How Important is Empathy?


According to my buddy John M. Roberts, who's created a book and a whole series of lectures around the idea, empathy is one of the most crucial survival skills of the 21st century, and becoming more important every day. It's an interesting argument. In a world whose population is quickly approaching seven billion, competition for limited resources -- land, power, food, clean water -- is only going to get fiercer and fiercer, and the only way we're going to be able to ride out the coming century is by working together. But for millions of years of human evolutionary development, he argues, empathy has not been an important survival skill. "Look out for number one" was the best way to make it through life as an early human -- and changing that instinct isn't easy. But according to John, our future just may depend on it -- and on developing an awareness of how our actions affect other people (and future generations). Selfishness and cynicism are the enemy.

Anyway, check out this Tedx talk John gave in New Zealand awhile back and let us know what you think. I'm expecting a lively comments thread on this one!