[extropy-chat] Defenestration

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Sat Mar 17 23:49:46 UTC 2007

At 05:07 PM 3/17/2007 +0000, you wrote:
>On 3/17/07, Keith Henson wrote:
> >
> > Show me a case where a group *not* seeing a bleak future started a war.
>I think we'll just have to agree to disagree.
>I agree that a nation or empire facing a bleak future might decide

If you are going to disagree with me, I would appreciate your understanding 
what you are disagreeing with.  "Decide" implies rational thinking.  I 
propose that the evolved psychological mechanisms turned on in the run up 
to war seriously degrade the ability of humans to think rationally.

>to start a war to reduce the population

*Nobody* starts a war to reduce the population.  It has that effect, or at 
least had it in the EEA, but it is not seen as a goal.

>  or gain more resources.

Even this is not common.  The usual rationalization is that the people 
being attacked are evil scum.

>Civil war
>would also count. History records some events of this type.
>But history also records many other wars which don't fit into this scenario.
>Many empire builders (like Alexander) started by quelling internal

Why did he need to quell internal rebellion?  Obviously people 
rebelled.  Why?  And why when they did it and not a generation earlier or 
later?  I recognize there is an element of chaos involved, but consider a 
forest.  It takes a good many years after a fire for enough fuel to 
accumulate to have another fire.  A forest fire requires a lightening 
strike or some other source of ignition, but you can't get a sustained fire 
without enough fuel.   The exact same model will work with human 
populations.  They used to build up, and in some places still do.  Where 
they do you have wars and related unrest.


>Your scenario would appear to indicate that if a nation appears to be
>threatening war, then the war can be averted by giving them what they

Not possible.  A nation with a growing population will overwhelm any such 


>You are relying on inbuilt hunter-gatherer instincts. But humans can
>divert their instincts into better endeavours.

I feel that the chances of them being able to do so are much improved if 
they understand their instincts.  For example, people clearly have build in 
powerful psychological mechanisms that are called forth in 
capture-bonding.  I make the case that humans _also_ have evolved 
psychological traits to abuse captives to turn on the capture bonding 
mechanism.  This is where hazing and the prison abuses in Iraq came 
from.  (Also see the Stanford prison experiment.)

IF people were consciously aware that humans have these traits right out of 
the stone age, they *might* be able to take special precautions to prevent 
uncivilized behavior.

>  That's called civilisation.

A shaky state.  How many days do you think it would take after food 
shipments were shut off for NYC to break down entirely?

Keith Henson

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