That clip actually comes from 2017 Maps of Meaning 10: Genesis and the Buddha (Published on 27 Apr 2017) and the passage in question comes 12:49 into it.
The piece of the puzzle Jordan is missing
The essential piece of the puzzle Jordan is missing becomes clear between 5:20 and 5:38 in the first clip (12:49 into the entire lecture) – where Jordan asks “What the hell is irrational about me getting exactly what I want from every one of you whenever I want it at every possible second? Why is that irrational? And how, possibly, is that more irrational than us cooperating so that we can both have a good time of it. I don’t understand that.”
The answer to those questions is contained in a set of modern understandings.
One part of that set is understanding evolution, and the classical mischaracterisation of evolution as being about competition. The role of cooperation in the evolution is not well understood, but is fundamental to the emergence of complexity.
It seems accurate to characterise the emergence of all new levels of complexity as being the result of new levels of strategic cooperation. And to survive cooperation needs attendant strategies to detect and remove invasive cheating strategies. In modern society one can make a strong case that many aspects of our economic, legal, educational, social and political systems have now been captured by, and are phenotypic expressions of, cheating strategies.
Cooperation allows for specialisation, and specialisation delivers greater output quality and quantity than every individual having to do everything for themselves. As one example, no individual could ever make a modern computer, they are far too complex, and cooperation of many people over several generations has made them possible.
So cooperation can deliver levels of complexity that competition cannot.
The more abstract one takes that notion, the greater the impact.
Evolution is about what survives in different contexts. That is how it works.
In contexts where most risk comes from others like self, then competitive modalities tend to do best.
In contexts where most risk comes from external factors, then cooperative modalities can survive and prosper.
Recurs that as deeply as you desire (and watch out for the halting problem).
The second key part of that understanding is technological trends. Ray Kurzweil has shown conclusively that key technological trends are exponential (doubling about every year). Automation is expanding, allowing us to do more with less, thus making universal abundance of a large and growing set of goods and services a real possibility.
But ….. anything universally abundant in a market has zero value (like the air we breath, arguably the single most valuable commodity to any of us, yet of no market value because it is universally abundant).
Markets and money as measures of value are fundamentally based in scarcity. That was arguably sensible when most things were scarce.
Now that we have the ability to generate ever greater sets of universally abundant goods and services, the very idea of markets as a useful measure of value starts to fail.
So not only is God dying, but so is Money and the need for Labour to survive.
A third key idea is the idea of individual life, individual survival. We are now very close to being able to extend individual life indefinitely. Science is rapidly approaching the ability to modify our bodies to live on indefinitely at their physiological peak, immune to most disease and able to recover quickly from most forms of accident. Sure death from severe accident will always be a possibility, and it is likely to become very rare indeed.
The 4th key part is understanding that all of our desires seem to be at base the result of the survival of something over deep time in some combination of genetic and cultural factors.
Given the exponential nature of change in our time, the probability that some of our older and deeper feelings are not going to be appropriate to our current reality is actually quite high.
We all rely on our subconscious abilities to act in the real world. Consciousness is too slow to move in reality – just try maintaining balance consciously – please do so surrounded by cushions to prevent injury when you fall.
Thus we must all be willing to re-examine many of our deeper feelings in the light of our current context of being, and to do what seems necessary to retrain or re-contextualise our experience of being to something that supports life and liberty in a modern cooperative technological context.
So one can now make the rational determination, that given the exponential increase in the ability of technology to deliver benefit, and given the possibility of living a very long time, the rational choice for anyone interested in gaining maximum benefit over their lifetime, is to cooperate with others to minimise risk to life and liberty, and to build social agreement to that end.
Part of minimising risk is to make as large a set of goods and services as is physically possible (given energy, mass, security and ecological constraints) universally available in as distributed a fashion as is possible (massive redundancy being the simplest of strategies to minimise risk).
In this way, rational self interest requires of each of us that we constrain our immediate “want”s and desires within the constraints of whatever social agreements we have made that are necessary for the minimisation of risk to life and liberty generally, or to a higher standard, within the constraints of what we as individuals see as being in our long term best interests (whichever involves the greater degree of restraint).
[Continued next day. Last night had an evening discussing the question of the existence of God with a few friends, one of whom is a priest. A very interesting evening. Today watched the balance of Jordan’s lecture. Superb!!!]
There are aspects of this that I didn’t explicitly explore in the above, the aspect of freedom and its relationship to being human, and the related aspect of morality.
Jordan in his lectures stresses the value of the willingness to face risk, go out into the chaos, and bring back something of value. That is a powerful approach.
It seems that as humans we have many levels to our being.
We have aspects that come from our biology, that prepare us for survival through the sorts of contexts that have happened in the deep time of our evolutionary history (billions of years).
Over the last few million years those patterns seem to have deeply predisposed us to cooperative behaviour in most contexts.
Built on those we have culture, the things we learn both consciously and subconsciously from the social context of our lives – stories, skills, relationships to feelings, etc that have survived through to us now. All of these are imitations and habits in some sense.
Then we have the ability to question, to make distinctions and abstractions for ourselves (not merely to be led to the distinctions and abstractions pointed to by others – though there will be far more of those than the ones of our own original creation).
As humans we also seem to have a power of choice.
That power seems to be available at many different levels (perhaps potentially infinitely many).
Now layered into that seems to be the fact of our evolution.
Evolution is all about survival.
What survives continues, stays in existence.
This happens at all levels, simultaneously.
Our self aware consciousness seems to be a very recent addition, probably less than 100,000 years old and perhaps even less than 10,000 years old, but we have very little evidence as to exactly how old. Prior to that, it was just patterns surviving (or not).
Last night the topic of morality was raised, and we watched a clip of a debate between William Lane Craig and Lewis Wolpert – where Craig made the claim “without God there isn’t any absolute standard of right and wrong and therefore what we call moral values are just the spin-offs of socio-biological evolution.” Craig says that like it is something final, some end to the argument.
In the sense that, if one accepts that there are absolute standards of right and wrong, then it takes something like a God to put those in place, then Craig has a point. But one has to accept the premise that absolute standards of right and wrong are real in order for that argument to have any meaning.
If one does not accept that argument, then what else might account for morality?
If we look across cultures, we do not tend to see any such thing.
What we see are some things that are very much more likely than others, like prohibitions against murder, except for defense.
Part of the issue comes from David Hume, and his claim that “one cannot derive an ought from an is”. In a simple sense that is true, but we are not simple, and our history is not simple, and the idea that human beings are simple is a very simplistic model of something that is vastly complex.
What seems to actually be the case, is that our basic moral sense is the result of the survival of patterns over deep time.
For a species that has children that require extended parental care, then cooperation is fundamental to survival in many different ways. And as Axelrod clearly demonstrated, raw cooperation is vulnerable to cheating, and requires secondary strategies to prevent cheats from over-running the cooperative.
Morality is precisely this sort of secondary meta strategy (looked at purely in an evolutionary context of the survival of things over deep time).
So in this sense, of the survival of patterns, the very impulse to moral thought seems to be derived from the fact that social groups with it were more likely to sustain long term cooperation than groups without it. In this sense, which is a complex meta sense, the very notion of “ought” is derived from the “is” of survival. That is not a simple notion, it is a very complex notion, incorporating some 20 levels of complex systems.
If one wishes to continue to have a long term probability of survival, or one wishes that for one’s descendants, then we all need to follow that sort of “ought”.
I do value survival – my own and every one else’s.
I also value my liberty. And liberty in this sense is choice of actions within the sets of possible actions that optimise the probability of continued life and maximise the degrees of liberty for myself and all others.
Anything that threatens those is a risk to be mitigated.
No-one has moral authority to unreasonably threaten the life or liberty of another (and liberty in this sense is not the set of all possible actions, but the set of actions that do not pose unreasonable risk to others). Life and liberty require constraints. Without constraints complexity of anything is impossible – everything becomes amorphous goo. It takes boundaries, constraints, to create any sort of differentiation.
Sustaining complex societies requires constraints, restraints.
In this sense I strongly align with Jordan Peterson’s view, that the existence of us all is predicated on constant exploration of the boundary between order and chaos.
Our humanity exists on that boundary. Too much order we have boredom. Too much chaos and we get some set of anxiety disorders.
That boundary is different for us all.
And as a species, we require our adventurers, our heroes, to go out into the unknown and come back with new elements that add to the wealth and experience of being human.
As individuals we each need our adventurous and heroic aspects, as part of the complex set of what we are.