[ExI] The Avalanche Threat

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Sep 14 22:01:57 UTC 2007

Keith writes

> [Stathis wrote]
>>OK, but that just means you think avalanches are less dangerous than
>>terrorists. The problem is that even when it can be shown that a
>>non-malicious threat is more dangerous than a malicious threat, people
>>are more likely to respond to the malicious threat with concern and
>>allocation of resources. I can see how this way of thinking might have
>>evolved, but it doesn't make it rational.
> Evolved threat response psychological mechanisms are "rational" in 
> terms of gene replication *in the environment in which they evolved*.

I contend that they're rational in today's environment as well.
Take another example:  you share a large cubical at work with
a new co-worker.  About once every two days he creeps up
behind you and lets you have it with a rubber band right on the
back of your ear. 

Now rationally, taken literally, this does not constitute near so
serious a threat to you as dying in an automobile accident. In
fact, if you had the choice of putting up with this aberrant
behavior instead of having to put up with the dangers of the
highway, it would be highly rational to exchage road accident
risk for the minor pain every couple of days from your coworker.

But we were constructed to take threats from other human beings
very, very seriously.  The following has not changed since the EEA:
another human being can be an exceedingly dangerous organism to
have around.  If one gets the drop on you, with his fists and hands
along he could conceivably kill or seriously injure one;  even a 30
kilo human being would be deadly with a baseball bat if, again, he
takes you by surprise.

The key factor is that another human being is a resourceful antagonist,
unlike avalanches and car accidents. Any sign of instability or hostility
from another human (or group of humans) has to be recognized as
a very serious danger.  And this hasn't changed at all in the last
100,000 years.


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