[extropy-chat] Gandhi and EP was Bushido

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Wed Apr 25 22:44:38 UTC 2007

At 01:14 PM 4/25/2007 -0400, Robert wrote:

>On 4/25/07, Keith Henson <<mailto:hkhenson at rogers.com>hkhenson at rogers.com> 
>>The trick to keeping humans out large scale violence is to keep their
>>"bleak future" detectors off.  The modern equivalent of game and berries is
>>income per capita.  Steady or rising income per capita keeps a population
>>out of "war mode" unless they are attacked.
>Keith, you keep harping on this topic of population growth as driving war.

You miss the point of the model.  Population could be growing fast and 
there would be no drift into war provided income was growing as fast or 
faster.  (Or something else was keeping the "bleak future" detectors 
off.)  Population could even be shrinking, but if the economy was shrinking 
faster that would bias a population toward war.

>I feel it is an incomplete theory. Perhaps a much better approach to 
>"going to war" is simply to "migrate".  Find a place where the resources 
>are more abundant than they are in the current location and simply move 

"The benefits of fighting must also be matched against possible 
alternatives (other than starvation). One of them was to break contact and 
move elsewhere. This, of course, often happened, especially if one's enemy 
was much stronger, but this strategy had clear limitations.

"As we have already noted, by and large, there were no "empty spaces" for 
people to move to. In the first place, space is not even, and the best, 
most productive habitats were normally already taken.

"One could be forced out to less hospitable environments, which may also 
had been earlier populated by other less fortunate people. Indeed, finding 
empty niches required exploration, which again might involve violent 
encounters with other human groups.

"Furthermore, a move meant leaving the group's own habitat, with whose 
resources and dangers the group's members were intimately familiar, and 
travelling into uncharted environments. Such a change could involve heavy 

"Moreover, giving in to pressure from outside might establish a pattern of 
victimization. Encouraged by their success, the alien group might repeat 
and even increase its pressure.

"A strategy of conflict, therefore, concerns not only the object presently 
in dispute but also the whole pattern of future relations. Standing for 
one's own might in fact mean lessening the occurrence of conflict in the 
future. No less so, and perhaps more, than actual fighting, conflict is 
about deterrence."  http://cniss.wustl.edu/workshoppapers/gatpres1.pdf

(This is one of the most influential papers I have read in my life.)

>Lord knows that we mastered taking down a mammoth long before we mastered 
>taking down a walled city.  And one could argue that if one is clever 
>about it fewer people lost their lives in the process.
>And though I realize this will raise the censor awareness level -- *why* 
>precisely did we go to war in (a) Korea; (b) Vietnam; (c) Iraq?  You have 
>to stretch very very far to argue that we were up against population 
>constraints and or decreasing income per capita.

The modern world is *so* far from the hunter-gatherer bands in which war 
originated that you have to be very careful.  But first you need to see who 
started the war (attacked).  Was it the people with rising incomes and a 
bright future?  Do you have figures on the per capita change in North Korea 
in the years leading up to the war?  (Since they were the ones who started 
that war.)  In both Korea and Vietnam the US going to war was because an 
attack on allies was taken as an attack on the US.

Iraq.  The first one was like Korea, they attacked and overran a county we 
had an interest in protecting, i.e., for oil.  Why did Iraq start the 
war?  For that matter why did they start the one with Iran?  As a guess 
both had the stone age goal of burning off excess population, the one 
against Kuwait was clearly about taking resources.

The US attack on Iraq was supported by the US population because they had 
been outright misled into thinking that the 9/11 attack was supported by 
Iraq and had been loaded with fear about Iraq's "weapons of mass 
destruction."  Stupid I know, but part of the model is that people in war 
mode lose a lot of their ability to think rationally.

>I would also cite an interesting example involving the Mongols attacking 
>Iran where it had little to do with population pressure and a lot to do 
>with the Iranian's slaughtering Mongol ambassadors.

Actually, that's not the case if you consider what drove the Mongol 
expansion in the first place.  Smaller Mongol groups had been happily 
killing each other off far back in history and honing the skills of horse 
warfare against each other.  Just before they broke out of that part of the 
world, the smaller polities were combined.  This suppressed the previous 
warfare between the groups and the population took off.  In a static 
economy whatever number of children the average woman has in excess of 
those who die off from other reasons has to be burned off in wars.

And if you suppress wars between little groups, the only alternative is 
wars with outside bigger groups.

You might note that Mongolia is still a sparsely populated country.  "At 
1,564,116 square kilometres, Mongolia is the nineteenth largest country in 
the world, but also the least densely populated. The country contains very 
little arable land as much of its area is covered by arid and unproductive 
steppes with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the 
south. Approximately thirty percent of the country's 2.8 million people are 
nomadic or semi-nomadic."

>Or consider for example the "Trojan wars" -- they were fought over a girl 
>as stories go.  Or the wars of Roman conquest?

If the human population doubles every generation (which is about the case 
if the women are reasonably well fed) then unless you get a plague a number 
equal to half population has to die in wars every generation.  For static 
food production that is.  There were times, ancient Greece, Easter Island 
where farming practices wrecked the agricultural productivity of the 
land.  Other times, Mayans, American Southwest where climate change got 
them, either directly or through causing wars.

>IMO, there is a lot of ego and lust for power involved in the theory of war.

Without a doubt.  There is ego and lust for power (or status) in just about 
anything people do--even posting to mailing lists.  :-)  But wars are a way 
to get you and your genes wiped out.  Genes for going to war when it was 
wasn't the best survival option for you (and more important, your genes) 
would be simply weeded out over time.

>You need to document on a case by case basis the wars since the beginning 
>of recorded history and how population pressure or declining economic 
>fortunes drove them before I'll grant the argument.
>(I'd suggest this be a non-list based effort, so people can easily review 
>and consider it.)

That's a lifetime effort.  Besides recorded history is not anything like 
the EEA where these psychological traits were shaped.  For one thing, high 
techs can exterminate low techs with relatively little danger.  They might 
do it just for profit.  How about finding a counter example?  Can you think 
of any group that started a war with a group on the same technological 
level where the side that started the war was *not* looking at a bleak 
future?  If you want to use the US civil war as an example, the South was 
(correctly) looking at a bleak economic future without slaves, and they 
started the war.

"Fighting commenced on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a 
United States (federal) military installation at Fort Sumter in South 
Carolina, located in the Confederate States of America."


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