The humanity from the dawn had to collaborate in order to have bigger chance for survival, so I would (always) vote for collaboration. Our basic communication tool (language) provided two main issues for the success: learning and passing the knowledge and the second is explaining or danger warning to other members of the pack.
On the other hand competition was, throughout our history, a driving force that continued moving humanity forward. It is most evident from the conflicts between tribes or societies. Imperialism, known from ancient times, is about economic expansion by grabbing defenseless countries (like Alexander the Great or/and Genghis Khan). Looting the countries for raw materials by forcing the labor to later force them to buy expensive manufactured goods is also accompanying humanity from dawns. But this competing attitude helped in driving developments that improved many aspects of life, and is continuing to do so. What else is globalization?
Definitely, conflicts were and are still part of our environment. And for them you need collaboration (again): to start or to solve them. But, on the smaller scale, could scientists in e.g. CERN compete with each other and still produce the same results as they do – or do they collaborate?
Continuing the struggle of thinking which one – collaboration or competition – yields better results, I would again like to say that it is collaboration: compare teamwork against solo or egocentric behavior of a player on the football terrain. Unfortunately, today we are often forgetting team play and are only competing with each other, against countries, environment… and not really understanding that there is no win for us while doing so. I think that for the progress towards a better world we should principally collaborate with one another and not compete against one another. Could this then be the ultimate goal?
There is always someone better than we are. There is always something to learn from. And there are also some moments to celebrate the victory and/or accept defeat.
Both, competition and collaboration, are necessary, depending on the purpose of usage. A competitive collaboration should be the hallmark of the progress. I believe that to be the only way the most complex products and systems in the world can be developed – Internet, Airbus, Space exploration program, to name a few.
In 1996 B. Nalebuff and A. Brandenburger’ book Co-Opetition came on the market. The topic is how companies first find ways to cooperate while building markets and then they compete between them for a fair share on the value they add.
So, generally, we collaborate to then compete. In the ancient times the tribe members collaborated but competed with other groups. Today is the same – isn’t it? And it will continue so in the future until our social brain evolves far away from (inherited) predatory animals’ basic instincts that drive our competition behaviors.