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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A quick overview of some aspects of human nature

The current scientific view on human behaviour tends to supports the idea that our behaviour results from an interaction between the environment and our genes. We also have certain characteristic behaviour that we call human nature. In this post I’ll give a quick overview of some aspects of human nature that I think we need to have an awareness of when thinking about the design for a future sustainable socioeconomic system.

All we do is all about sex

Raƫlians at Love Hug Festival in Seoul, South Korea


Well, not sex as such but reproduction; producing more humans and passing on our genes. However, we don’t just do actions to increase our reproduction as we have reached a state of awareness where we can override our genes. However, much of human behaviour does centre around the need to reproduce; from basic survival to much of our social interactions to our sense of honour and fighting wars. 

People are stupid

We can see stupidity as an adaptive / maladaptive behaviour pattern where we knowingly or, at least, have the capacity to know that our behaviour will harm ourselves or others. From getting drunk to our socioeconomic policies; stupidity reigns supreme. Stupidity appears as a very common mode of behaviour and we all act stupid at some point in time. Note; stupidity does not equate to the opposite of intelligence. You can act intelligently and stupidly at the same time. In fact, to really exhibit stupidity you need intelligence. That also means humans rank as the most stupid animal on the planet!

People are not that stupid

Our stupidity does have its limits. We do not behave so stupidly, so far anyway, to wipe ourselves out. We also have enough intelligence to overcome our stupidity to a degree; rational thinking, for example.

We are deluded

We receive a bombardment of information constantly. The vast majority of it we don’t need at this moment it time. Our brain acts as if it has a filter that filters out unwanted information. To do that, the brain acts as if we have a simplified model of reality. If something doesn’t fit with the model it gets filtered out. Unfortunately that means we live in a world in our head that reflects reality and sometimes our model of reality deviates considerably from reality. That means we all act in some way or other as deluded but some of us display a state of being seriously deluded than others and have all kinds of deluded beliefs such as quantum consciousness, gods and demons and delusions of grandeur! The only way to get back to a model that reflects reality better has to do with pain; if we ignore reality too long it has a nasty habit of biting us where it hurts the most.

We are near sighted

We evolved in small communities that needed to survive here and now. That means we tend to see the world revolving around me, myself and I. Our thinking then extends out to others to encompass our monkey sphere of about 150 people.  Our here and now thinking means we have trouble planning for the future. This forms part of the reason why we can act stupid.

We are social

We evolved to live in communities with other people so we have evolved ways to interact socially. We understand others as people like ourselves. We project ourselves onto others which works most of the time so long as we deal with people from our own culture but we can often fail to understand people from other cultures.  This also makes us uncertain of people not in our group and we check our behaviour with others in our group. This can contribute to behaviour like the bystander effect or racism. 

bystander effect

We have poor understanding of how the world works

Following on from our near sightedness and sociability, we tend to fail to understand how the world works. We tend to use anthropomorphism as a way to explain natural events; why did that bad thing happen? The gods were angry! This also forms part of the reason we act stupidly.

We use violence


Algerian security services clashed with youth demonstrating over high unemployment and food prices.


I say “use” rather than “we are violent” because we spend most of our time at peace, even the most violent groups on the planet. We also have developed many strategies to resolve conflicts peacefully. So we have more the characteristics of a peaceful species than a violent one. However, we still will use violence to resolve political situations if we feel we can get away with it. Our bodies have evolved to use and survive violent encounters; the adrenaline kick, withdrawing blood from the surface, and fighting with our fists, for example.

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