Why Humans Rule - Our imagination

Why Humans Run the World

I stumbled across this video last night and I found it pretty interesting.
If I were to summarize it.

  1. Because Humans have imagination
  2. They can cooperate FLEXIBLY in large groups by telling and believing great stories.
  3. This is in addition to small group cooperation where you know the people you are dealing with (family, small company...)
I wrote about the possible benefits of cognitive dissonance the other day, so this naturally flows with that idea of our ability to tell our selves and other stories for social cooperation and belonging.


This kind of story is easy to tell with respect to a leader wanting common values for his people, so he tells a story of a God who has laid out all these rules. But the video rightly goes into all the other stories we tell ourselves. From belonging to a country, to a political movement, to money, to human rights... These are all stories and ideas used for large scale cooperation. Sometimes for ill and sometimes for good.

Stories Versus Reality

Of course we as humans are blessed with both. The ability to create and believe in stories as well as perceiving reality.

For example, money is just a story we all need to believe in for a modern society to work. I must believe the money going into my bank account from work is to have real value. The restaurant I plan to eat at must also believe that money from my account is valid for him. We all need to believe in this story.

And in general it works as long as the story works with reality. Yet, if the story deviates too far from reality or starts to become inconvenient, then people challenge that story.

For example, if the government starts printing money or plays too many financial games or inflation kicks in, then people can stop believing in the value of their money. This has happened in the past and continues to today. When this occurs people no longer act according to the story and find ways around it. Be it by bartering, using the currency of other countries, or not working the way they are supposed to.

Or religion, which has suffered as its ability to organize society has largely been replaced by secular, national, political, legal organization. Not to mention the increasing education of citizens and the understand of science and technology.

It really is a delicate balance as the stories we believe in must help us in reality or people tend to overthrow that idea and the people in it, and adopt another story.


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