Ideapod – Evolution towards less selfish

Ideapod – Evolution is leading humans to become less selfish and more kind

Agree to a very large degree.

As you and several others have noted, we are basically cooperative entities, we have to be as it takes children so long to reach an age where they can largely look after themselves.

Another reason is, that we are all so dependent on the technologies supplied by others that we have to cooperate to enjoy the benefits that technology brings.

Reading “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins in 1978 gave me my first real understanding of how cooperation can evolve, and started me on an exploration of the depths of cooperative strategies that are required to allow us to be who and what we are.

There is a lot of nonsense written about evolution all being about competition.
Understanding competition is an important part of understanding evolution.
And understanding how complexity emerges in evolution is all about understanding how cooperation emerges, and the sorts of contexts and secondary strategies required for it to survive.

And it is by no means a certain thing.
We are not purely cooperative.
Who and how many we cooperate with is very much dependent on context.
The more likely it seems that there is plenty for everyone, the more likely most people are to cooperate with everyone.
The more danger people see, the smaller the group most are willing to trust and cooperate with.
This poses major threats in several very distinct ways.

Journalists and advertisers long ago learned that our brains are tuned to direct our attention to threats. “Bad news sells” works most of the time. Hence, in order to get our attention, we are bombarded with bad news, real or created. This holds several dangers.
One danger is that we miss the real threats, hidden in all the “sales” threats (at all the different levels of sales present – including the political and strategic).

Some people are very sensitive to danger, and the constant and multileveled threat pattern can induce anxiety disorders that inhibit rational function – and often result in anxiety medication.
In most Western nations, about 25% of people who visit doctors are diagnosed with anxiety and or depression. That rate has been increasing.

Another distinct threat comes from the measure of value most common in society.
Through most of our history, most things were genuinely scarce, and having markets to trade things was a really useful way of creating and measuring value.
But few people think about the scarcity aspect of market value.
Anything universally abundant (like air) has no market value, however important it might be.
We are now developing automated technologies that allow us to deliver a large and growing set of goods and services in universal abundance.
But the market value of any universal abundance is always zero.

So markets must, of their own internal incentive structures, work against the delivery of universal abundance of anything.
In one sense, that is a working definition of structural poverty.
In another sense, it is the reason that markets and their value measure “money” are coming to the end of their social utility.

Fully automated manufacturing technology holds the promise of universal delivery of any product we know how to produce, as and when needed.
Now there are limits.
There is only so much energy we can safely use on earth. So there is a test of reasonableness. It’s not a new house every day. And a reasonably sized, safe, secure, self maintaining dwelling with all features known to be available and likely to be used, present and ready for use, could be available to anyone.

Anyone who travels could expect safe and secure and comfortable lodgings where-ever they went, provided reasonable notice was given (a day should guarantee high quality accommodation, notice times under an hour might result in something more tent like, yet still secure and comfortable).

Our current addiction to markets and money carries major risks.
Real security lies in massive redundancy and massive decentralisation, and the use of decentralised trust networks.

We could develop and deploy the technology to enable such things, and it will never be a “natural outcome of market incentives”.
For things to have market value there must be unmet demand.
Universally distributed manufacturing, and decentralised communication, transportation and trust networks make most markets redundant, and enable individualise to self actualise any way they responsibly choose (where responsibility in this sense involves limiting risks to the life and liberty of others).

So yes – we have the ability to create whole new levels of cooperation.
And yes, it is possible to characterise all major advances in the complexity of living systems as the emergence of new levels of cooperative behaviour.
And all pure cooperation is vulnerable to cheating.
So part of any real cooperative is being willing to put in the effort to detect, and remove any benefit gained by, cheating strategies.

And in a very real sense, cancer can be characterised as individual cells within a cooperative organism adopting modes of behaviour the result in use of system resources for the local benefit of that cell line and at risk to the organism as a whole (including that cell line that is no longer cooperative).

So short sighted selfishness is a danger to all, including the ones who are doing it, they just don’t see it.

Awareness of this (and the mathematics and logic that underlie the probabilities) is slowly growing.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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