[ExI] Meta question

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Sat Aug 20 22:29:38 UTC 2016

On Sat, Aug 20, 2016 at 10:21 AM, John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 4:33 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> >
>> Perhaps so, but gene were around a *long* time before they gave rise
>> to creatures who could think even a little.
> Until it succeeded in inventing brains after 3 billion years of effort
> Evolution was the only way to make complex things.
> But times change.

They do indeed.  But we have not yet escaped biology and the influence
of the genes, even here.  I make the case that the reason people post
on mailing lists like this one is rooted in their psychological trait
of seeking status.  At a time not so long ago in genetic terms, males
had to gain a certain level of status before they became attractive to
females and had a chance to become ancestors.  The same psychological
trait that induced hunters to drag back a large chunk of meat (and got
extra nooky for their trouble) is largely decoupled from gaining
status by posting or writing papers.  I can't think of a case where
someone got laid as a consequence of posting on a mailing list, but it
might have happened.

>> this century could be dramatically more bloody than the first half
>> of the last century.
> There is certainly the potential for that, and that's why it's important
> that the person in charge of H-bombs be knowledgeable about world events,
> have a thick skin and even temperament, not be a sucker for conspiracy
> theories, and make life or death decisions based on facts not gut instincts
> or invisible men in the sky. It would also be helpful if that person was not
> crazy.

You are correct, but you miss the main point of this evolutionary
psychology model of why people follow irrational leaders.  There is a
2014 movie, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_Who%27s_Back_%28film%29
where Hitler returns via a time warp or something.  Somewhere over
half way into the movie (which hit number one in Germany) Hitler has a
flash of insight where he says if it wasn't me it would have happened
anyway with someone else.

>> but think about what happened to the
>> Germans in the 20s.  Just because a country is highly civilized
>> doesn't mean they can't jump into being barbarians in a heartbeat.
> I hope you won't have another example of that in 5 months.

Me too.  But the problem does not reside in Trump, but the American
people.  And going back a step, to the economic distress they are in,
and back a step more, to the conditions which have wiped out most of
the good paying jobs they used to have.  Globalization is a great
concept unless you are the one being downsized.  In the movie
mentioned above, Hitler says that he was elected by the German people,
and if he is a monster, then so is every German.

The problem is much wider than Germans or Americans.  It's humanity
wide that the perception of a bleak future (relative to the past and
present) flips a population wide behavioral switch that puts the
population on the way to war.  One of the side effects of flipping the
switch is that people follow irrational leaders.  It also screws up
their judgment, making them effectively stupid.  Nobody starts a war
expecting to loose.  A rational view is that (on average) you loose
wars half the time.

Of course, when I say it flips a population wide behavioral switch, it
doesn't do so for everyone all at once.  It's a big country for one
thing and conditions vary as well as personal thresholds.  We shall
see how the vote turns out, but my guess at this point is that at
least a third of the US population have gone into this mode.

>> For about 90% of Americans, i.e., all but the top ten percent, their
>> real income has not gone up since the late 70s or early 80s.  They
>> have not recovered what they lost in the 2008 recession.
> Yes. I'm a Libertarian but what you say above is true and Libertarians
> ignore that fact at their peril. In 2016 the richest 62 people on the planet
> had as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion people, as recently as 2014 it
> took 13 more, back then it took 85 people to equal the poorest half of the
> human population. I think it's fair to say that one way or another this
> trend will NOT continue. If I was one of those 62 hyper rich people and had
> a brain in my head I'd try to close that huge gap or at least slow its rate
> of growth, and I'd do it even if I didn't give a damn about other people and
> was only interested in myself because I'd know if I didn't it would only be
> a matter of time before I'd lose my head.

It would help if the very rich decided it was in their interest for
the bulk of the population to see that they have a bright future, but
directly redistributing their wealth will not fix the problem, they
don't have enough to do it.  If something can be done at all, it will
take implementing different technology, particularly a technology that
gets humanity off fossil fuels while lowering the cost of energy.

It's a complicated problem.


>  John K Clark
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