We project our life in relation to others, this is primarily related to our need for security. However, is making sure that we are always in the norm the best guarantee to have a bright future?
The mimicry that characterizes our species is not bad in itself: it favors social cohesion and reinforces our sense of belonging. However, when our life choices are conditioned only by comparison with others, we run the risk of never knowing where to go. Humans, in some respects, behave like a school of fish: together they believe they are less vulnerable, or at least the likelihood of being eaten by a predator is greatly reduced when you are drowned in a crowd of individuals. As you would have noticed yourself, a bird trial or a school of fish move in the same way: the movement of an individual A is essentially conditioned by the individuals B, …, N that surround it. This predictability of movement explains why it is possible to model on a computer such ensemble movements even though they seem totally random.
The problem with this predictability is that we believe we are free when in fact our behavior is totally conditioned by our fellow humans.
This apparent free will is dangerous because it leads us to make choices that do not maximize our survival or our well-being. In the short term, we can say that yes, we significantly increase our chances of survival, like fish. But in the long run, we may be subject to an organized attack – which we would call an “economic crisis” in the world of humans, for example – by several predatory fish that can only take a bite out of our group. In the case of a group of knowledgeable predators, they will seek out a school of fish first because their opportunity for gain is maximum.
It is the same for human life, we must know how to juggle between these two lives, the one anchored in a group and the more solitary one which allows us to make choices by having a better knowledge of the world. Learning valuable lessons by confronting life outside our herd or comfort zone is what the experience of venturing off the beaten path offers.
Personal and collective human progress occurs when we are able to integrate ideas that have been gleaned from outside our own school of fish. Living in a balanced way consists in being aware of our social dependence and conditioning in order to extricate ourselves from the group and realize our individuality, which is made possible by detachment from the influence of our fellow human beings.