The 8-million-year-old origins of Facebook

Before there were humans, there were chimps. And chimps shared.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor
Whether it's bananas or incredibly valuable personal information, we've always liked to share. Facebook must be grateful.


You couldn't have Facebook if people didn't like to share.

Fortunately for CEO Mark Zuckerberg and all the other leaders of social media companies, sharing is in our genes. In fact it's probably been there for a long time. A really long time.

Scientists from Emory University and Georgia State University, both in Atlanta, have shown that given a choice, chimpanzees will share an equal amount of rewards with each other, rather than keep the rewards to themselves.

They put modern chimps through a classic test known as the "ultimatum game," in which chimp B could decide whether to accept the offer of a token from chimp A. A white token meant the two would equally share a booty of bananas. A blue token would mean no grub for either. In the test, chimp A always offered the white token, B accepted, and the two primates regaled in a yellowy feast.

Lead researcher Darby Proctor and her team wrote about their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In a report on the BBC, Proctor says that, "Both chimps and people are hugely cooperative; they engage in cooperative hunting, they share food, they care for each other's offspring...It seems to me that the human sense of fairness has been around in primates for at least as long as humans and chimps have been separated."

For the record, that's been for anywhere from 8 million to 25 million years, depending on where you stand on the "missing link" (human evolutionary, anatomical links, that is, not the cyber variety).

Luckily for Zuckerberg et al, humans today are so enamored of sharing that they go ape over cyber-plastering all the mundane details of their lives.

They also go bananas over the opportunity to freely give away all their valuable personal information on which the Facebooks of the world profit.

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Image: Patriziasoliani via Flickr

Other Facebook ruminations by this writer:

And more genes, DNA and cyber behavior through the ages on SmartPlanet:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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