[extropy-chat] Name that system

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Wed Dec 20 01:35:58 UTC 2006

Keith Henson wrote: 
> At 10:54 AM 12/19/2006 -0800, Jef wrote:

> >Over our evolutionary past, the individual always focused on its 
> >individual needs, and cooperation emerged unintentionally and 
> >sporadically, but persisted due to synergetic advantage.
> That's not exactly a correct model of the past.  

I know, and I thought of you when I wrote it, but my focus was not to
describe the process of selection for inclusive fitness, but rather that
it is so powerful that it has worked despite virtually all individuals
acting out of narrow self-interest.  I figured adding a qualifying
phrase would further decrease readability of my typically too dense
text. The point is about so much power not being exploited because
within Nature, being only marginally better has been good enough.  Now,
add intentional development to the competitive mix and we'd better use
every trick we can.

<snipped a bunch of good text explaining how inclusive fitness actually
works a la Hamilton.>

> If you want to exploit positive sum interactions, 
> understanding deeply wired in human motivation (such as the 
> universal human psychological trait to seek higher status) is 
> a good place to start.
> Payment in status is all people get from working on the 
> Wikipedia for example.  And it explains why so many people 
> try to be actors or writers.

I agree with you about the motivating power of status, but I'm even more
interested in positive-sum interactions of a substantial, tangible
nature because these can form a robust foundation for not just growth by
accumulation, but new kinds of growth.  This kind of second order
benefit leads to doing more with less and carries a fitness advantage
beyond that of just doing more of the same or even doing the same thing

> However, I must warn you that recognizing these motives may 
> get you into deep trouble with others.

Except on the extropian list where we are all hard-core rationalists, if
not followers of Crocker's Rule, and we love nothing better than for
someone to help us see our true nature, right?  ;-)

> Recognizing this feature in my own motivations (if only in a 
> theoretical
> way) and writing about it got me lambasted from the bench by 
> a Federal Judge.
> Which in away was very amusing--because there is no more 
> obvious example than a federal judge for someone who has 
> traded income for high status.  (Federal judges typically 
> make less than half what they did as lawyers before being appointed.)

You are soooo right about that.  But are you suggesting that there are
people on this list who are similarly motivated by and vulnerable to
issues of status?  ;-)

- Jef

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