[ExI] No need for radical changes in human nature

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Mon Jul 6 14:04:17 UTC 2009

--- On Fri, 7/3/09, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> 2009/7/3 Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com>:
>> ### I wish I could share your optimism. The way I see
>> it, at least 60%
>> of all activity today happens under duress (since the
>> government
>> directly or indirectly controls about 60% of the
>> society), plus there
>> is a minor amount of private violence. This is an
>> improvement over the
>> savages in the jungles of South America or Africa,
>> where most men die by homicide.
> Really?

I think Rafal might be overstating the case, but, from my readngs, murder rates are much higher in "primitive" societies.  Cf. _War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage_ by Lawrence Keeley.  IIRC, the murder rate is something like 30% for adult males.  Adult males tend to die in fueds and other low intensity conflicts.  Keeley's contention, IIRC, is these conflicts are basically wars.  He also presents a lot of evidence that prehistoric societies were doing the same thing with the same high death rates.

(I've also heard the view that dogs bark in ways very unlike wolves because they were selected for barking and this specifically helped humans by warning them of other humans attacking.)

>> It may be better than life in Mexican villages,
>> where
>> social customs impose an implicit marginal tax rate of
>> 85%. But there
>> is no doubt that the vast majority of US citizens
>> happily endorse mass
>> slaughter of random brown people, destruction of lives
>> of millions of
>> workers here and abroad (through protectionist trade
>> measures), and
>> even the daily senseless mayhem on our roads. Today I
>> saw five cops on
>> three miles of highway, brazenly, in broad daylight
>> attacking honest
>> workers, just swaggering over with their guns and
>> squeezing them for
>> cash under the pretext of committing what they call
>> "crimes", and what I call driving home.
> You mean they were putting cash into their own pockets, or
> issuing speeding tickets? The question of traffic laws is an
> interesting one,
> since even an anarchist society might decide that they are
> worth having.

Well, in an free market anarchist society, the way the issue would be decided would be by allowing road owners to decide the rules to be followed on their property.*  My guess is that there'd be some differences in rules and enforcement -- that is, not all owners would have the same rules and enforcement techniques.  This is no different than how various eateries have different dress codes.  In some, you need a jacket and tie, in others not; in some, you pay first, in others you pay afterward.  Etc.  (And even public roads vary today.  Think of how speed limits vary.  And anyone who does a decent amount of driving knows speed limit and other enforcement varies.)
>> I think that a stably non-violent society will emerge
>> only after
>> enough people boost themselves to the equivalent of
>> IQ140 or higher
>> (so they won't have false consequentialist ideas about
>> the need for
>> initiation of violence), and erase whatever neural
>> networks make them
>> envious and domineering (to remove the real emotional
>> drivers of violence).
> Is there any evidence that more intelligent people are less
> likely to be violent or dishonest?

I don't know about honesty, though I believe there's some evidence that intelligence correlates with lower levels of aggression and criminality.  I've read some explanations of this along the lines of the more intelligent someone is, the more she'll think long range and even be able to empathize with others -- and hence be less likely to act for the short-term pay offs from violent and criminal behavior and more likely to look for long range gains by voluntary interaction.  There does seem to be some truth to this, don't you think?

> I think the main difference would be that
> they will be more sophisticated in the crimes they commit.
> Intelligence, alas, is not even a good predictor of
> religiosity. It's
> a bit arrogant to assume that if people were smarter, they
> would think
> like you, even if you are in fact smarter than most
> people.

I think it's a common mistake to think, "She's smart, so she must agree with my politics."  However, there does seem to be some evidence that intelligence correlates with lower levels of criminal and violent behavior.  This doesn't mean, however, that intelligent people won't still participte in this like statism -- where the violence and criminality are mediated via an institutional arrangement.  And, in this case, there is usually a complicated ideology to justify violence.  Moreover, the fact that an ideology must be used to persuade people seems to support the correlation of intelligence with lower levels of violence: intelligent people must persuade themselves in ways less intelligent people wouldn't.  They need a mechanism to short circuit their bias against violence.
> As for changing their brains to make themselves less
> aggressive, I am
> hopeful that given the ability to make such changes, more
> people would
> in fact choose to do this rather than make themselves more
> aggressive.

If such a fix is possible and doesn't have other deleterious effects, I concur.



*  Walter Block and Daniel Klein, among others, have done a lot of research in this area.  Block's whole book on this is online at:


Some of Klein's various papers on private roads are available at:



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