[ExI] Really? and EP

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Sat Apr 18 22:20:57 UTC 2009

On Sat, Apr 18, 2009 at 1:26 PM, BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 4/18/09, Keith Henson wrote:
>>  Extropians are concerned with the future.  We therefore need models of
>>  what is going to happen.  The technological singularity is a simple
>>  model of exponentially increasing computation.  At some point in the
>>  not so distant future a typical desktop computer will exceed the
>>  processing capacity of a human brain.  This is a relatively simple
>>  model
>>  Models with feedback are more complicated.  I have been a student of
>>  system dynamics since the early 1970s.  On top of this I have been
>>  interested in gene based evolution (Dawkins, Hamilton and co.) since
>>  the early 80s and in memetics since the mid 80s.  I got into
>>  evolutionary psychology (Barkow, Cosmides, Tooby, etc.) in the 90s.
>>  Genes, evolutionary psychology, and fundamental biology based on
>>  physics and chemistry provide insight into the system dynamics models.
>>  An area with a growing population and a limited and irregular
>>  production of food is a formula for disaster.  The disaster could take
>>  the form of famine, but is more likely to result in human conflict.
>>  (Rwanda, Darfur).
> Agreed. But Europe doesn't fit into this scenario.

They don't today.  But how long would it take for a major weather
disruption to result in serious famine in Europe?

The inordinately widespread Russian famine of 1891-92 is thought to
have been the result of a volcanic eruption.

> Food shortages are much more likely to occur first in poor countries.
> The basic EP scenario, hard times = war, doesn't apply for every war.

That is *not* what I said.  It is more complicated.  Perception of
hard times a-coming turns up the gain on xenophobic memes.  Unless
that perception changes (like the rains come back) then the xenophobic
memes lead into war, and very often what we would call really stupid

> Alexander the Great didn't conquer the known world because Greece was
> starving. He and his army did it because they could. They wanted the
> power and the glory and the plunder.

Greece at that time was always in a mess for food.  Read Diamond on
this and the very similar problems the Myans had.  Marching a good
fraction of the population off to war was one way to keep the
population down.  It's not like Alexander knew where his impulse to do
locus-like conquests came from, but the psychological mechanisms are
wired in.

> The British Empire didn't spread around the world because Britain was
> starving.

"Anthony Wrigley and Roger Schofield’s analysis of years of crisis
mortality—which they define as years when the crude death rate was at
least 10 percent above a twenty-five-year moving average—in England
between the 1540s and the 1860s also suggests that both the size and
duration of crises declined gradually over time, although it indicates
further subsistence crises associated with significant excess
mortality as late as 1728–30 and 1740–42."


Food was a major concern.

>They (and other European countries) did it to plunder third
> world countries that were unable to resist greater force of arms.

New world and old world had very different interactions.  Disease was
the reason the Europeans were able to take the new world and it's what
kept them out of Africa, at least in the long term.

> The same reasons apply to all the great empire expansions. If you were
> powerful enough to start with, then greed for more power and plunder
> and capturing slaves drove the expansion.

At least in North America, it was more after land for farming that
drove the natives out.  The same thing seems to have happened in
prehistoric times in China.

> Just as good times may lead to empire wars of expansion, but doesn't
> have to, so hard times can lead to wars of desperation, but doesn't
> have to.
> Humans are complex creatures.

Here is our major disagreement.  I think humans have relatively simple
behavioral switches.

>Hard times can lead to many different options.
> Yes, sometimes a war of desperation.
> But it may lead to many other paths. Starvation, a reducing
> population, reducing birth rate, lifestyle changes to make do with
> less, a time of invention to devise new survival techniques,
> emigration (temporary or permanent) to many other countries, and so
> on...

Of course people always moved to unoccupied land if they could.  But
they filled up the world a *long* time ago.  Moving into another
tribe's territory would start a war if the people there were also up
against the wall.

> To say that EP proves that hard times = war is far too simplistic.

I wish you would quit putting words in my mouth.


> BillK
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