Your environment determines so much who you are and how you behave that the term "individual" is vague

Your environment determines so much who you are and how you behave that the term "individual" is vague

Although it is true that each of us is born with natural predispositions, and that much of who we are is the result of our socioeconomic position, our professional curriculum or our diet, all these influences are interwoven with the network of people who enter and it comes out of our everyday life.

Or as the Harvard University professor and social media expert Nicholas A. Christakis provocatively suggests in his book Connected: Your happiness depends more on what your friends and friends of your friends are like than on the money you have in your pocket. .

Redwoods and memes

The way your behavior is sifted by the behavior of those around you has some parallels with the existence of the sequoia , the tallest tree in the world (and also the largest creature in nature). The growth of Sequoia sempervivens is conditioned by the seed, yes, and also by innumerable environmental factors. It is also important that no lumberjack cut the redwood when it is only a young stem, or that the soil is deep and rich in nutrients.

But the immense height of the redwood will ultimately depend on a much more determining factor: the height of the surrounding redwoods. Redwoods grow to such a height because, among all, they dispute the sunlight, essential to carry out photosynthesis . Like some kind of arms race, they all depend on the sun to survive, so if a neighboring redwood grows larger, it will monopolize the light and cast the rest of the redwoods into shade.

This forces all the redwoods to be at the same height as the one that has decided to grow a little more than the rest. And so on, until a kind of ceiling imposed by the law of gravity is reached: at a certain point, the water absorbed by the roots is no longer able to rise higher to nourish the branches .

In his visionary 1978 essay Micromotives and Macrobehavior , the Nobel laureate in economics Thomas C. Schelling summed up in this way the invisible web that interrelates all our decisions and opinions and even our wishes and fears:

People influence other people and adapt to other individuals. What people do affects what other people do. How well people do what they want to do depends on what others are doing. How you drive will depend on how others drive; where you park your car will depend on where others park. Your vocabulary and pronunciation will depend on the vocabulary and accent of others. Whether you marry someone will depend on who you are dealing with, who will marry you, and who you are already married to. If your problem is that there is too much traffic, you are part of the problem. If you join a crowd because you like crowds, you make the crowd bigger. If you remove your child from school because of his classmates, you will remove a student who is their classmate. If you raise your voice to be heard, you will increase the noise that other people make raising their voice to be heard above everyone else. When you cut your hair, you will change, very subtly, the impression that other people have of people’s hair length.

The definition of "meme" was coined by the zoologist, ethologist, evolutionary theorist, and science popularizer Richard Dawkins in the last pages of his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. We could therefore affirm that all individuals are actually cobwebs woven from memes. In such a case, ideas about governing ourselves as individuals are doomed if we forget how important the environment is and, above all, our connections with others .

You can go deeper into this topic in this interview about the book Cultivate your memesphere :