Reason for a New Age

Posts Tagged ‘conflict’

Evolution, Instinct, and People – Part 4

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/01/24


This will be the final segment of this series, though I presume that I will bring up further thoughts in future blogs.

Bootstrapping and the Flynn Effect

There’s a fairly interesting thing. Through history there has been some small number of babies who actually were brought up by animals and survived into adulthood.  Despite what the Tarzan stories might lead you to believe, such feral children don’t end up as likable, sociable ruffians. Instead, for lack of a better description, they end up as poo-flinging monkeys. They can’t learn to read, write, nor speak, let alone mingle and socialize with people in any more meaningful way than an animal might.

Obviously humans can learn to do these things, but it isn’t something that can be achieved as an adult. Quite likely there are particular stages of development which each have a window of time during which they can be taught. If you miss that window, you have likely impaired the child’s abilities. You might be able to teach them later, but it’s a much harder path and of course eats time away from the things that should be being taught at that time. Work with aboriginal peoples has indicated to a large extent that even when one does receive training from human parents, you are largely limited to whatever the level of abstract thinking is of your group (though the precise level of this is still debated). Other research seems to indicate that based on the way ones language refers to things can change the methods by which people think.

In total, the amazing difference between people who receive the training of how to be a modern human by their modern humans and those who have received none, and the differences in ability based on various minutiae is terribly interesting.

But so then there was a thing discovered that is referred to as the Flynn Effect, which noted that IQ rates seem to continue to rise from generation to generation in the modern world. When, generally, people of lower IQ have more children than those of higher IQ, one might expect that if anything the general intelligence of modern communities would lower as the upper classes start having only single children or whatever.

One possible explanation that is put forth is that this is largely a matter of continuing development in nutrition. People who have healthy, nutritious diets growing up have a healthier and more powerful brain.

Another explanation though, and much more interesting, is the thought that the human brain hasn’t reached the peak of its ability yet, just like the aboriginal may have improved over the feral human, but not yet gained all the ideas that modern man has. People theorize that with TV and internet and an ever-widening source of information coming at each of us, and doing so in a more rapid-fire way, that it is spurring our youthful brains to adapt to a faster, more intensive world.

Assuming this latter theory to be true, it suggests that the method by which children are taught could use a fairly impressive overhaul.

People Fear Conflict

By the word conflict, I mean debate or otherwise being challenged upon some point. People, of course, love sports, games, and other sorts of non-cerebral conflict.

The reasons why people do things are usually quite shallow. We’re religious because, 90% of the time, our parents were. With 99% certainty, I could determine your political affiliation based on the region you live in, your skin color, your religion, and your income–of course that will match up almost exactly with the type of people that you socialize with regularly. Essentially you believe in your politics because the people in your social group are being promised more by party X than party Y. There is almost no one who self-sacrifices for the sake of the greater good, based on reasoned debate.

Going against your peers–aka the pack–going against your self-interest, is hard. Educating yourself on the issues is laborious. And even when you are more aware of the specifics of any one topic than 90% of everyone, you can still get slapped down like you don’t know anything by the guy who knows 92% more than everyone. For instance, I can point at socialism and say that it’s a failure, but a die-hard socialist who has studied every ounce of data on the subject can make me look like I have no idea what I’m talking about. If I knew as much about the subject as he, I’m quite certain that I could readily debate and come out ahead. I don’t though. Similarly, I can make most people look like they’re idiots when they bring up some particular issues that I know more about than most, and yet still know that I’m just as likely wrong given how passing my knowledge truly is.

All of this takes energy and time, and to do it all when deep down in your subconscious you’re fairly certain that you’re either acceding to something not in your best interest or to something that will be disruptive to your ability to continue socializing with the pack, that’s just more than can be expected for most people. But then getting right in their face and making them feel bad about their lack of willingness to consider greater or finer points, this is active antagonism, regardless of best intentions.

And all this makes sense, again, from an evolutionary standpoint. If there is, for example, a leader of the pack and then one rogue wolf who is trying to usurp control, if people are easily willing to convert to any side, the battle between the two leaders has the pack in chaos for lengthy periods of time and nothing gets done. A certain amount of pigheadedness and inertia is necessary. The rogue wolf has to make very good points, so good that the chance of splitting the whole pack in two is possibly worth it. Otherwise, regardless of whether his way might be somewhat more efficient, it’s not worth the conflict.

There are very few things in life which are all that important.

In many countries though, for instance Japan or China, the idea of popular interest in political affairs is fairly non-existent. Everything is done within the realm of those who enjoy or are not fearful of conflict. And honestly, so long as the people are able to continue to eat and raise babies, they’re quite happy to leave all that hassle up to the politicians. Even within the US, political battles between the parties are to most people little more than sports games. Red team versus Blue. If their team loses, the ire is that of having lost, not due to any particular understanding of what implications it actually has. They go home and make food and raise babies. If the economy gets bad, a few of them switch teams.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

As I pointed out in Failure in the Information Age, the cause of the recent recession was nothing more than everyone knowing that a recession was coming. Rather than be the person left with his pants down, everyone pulled out of the economy and thus tanked it.

People have a tendency to make what they think is going to happen, happen. When they think the world will be good, they buy things, great others with open arms, trade, invest, etc. With everyone doing this, everything becomes good. If I think that, if I go on that cruise vacation, I’ll meet people, I’m likely to go and join all the outings, talk to people, and end up meeting people. If I think I’ll be hated and ridiculed for being overweight and looking bad in my swimwear, I’ll hide in my room, wear clothing that is bland and reeks of reclusiveness, and end up not meeting anyone.

I suppose that this isn’t so much a human trait as “just one of those things.”

But it bears mentioning in a blog about politics because “managing expectations” becomes a significant factor in doing the job well. If you wrestle for a trillion dollars to stimulate the economy but then tell everyone that we really needed 2 trillion and what we have now will only go towards paying off interest on our debts, you’ve just killed your entire stimulus package. People will receive their bonus check, and put it straight into savings, waiting for when things will improve.

For issues such as this, the amount of the stimulus isn’t as important as how well you can sell whatever dollar amount it was that you decided on.

And when you talk about a “housing crisis”, you need to make sure that people understand how small a crisis it really is, lest they all sell their stocks and hunker down for a recession.

It may seem silly, but economics and politics are still more about psychology and philosophy than math.

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