[extropy-chat] [Bulk] Re: Forbes Magazine on Robotics

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Wed Aug 23 14:47:41 UTC 2006

At 10:11 PM 8/22/2006 -0400, Martin wrote:
>On 8/22/06, Keith Henson <hkhenson at rogers.com> wrote:
> > >1) I don't deny that the EP model of tribal warfare in the face of
> > >predicted hardship is [plausible/likely].  However, even if blights 
> are very
> > >likely to cause war, that doesn't mean all war is caused by blights.
> > >People go to war for religious and other philiosophical reasons, or to
> > >plunder other people's resources even if they are not facing a blight.
> >
> > The argument runs this way:  All war is ultimately caused by anticipation
> > of economic crisis, usually resource related.  The anticipation turns up
> > the gain on xenophobic memes so religions or philosophical "reasons" for
> > wars are the *outcome* of the meme amplification process tripped by
> > anticipated hard times.  I.e., a step in the causal chain rather than an
> > origin.
>Then, no, I don't accept that model.

Good.  Propose another model rooted in evolution biology and our species 
long history as social primates in hunter gatherer bands.

> > >  Some tribes during the Middle Ages made it their profession.  That's
> > >why I say that blights only account for a percentage of the variance.
> >
> > It makes no sense for human to switch into war mode when it is not called
> > for by the environment.
>But you didn't say "environment," you said "blight," which is a small
>subset of possible environmental causes of war.

Did I actually use "blight?"  It's not a word I often use.

>If ALL war, as you
>suggest, is caused by predicted economic crisis, then you are saying
>there's zero probability that any other environmental (or genetic)
>phenomenon could cause war.  That's absurd.  Sociopathic leaders can
>go to war for no reason.  I just disproved your argument.

You need to show at least an example or two where a population with bright 
future prospects (and was not attacked) followed a sociopathic leader into 
war.  War is very much a group activity, you can't do it without group 
support.  Now a population can be flipped into war mode by being fooled 
into thinking they were under attack, but that still consistent with the model.

Consider the current mess the US is in.  Bush had plans for going into Iraq 
long before 9/11.  But without that attack (and a lot of misleading 
propaganda) he could never have obtained support from the US population for 
going into Iraq.

>And as for tribes who constitutively plundered, utilitizing a
>permanent war strategy is another way of testing the behavior space.
>There's no reason why it shouldn't happen.
> > War is worse for your genes if the future prospects are bright.
>Not if you're a militarized and highly trained band that's good at
>fighting, going up against nonmilitarized, poorly trained bands who
>spend all their time farming.
>Marauding bands essentially took on the role of parasites, which exist
>in any ecosystem.  It would have happened whether or not they were
>running out of resources.

Examples?  It is rather hard for marauding bands to raise children.

> > Rising kids is *much* better for your genes than fighting with
> > strangers where you stand a good chance of being killed.  That is unless
> > the prospects for not fighting are worse.  If you look at the groups in the
> > middle ages who were fighting most of the time, I think you will find that
> > they were facing starvation if they just stayed home.
>The marauding groups in Europe in the Middle Ages had the same
>resources available as the non-marauding groups:  Europe.  They could
>have settled down and started farming, but didn't.

Europe was packed tight with people since the neolithic (except when a 
plague had wiped a bunch of them out).  When marauding bands *did* find new 
lands (Iceland) they became farmers.  (Were there marauding bands who were 
not part time farmers?)

> > >2) I am calling into question the very premise of a future blight,
> > >which is one argument that the "dire future" you predict won't happen.
> >
> > The point of the model is that the xenophobic meme gain is turned up just
> > by the anticipation of hard times a-coming.  So even if the dire future is
> > averted by some last minute discovery, we may get a war anyway.
>True, but the problem right now is that people aren't scared ENOUGH. :)

I see the :) but taking your seriously, fear isn't enough.  Because of the 
massive population growth, the entire race is in a burning building.  We 
have to pick the right exit.  That takes rational thinking, and rational 
thinking is the first thing to go due to our evolutionary history.



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