[ExI] the formerly rich and their larvae, was: Impressive book: Farewell to Alms

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Thu Feb 7 07:44:37 UTC 2008

On 05/02/2008, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com> wrote:
> Stathis writes
> > Social considerations such as the fact that more affluent people, for
> > whom the economic burden of having multiple children is not
> > significant, nevertheless choose to have fewer children are much more
> > important.
> It's important right now (that many people are choosing to have few
> children), but evolution has a way of curing such "defects". Clearly
> from a biological perspective---how can anyone evade this tautology?
> ---any decision to have *fewer* viable offspring will simply result
> in those genes responsible being eliminated from the population.

Only if it's the genes that are responsible. I would put it to you
that the genetic component in the decision to have a child (or number
2, 3, etc) has only a very low genetic component, and a high memetic
component. Not reproducing biologically would have very little impact
on a memeset (maybe includes stuff like "kids are expensive", "focus
on your own goals", "individualism", stuff like that? guessing...),
which reproduces at a different level.

I'm surprised that no one has been talking about memes here, and it's
all focussing on genes. Genes are useful for understanding our past,
but the near past and present have surely got to be mostly about
memetic evolution on top of a mostly static genetic profile (which
builds bodies that can host memes well). It's all about timeframes.

> By the exact same token (which speeds the evolution) cultural evolution
> will go hand in hand. Any culture which supports *not* having extremely
> large families will become less dominant over time---because of, obviously,
> the simple, tautologous fact that more biologically successful strategies
> supplant the less successful.
> Lee

uurrrr.... we're not insects.

At the moment it's exactly the cultures that are not dominant which
have the highest birth rates. I think in fact you see falling birth
rates in those cultures as they become more successful.

Cultures are mostly independent of genes. They're just a set of ideas.
If you could make a memeset that successfully said "You should never
reproduce" (in fact we probably have one of those kicking around in
wealthy countries now), it could still lead to a more successful
culture over time. Success here wouldn't be defined circularly by
number of warm bodies, but by relative control of the planet's wealth.
There's no reason to think that population is correlated with wealth
(and maybe some to think it might be an inverse relationship).

I think using genes to predict how we became who we are is clearly
useful, to explain how our past has determined differences amongst us
now. But to use genes for predictions of the future doesn't seem
viable to me. Memetic evolution has clearly overtaken genetic
evolution, and there's a good chance genes will go the way of the
buggy whip in the future. Certainly real soon now, in genetic time.



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