How many colors can we see? Around 4 million, but all of them are combinations of just three colors that our eyes are designed to see: red, blue, and green. There are three kinds of color-detecting cells in our retinas, and the precision of each is known. All those millions of colors come from combinations of three. Above is a map of the 4 million colors we can detect.

But, there are colors our eyes “make up,” like yellow. We actually don’t have yellow receptors, but other animals (eg, a goldfish) do. So a goldfish can tell the difference between pure yellow and the yellow that is created by mixing together red and green. We cannot. Dogs can see only combinations of blue and yellow. But, there is a freshwater shrimp that can see 12 separate colors!

All this to say, there is much more to our world than we are designed to sense. That is why it is dangerous to believe you know “all about” anything.

Dangerous? Yes, if you are going to address a systemic or structural issue that has high stakes associated with it, like climate change. It is a grave mistake to think you’ve grasped the totality. Instead, we have to rely on our collective intelligence to grapple with such enormous issues. That is one of the reasons why science is so powerful… because it provides a framework for the collective endeavor, allowing multiple people to contribute asynchronously. The end product is a collection of their activities. The same could be said for music or any other art form.

What might you do this week to contribute to a collective effort (teamwork) where your input can make a difference?


“Teamwork requires some sacrifice upfront; people who work as a team have to put the collective needs of the group ahead of their individual interests.”
– Patrick Lencioni