[ExI] Old still true (BillK)

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Mon Aug 15 19:38:26 UTC 2011

On Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 5:00 AM, BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:


> I am nervous about applying this analysis to present day US.

You should be.  Human psychological traits of this kind were shaped in
the stone age.  Some of them, such as capture-bonding (which happened
to Elizabeth Smart and Patty Hearst) are rarely turned on today.
Still, there is a very high correlation between economic prospects and
social disruptions, wars, riots, and related.  Note that like
virtually all biological responses, it is the *relative* conditions
compared to the past that is significant.  (How far into the past?  A
topic for investigation.)

> There seem to be too many other factors.

There are a lot of factors, but this has always been the case.  No two
events in all of human history are exactly the same.  None the less,
the general response to recurring economic or ecological stress has
been consistent throughout history.and prehistory as far as we can
see.  I cite Azar Gat and Steven A. LeBlanc in this regard.

> For example, 'economic stress' has been planned and organised by the
> 'leaders'.

Sorry, I just can't believe that.  This is emergent, the result of a
vast number of individual decisions, with no central organization.
People just can't do planing and organization that large without
leaving tracks on the scale of the Apollo program.  I wish they could
because a lot of very desirable things could get done, but they just

> The plan is a staggeringly unbelievable transfer of wealth
> to 0.1% of the population.

That's 1/1000 of the population.  Taking the US at 300 M, that's
300,000 people.  The transfer of wealth to this small a group may well
be happening, but it has to be emergent.  I just can't buy the idea
that it could be planned or organized.

> The stress at the lower levels is
> alleviated by food stamps and electronic entertainment, with
> disruption controlled by policing and surveillance.


Spike wrote:
> Oy vey, ja.  Add to that all the weird game theory involved in democracy,
> where for instance partisans of one party enroll in the competing party and
> intentionally support extremist candidates that are unelectable.  I think I
> see that happening now.

Democracy itself is remote from the time most of this selection occurred.

What drove the selection was human population growth till the
ecosystem could no longer feed them.  Then it was time for to fight
neighbors.  Win or lose this reduced the population.

The EP question to ask is where did the memes of democracy or
monogamy, or monotheism come from?  Why did these do well in hosts
whose psychological mechanisms were shaped in the stone age?  Are
there external conditions where one or more of this list of memes will
be extinguished?

You really need to be careful in applying psychological mechanisms out
of the stone age to current events except in the most general terms.

One of the theories for war is that they result from an excess of
males in the population.  According to that theory, China should be
the most warlike country in the world.  They are not, and my
prediction is that China will not get in a war unless they are
attacked because the economic outlook for the Chinese is positive.

The US, on the other hand, though having a substantially higher
average income per capita than China, is looking at poor economic
prospects in comparison to the past.  In addition the US was attacked
(9/11).  My EP based expectation is that the US will continue to be
involved in wars.  It is entirely possible that the US will go further
along the route Germany experienced in the 1930s.

There *are* differences of course.  The US population is relatively
heterogeneous compared to Germany at that time.  It is hard to imagine
an internal pogrom in the US on the order of what happened to the
Tutsi in Rwanda or the educated in Cambodia, but it's not out of the
question.  In Europe the Muslims would be the most likely target of a
spasm, but in the US there are so many potential targets, Blacks,
Hispanics, Asians and numerous religious and cultural groups that it
seems difficult for any one of them to be targeted.

Also, it is hard to say exactly how bad things would have to get for
this to happen.

The one calibration point I can think of is Saudi Arabia.  Between
population growth and falling oil prices, the income per capita fell
75% there.  That seems to have been enough for OBL and company to
recruit the 9/11 suicide hijackers.


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