint, winner takes all. When a rider finally leaps forward into a sprint, all others will try to get into the slipstream of that leading sprinter, hoping to ride close, sheltered from the wind resistance, until the leader starts to weaken, and then seize victory by leaping out from behind the leader with a final burst of speed which they are holding in reserve.
This cat and mouse game at the end of the race is in stark contrast to the teamwork we might see earlier in the race, when each team works with the individuals in the team rotating in a chain, each member taking a turn of the full brunt of the wind resistance, riding at the front, for a few minutes at near maximum effort, and with each team taking a turn at the front of the peloton.
In general, the average speed of the peloton with all individuals and all teams working together is much higher than any of the individual cyclists, or any of their teams could maintain alone, with the result that the average speed of a race can exceed 30 mph (50 Km/hr), over a course of 200 miles or more.
That contrast, between the cat and mouse sub-walking pace game, and the streamlined 30+ mph earlier operation of the peloton is a stark illustration of the difference between collaboration and competition.
Collaboration gives us maximum productivity. In this state, we cover maximum ground in minimum time.
Competition, with the zero-sum goal of winner takes all, gives us minimum productivity. In this state we cover minimum ground in maximum time.
Proponents of the competitive world economy will often argue that our technological progress is as a result of the “Survival of the fittest”, winner takes all, competitive business model, and that this mimics nature.
And yet we see the negative effects on progress, of this kind of competition between individuals, and between teams, at least in a cycle race.
We also see impending planetary devastation if we continue down the road of unceasing competition.
There is nothing natural about that.
In fact, it seems whatever technological progress made to date may actually have been in spite of the competitive business model.
Who knows where we might be today if, instead of trade wars, cold wars, and hot wars, humanity had always worked together?
The answer is no-one, because we’ve never done it.
Isn’t it about time we tried it?