[ExI] Humans are a uniquely dangerous species

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Tue Dec 10 02:42:03 UTC 2019

On Sun, Dec 8, 2019 at 2:09 AM Will Steinberg via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Rafal:
> Is slavery a technology?  It is interesting to try and think of at what
> point the first slaves emerged.  Power hierarchies already exist among
> animals but when did the subjugation of another species or kin group
> begin?  I think that subjugation is a pre-technological alternative to
> wiping out another species entirely.  A kind of teleological within-species
> parasitism.

### This is a good way of thinking about slavery. There are physically
existing tools (manacles, whips), organizational schemes, legal frameworks
that are necessary to make slavery into a viable enterprise.

Extracting resources by force from a hunter-gatherer is difficult - if you
keep him confined, he produces no resources to be expropriated, if you let
him hunt, he can easily run away. This is why hunter-gatherers usually do
not practice slavery, except in the limited sense of abducting women to be
used as a reproductive resource. And this is why hunter-gatherers usually
promptly slaughter the men they defeat.

Only once the technology of agriculture and the closely related technology
of territorial state came together, it became possible to confine men
cheaply and to extract enough resources to cover the cost for acquisition
and confinement, plus a profit to the owner.

So we could say that slavery is a social technology which, as almost all
technologies, requires other enabling technologies and physical and social
conditions to be useful.

The analogy to parasitism is also very apt - the slave owner is a parasite
that controls the slave's resources to feed and fatten himself and his


> Sometimes I wonder if it is possible that there was a massive
> within-species subjugation ending in rebellion, long ago.  It seems likely
> to me, for some reason.
### It was more like an endemic war of everybody against almost everybody
else lasting tens of thousands of years, and our minds have been shaped by
it. Men's yearning for freedom evolved because those too easy to break into
farm animals tended not leave any children. Women's docility when
confronted with overwhelming force evolved because it gave them a chance of
joining their captors' society and passing their genes along.
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