How to align self-interest with collective interest
While all of that is true enough in a sense, it fails to take the next step in looking at the strategic context of economic systems generally, and the failure of classical assumptions at that level.
Evolution is a topic best understood from many domains simultaneously.
It is important to get a feel for genetic evolution, and the sorts of physical contexts that were present and the frequencies of different classes of high impact events (like meteor strike – size frequency/impact scale, large volcanoes – size frequency/ impact scale, etc), and the roles of such things in the broader strategic mixes that can evolve and stabilise.
Understanding some of the details of the biochemistry of evolution gives one an appreciation for the profound subtlety and interconnection that can emerge.
It is also important to understand complexity theory, and the general classes of complexity that can exist, and the cost/benefits of attempting to compute costs and benefits in the different classes of complexity. David Snowden’s Cynefin framework is a simple but very effective approach to understanding complexity, both in terms of the sorts of constraints present in different types of complexity, and the sorts of strategies that are most efficiently applied. He uses four categories, simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic. All living systems seem to contain mixes of all classes of complexity. Sorting out which is which, and how one responds, is important. Our computational resources are finite, don’t waste them on chaotic domains.
It is also important to understand the exponentially expanding role of cooperation in higher levels of evolved systems. It is, to a good first order approximation, accurate to characterise all major advances in the complexity of living systems as the emergence of new levels of cooperative strategies with attendant strategies to prevent being overrun by cheats. And there is always something of an “arms race” with cheating strategies. Axelrod did some amazing pioneering work in this domain, and Wolfram has pushed the deeper boundaries.
Competition makes sense when there is genuine scarcity, and real competition cannot be avoided.
Cooperation always pays higher dividends when genuine abundance is present.
People are evolved for both modalities.
It seems clear to me that all modern economics is based in a scarcity modality, with specialisation and trade of surplus.
Through most of human history scarcity was real, and trade was of genuine benefit.
We are now in an age of automation that gives us the technical capacity to provide abundance to all.
Anything universally abundant has zero market value (by definition – just think of oxygen in the air, arguably the single most important substance to any human being, yet of no market value due to universal abundance).
Automation has the ability to deliver universal abundance of most goods and services to everyone.
That would break our market based system of values.
The question becomes:
What is more important, money or human life and freedom?
That is the question of our age.
Right now, the clear answer for most people is money, because they perceive scaricty.
I suspect that will change, rapidly, as people become aware that the images of scarcity and austerity that are their experiential reality are present purely to keep the market based system of money working, and for no other reason.
It is the value we give to money that traps us in scarcity – paradoxically.
Once one is able to see outside the box of money, the view is very different.
Real abundance, and the cooperation and security that come with it, are a real possibility, and by no means a certainty.