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Globalization and Empathy

My thoughts on humanity and its continuation.

Silicon Valley, while compared to the world is insignificant in size, actually puts into action values and practices that will prove to be incredibly revolutionary in structuring today’s globalizing world.

On this micro-scale, digging through the classes and the books, observers can find something deeply engrained in the community: empathy.

In a world that seems cruel and unforgiving, this idea rarely appears to exist, recent findings in the field of science may show that Silicon Valley holds the key to the master lock of survival.

Consider this: In a laboratory in Italy, scientists put a monkey in an MRI machine to figure out which parts of its brain were activated when opening a nut. While the monkey was trying to open the nut he saw a scientist walk into the room and start opening a nut as well. The results showed that the same neurons were lighting up in the monkey’s brain when it saw the scientist opening a nut as when the monkey was trying to do the same.

The study illustrated the development of mirror neurons. The existence of mirror neurons demonstrates that all humans are soft-wired to feel joy, anger, and frustration when they observe those emotions in other humans or animals. This implies that humans are not programmed for violence, greed, and aggression but rather for social ability, affection, and companionship. The main empathetic drive is to belong.

This drive exists in humans from the moment we are born. Consider, for example, babies’ experiences in the maternity ward.

When one baby starts crying, the others babies began to cry as well.  This is called empathic distress. They do not know why they are crying; it is built in our human biology.

At two-and-a-half years of age a child can then recognize himself or herself in the mirror and begin to develop mature empathy. This means that once they observe someone else have a certain feeling, they know that if they experience it as well it is because they have observed it in someone else.

At age eight many children learn about life and death, how fragile life can be, and how tough it is to be alive. With the understanding of these ideas, humans can feel others’ sufferings and celebrations and experience greater solidarity as a human race. It is mature empathy and mirror neurons that enable humans to find that common ground.

Since we are empathetic beings the question becomes how we can extend our empathic ties to others in the world. With the help of globalization we have been extending our empathy to more and more people around the world, due to the compression of time and space. Ideas are spreading faster. Countries are more dependent on each other. Supranational organizations are forming. I believe this is causing humans to feel closer.

For example, within an hour of the March 2011 tsunami in Japan people were writing headlines, Tweeting about it, and Face-booking about it. Within two hours people were receiving live video feeds from helicopters and airplanes. Within three hours, countries were sending aid to help the Japanese.

This is a great demonstration of how globalization and mature empathy unified the entire world to help Japan.

But we shouldn’t need disasters to bring people together in an empathetic embrace. Instead, we should experience this interconnectivity in daily life.

Silicon Valley’s community models an effective global society. Silicon Valley’s diversity cultivates a unique setting in which interconnectivity can thrive. Residents of Silicon Valley arrive from many other countries, a fact that is illustrated in the diverse communities in which we live.

Being called home by many, the Silicon Valley has broadened the area’s identity, the residents’ identity, and the international identity beyond the United States.

The diversity that the Silicon Valley creates is essential for the development of the human empathy that members of the community experience.

When global disasters happen in the world, the disaster affects everyone’s day especially in Silicon Valley, because of our understanding of human suffering and shared global identity, both of which result from mature empathy.

Even though many people believe that globalization is harmful to the world and the human race is tottering towards the end of its existence, I think the continuation of the compression of time and space is critical. Globalization creates an international community on a macro-scale similar to the international community that can be found at the Silicon Valley on a micro-scale.

I firmly believe that in order for the human race to continue as a species, the world must become a diverse place so that people can extend their empathy to everyone.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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