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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Chimps don’t throw stones

Well, actually they do. It is just that they are not very good at it. Humans, on the other hand do display a high degree of skill when it comes to throwing stones. This skill, argues, Perter Turin forms part of why we developed a reverse hierarchy when compared to other apes. Chimps, like gorillas, have a dominate alpha male; the silver back. But humans don’t have such a beast. It is true that some people do get to such a position in our modern societies but the evidence suggest that for much of our existence as a species on this planet, humans formed egalitarian societies. If an upstart occurred within a community, the ability to effect at a distance was able to put down (i.e. kill) the upstart through cooperation with minimal risk of harm to participants. Spears, bows and arrows, and eventually fire arms just added to our power to effect at a distance. Perter Turin argues that this violence encourages cooperation within groups. Competition between groups forms the main driving force for cooperation within groups. Cooperation is destroyed with competition within groups. Warfare is the ultimate competition between groups. The loser has much to lose! Victory goes to those who cooperate the best.

Perter Turin takes us on a tour of human cultural evolution to make his point.

Over the millennia our culture has evolved from egalitarian societies to god-kings to empires to mega-empires and on to today. Not smoothly. Not perfectly. But over time we have become more and more cooperative and more and more peaceful (with the exception of a rise in violence during the stone age). We lost egalitarianism along the way but not for good. Equality and trust strengthens cooperation so we have tended to return towards more egalitarian societies again. 

Christopher X Jon Jensen & Greg Riestenberg
Stag Hunt Game By cooperating the players get the maximum reward.

The benefits of cooperation are self-evident. We can obtain an exponential increase in our ability to do things if we work together towards a common goal.  Over many millennia we have changed as a species to become the most cooperative animal on the plant. Our ability to cooperate overtook that of ants 2000 years ago.  Today we build complex projects that take hundreds of millions or more people working together, such as the complex distributed network of international air travel. 

But cooperation is not easy.

The benefits of cooperation are self-evident. So why, then, do we have defaulters? The benefits to society as a whole might be exponential but for the individual it can be costly. If it takes 1000 warriors to defend a village and you are one of them then the best action for you would be to default. 999 warriors could do just as well without you and you will not run the risk of injury or death. You get all the benefits but none of the costs. But if everyone reasoned like that then no one would defend the village and you, as well as everyone else, would run the risk of a nasty death or enslavement. So, societies developed ways to punish defaulters. Yet, in cooperative systems we still can find defaulters.

So, how do we build cooperation? Well, it appears there are a number of important ingredients. Although Perter Turin does point out that the science of cultural evolution is still young and we have much more to learn.  However, we can say the following for now:

·         Enhance cooperation within the group
o   Increase openness
o   Increase equality
o   Increase trust
·         Avoid things that destroy cooperation within a group
o   Internal competition
o   Fear of group reprisal
o   Corruption
·         Increase competition between groups
o   War is the best for this. Nothing like life threatening danger to get you to work with others but I hope with the application of intelligence we can come up with a more socially acceptable alternative.

Thoughts on how this would work with EOS? Cooperation between like minded groups seems very difficult within the alternative or RBE community. Perhaps we don’t feel threatened yet?