[extropy-chat] Defenestration

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Sat Mar 17 16:28:02 UTC 2007

At 12:22 PM 3/17/2007 +0000, BillK wrote:
>On 3/16/07, Keith Henson wrote:


> > Up to the days of railroad transportation, food was mostly a local
> > problem.  You could only improve the food supply per person by having fewer
> > "persons."   Thus wars that "threw away" a chunk of the population improved
> > the food supply per person for those left.


>I don't see how you can claim reasonably that Alexander's wars of
>conquest were due to population pressure. Where an absolute ruler with
>a strong army and police force exists, the opinion of the mass of the
>population doesn't much matter. Certainly it is easier if the great
>leader can manipulate public opinion to worship him and follow his
>orders without argument. But if necessary harsher measures can enforce
>his control. Opposition leaders can be killed. Large populations can
>be exterminated (Stalin). If the great leader says join the army and
>conquer the world, that's what they will do. It's not EP pressure
>making them do it.

Remember that our trait of going to war when things were looking bleak come 
out of that stone age, a *long* time before modern states 
developed.  Still, can you cite a single case were a population started a 
war where they were *not* seeing a bleak future?

>Hunter-gather tribes and democratic groups or countries may vote
>whether or not to go to war,

I can't think of a case where there was a vote by a population to go to 
war.  Not that it would have been needed the day after Pearl Harbor.

>and population pressure will be one of
>the factors that will affect their decision.

You make it sound rational.  The point I make is that the process is almost 
automatic and rational thinking is suppressed.

>The large oil reserves in
>the next country (or the gold mines) will also be a factor to be
>considered (as well as many other factors).


>But for most of human history, the absolute ruler decided and the
>population did as they were told.

You might have a case if you said "recorded history."  But the vast 
evolution history of our ancestors since they parted ways with the chimps 
was in tiny tribes, hunter gatherer bands which seldom could be larger than 
100 people.  There is a huge literature about the remaining hunter gatherer 
groups and their organization and leaders.

You just can't get "absolute power" or do things seriously against the 
consensus in a group that small.

>I think the problem is that you are looking for an absolute that
>doesn't exist in human affairs.

I am looking at a mathematical certainty: You cannot have a population 
larger than the ability of the environment to feed them.  Stone age people 
evolved to be sensitive to future conditions because those who did had 
higher reproductive success.

>*All* wars don't start because of population pressure. Some do.

Population levels, being the denominator in income per capita are always a 
factor.  Even more so is future anticipation of what is going to happen to 
income per capita.  Thought experiment:  Zero population, zero wars.

>Wars are not even always called wars.
>Dictators are not always called dictators.
>There are multiple reasons for everything, including wars. Population
>pressure is always a factor. In some circumstances it will be the
>overwhelming factor that outweighs everything else, but not always.

   "All wars arise from population pressure."  (Heinlein 1959 p. 145)

"Major Reid (Heinlein's character in Starship Troopers)was on the mark if 
you take "population pressure" to mean a falling ratio of resources to 
population (roughly income per capita in modern terms). There are sound 
evolutionary reasons why falling resources per capita (or the prospect of 
same) usually drives human populations into war. Wars and related social 
disruptions are here seen to be the outcome of a behavioral switch 
activated by particular environmental situations and mediated by xenophobic 
memes.[1] "

(EP memes and war paper)

Show me a case where a group *not* seeing a bleak future started a war.


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