[ExI] Old still true

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Sun Aug 14 18:12:19 UTC 2011

On another list I post on someone commented:

> I'm not concerned about 2000. I'm concerned about 2012.

With good reason.

I have made a case (Evolutionary psychology, memes and the origin of
war) that evolutionary selection in the stone age is behind popular
support for irrational leadership.

It's a moderately involved model, but the net result is that stone age
tribes were "better off" in terms of gene survival if they fought when
resources got tight (instead of starving).  So what got selected are
the genes that shape psychological mechanisms such as those that cause
xenophobic memes to thrive in economic hard times.

Back in 1987 I wrote:

"Some memes (for example Nazism) are observed to thrive during periods
of economic chaos just as diseases flourish in an undernourished
population.  Thus it is not much of a surprise that Nazi-related
beliefs emerged in the Western farm states during the recent hard

I now understand why

To get back to Simon's concern for 2012, you should *expect* people
under relatively worsening economic stress to favor xenophobic memes
and leadership that ranges from irrational to downright insane
(Hitler, Pol Pot, etc.)

This will get worse until the economics hits an uptick after people
get used to a lower level.  Of course irrational leadership usually
gets into wars (the stone age function of such leadership) and that
over time that makes the economy worse.

Or to put it in more familiar terms, "The beatings will continue until
moral improves."


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