Assault on ethics

The Assault on Ethics

I seriously question the use of the term “the natural struggle for power”.
As someone who has had a strong interest in the reality and logic of evolutionary biology for over 50 years, the common notion that there is a “natural struggle for power” is not accurate.

As a general rule, the more complex the organism, the greater the role of cooperation in the survival of that species.

We are the most complex, and the most cooperative, species on the planet.

The idea that our existence is little more than the struggle for power is nothing short of a cancer on our culture. It is demonstrably false.

Our survival, as individuals and as a species, is far more about how we cooperate – at every level.

To a good first order approximation, cooperation is the fundamental defining characteristic of human beings.

We have a name for cells in our body that stop cooperating and start selfishly hoarding resources and reproducing without reasonable control – it is called cancer.
It is often fatal if the immune systems evolved to identify and remove it are in any way compromised (and our modern diet compromises our immune systems at many different levels – biological and cultural).

The extremes of market capitalism are exactly equivalent to cancer in our society.

And to be 100% clear, I am not arguing for central control or for equality of outcome. And I am arguing that our survival as a species hinges on us developing systems that ensure that every individual has the resources to survive and to responsibly exercise reasonable degrees of freedom. In the current context that seems best done via some sort of universal basic income. And that is no panacea to all problems, as it comes with a whole new set of problems, but as a set it seems clear to me that they pose substantially less of an existential risk to us all than the current system.

And UBI does in fact need to be universal – every individual on the planet – no exceptions.

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) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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2 Responses to Assault on ethics

  1. jonolan says:

    Why? Honestly, why should we harm ourselves and our progeny to support the lives of those who cannot support themselves or add to our societies anything good? Like much of biology and modern medicine, it’s counter-evolutionary and weakens us a species.

    Oh, and UBI? That will be the death of society and of much of the cooperation currently exhibited, or so I believe as someone who’ seen the sloth, venality, and shiftlessness of so many people (rich, poor, and anywhere in the middle).

    The only upside I see is that this same lack of drive would likely, with UBI, end up with many, many people downsizing their lives and, hence, greatly reduce Man’s impact upon the Earth. To be fair though, that’s a pretty significant upside.


  2. There is no requirement for anyone to harm themselves – quite the contrary.

    Optimal outcomes are achieved if everyone looks after their own interests, and the interests of their families, and the interests of their communities and the interests of the wider societies and ecosystems within which they live.

    We live in an age where it is possible to automate most processes, so that there is very little need to take anything from anyone to supply the reasonable needs of everyone.

    When one examines the evolutionary power of cooperation, it is profound.
    We are the result of billions of cells cooperating.
    Almost all of what we use as language, technology, concepts etc, is the result of the cooperative efforts of other individuals.

    Evolution is not simply about survival in particular historical contexts, it is also about transforming contexts so that we can survive in them.
    We need to be doing that on very much longer terms than are currently encouraged by quarterly financial returns.

    I agree that there are many dangers present (and as you note their distribution does not seem to be related to income; though I am confident there will be a component of necessity related actions).

    We largely agree about your last paragraph.

    Those who are self motivated will not be short of opportunities.


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