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A common folk explanation for the triumph of capitalism over communism goes along these lines:

Communism has some lovely notions about sharing wealth between people in proportion to their needs and ideally we would indeed live that way. But people are not motivated to work under such egalitarian conditions. Humans are somewhat pro-social and do make some sacrifices for others, especially close friends and family. But that just isn’t enough to keep people working hard and productiviely in big, anonymous, industrial economies year in, year out. The economic system has to go with the grain of human nature and appeal to people’s greed by offering private rewards for work hard and risk-taking. That is why market economies have become rich and centrally planned ones have stagnated. Communism was a triumph of idealism over the realities of human nature.

If this really is the reason capitalism has been so successful, I’m afraid the future doesn’t look so good for capitalism.

In that caricature, capitalism is only the best economic system given the constraints imposed by human nature. Human nature has turned out to be harder to mould than 19th century idealists had hoped, but it will not remain fixed in that way forever. Over thousands of years evolution can and will change human nature, leaving us free to choose from a broader range of social structures.

Long before ‘natural selection‘ has much impact I expect that ‘human directed selection’ will take off. Initially children will be chosen for things like beauty, intelligence and health, but eventually our personalities will also become a parental or social choice. It will then be within our power to take the pro-social behaviour that humans currently display to only a small in-group of close friends and family, and direct it towards larger groups of our choosing. Communism could get a second run, only this time it wouldn’t have to work against a human nature that evolved to serve our hunter-gatherer ancestors!

Communist communities whose members are selected to cooperate selflessly among themselves could turn out to be more productive and gradually out-compete individualistic or capitalist communities. These communities might resemble hyper-social super-organisms like ant or bee colonies.

The competitive dynamics of such a scenario are a challenge to imagine. There would be lots of ways such cooperation could be undermined but it might also be possible to sustain. Excluding and punishing free-riders within the community will be an option for people as it is for insects.

Such communities might still choose to use markets and prices to solve the economic calculation problem but then redistribute what they produce in a very egalitarian way. Or future technologies might allow them to dispense with markets altogether.

Though I am personally quite an individualist and enjoy the classically liberal way of life, I am not so horrified by the thought of human or post-human societies being very different in the future. The members of such a future ‘communist’ society would not necessarily share my individualistic preferences and so might not suffer to live as slaves to giant communities as humans today do. The desirability of this scenario was discussed by Peter Singer and Tyler Cowen a few years ago:

Cowen: Let’s try some philosophical questions. You’re a philosopher, and I’ve been very influenced by your writings on personal obligation. Apart from the practical issue that we can give some money and have it do good, there’s a deeper philosophical question of how far those obligations extend, to give money to other people. Is it a nice thing we could do, or are we actually morally required to do so? What I see in your book is a tendency to say something like “people, whether we like it or not, will be more committed to their own life projects than to giving money to others and we need to work within that constraint”. I think we would both agree with that, but when we get to the deeper human nature, or do you feel it represents a human imperfection? If we could somehow question of “do we in fact like that fact?”, is that a fact you’re comfortable with about human nature? If we could imagine an alternative world, where people were, say, only 30% as committed to their personal projects as are the people we know, say the world is more like, in some ways, an ant colony, people are committed to the greater good of the species. Would that be a positive change in human nature or a negative change?

Singer: Of course, if you have the image of an ant colony everyone’s going to say “that’s horrible, that’s negative”, but I think that’s a pejorative image for what you’re really asking …

Cowen: No, no, I don’t mean a colony in a negative sense. People would cooperate more, ants aren’t very bright, we would do an ant colony much better than the ants do. …

Singer: But we’d also be thinking differently, right? What people don’t like about ant colonies is ants don’t think for themselves. What I would like is a society in which people thought for themselves and voluntarily decided that one of the most satisfying and fulfilling things they could do would be to put more of their effort and more of their energy into helping people elsewhere in need. If that’s the question you’re asking, then yes, I think it would be a better world if people were readier to make those concerns their own projects.

Before we had evolutionary psychology, ‘homo hypocritus‘, the subconscious and the modular mind people were still keenly observing human behaviour. Some were extremely insightful in noting our foibles, lies, hypocrisies and true motivations even if they couldn’t develop a unifying theory by which to explain them.

One of the wisest observers of human behaviour was the French writer La Rochefoucauld. If you haven’t yet read his maxims, you are in for a real treat. Below are some of the most cynical and enduring observations.

  • What we term virtues are often but a mass of various actions and divers interests, which fortune or our own industry manage to arrange; and it is not always from valour or from chastity that men are brave, and women chaste.
  • Hypocrisy is an homage that vice pays to virtue.
  • Nobody deserves to be praised for goodness unless he is strong enough to be bad, for any other goodness is usually merely inertia or lack of will-power.
  • There is great skill in knowing how to conceal one’s skill.
  • We always like those who admire us; we do not always like those whom we admire.
  • How can we expect others to keep our secrets if we cannot keep them ourselves?
  • We are eager to believe that others are flawed because we are eager to believe in what we wish for.
  • We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those whom we bore.
  • We confess to little faults only to persuade ourselves we have no great ones.
  • Mediocre minds usually dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own understanding.
  • Nothing prevents us being natural so much as the desire to appear so.
  • In friendship and in love, one is often happier because of what one does not know than what one knows.
  • Hardly any man is clever enough to know all the evil he does.
  • In all professions we affect a part and an appearance to seem what we wish to be. Thus the world is merely composed of actors.
  • In the human heart there is a perpetual generation of passions, such that the ruin of one is almost always the foundation of another.
  • We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us, when we hide it so often from ourselves.
  • We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.
  • Philosophy triumphs easily over past and future evils; but present evils triumph over it. (A nod to construal level theory.)
  • Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily.
  • The evil that we do does not attract to us so much persecution and hatred as our good qualities.
  • If we had no faults, we should not take so much pleasure in noting those of others.
  • Self-interest speaks all sorts of tongues and plays all sorts of characters, even that of disinterestedness.
  • To succeed in the world we do everything we can to appear successful already.
  • Sincerity is an openness of heart; we find it in very few people; what we usually see is only an artful dissimulation to win the confidence of others.
  • If we judge love by the majority of its results, it resembles hatred more than friendship.
  • The love of justice is simply in the majority of men the fear of suffering injustice.
  • Friendship is only a reciprocal conciliation of interests, and an exchange of good offices; it is a species of commerce out of which self-love always expects to gain something.
  • It is more disgraceful to distrust than to be deceived by our friends.
  • Everyone complains about his memory, and no one complains about his judgment.
  • In the adversity of our best friends we often find something that is not exactly displeasing.
  • Nothing is given so profusely as advice.
  • The truest way to be deceived is to think oneself more knowing than others.
  • When not prompted by vanity, we say little.
  • Usually we only praise to be praised.
  • The refusal of praise is only the wish to be praised twice.
  • The art of using moderate abilities to advantage wins praise, and often acquires more reputation than actual brilliancy.
  • The desire to appear clever often prevents one from being so.

Ever had a long term goal you wanted to achieve, like publishing a paper, getting fit or maintaining a blog, that you always put off and never actually got done? You and me both!

I’m not sure whether it’s because I have more ambitious goals than others or just less discipline, but I only rarely feel I’m using my spare time as well as I could. I spend too much time on easy things like reading and talking and too little doing substantive research.

Why is this akrasia such a common experience? If you’ll permit me some evolutionary ‘just-so story’ telling, and I know you will, my guess is that hunter-gatherers did not have to deal with many far off goals that required the determination to stick with unrewarding, difficult or tedious tasks. Hunting, gathering and socialising all offered pretty immediate payoffs so humans are not programmed to do the things the modern world requires of us. As a result discipline – who has it and how to achieve it – is a huge concern through farmer and industrial culture.

Whatever the cause, I think I have found a partial cure. For the last month I’ve been using the website Beeminder to set myself goals and stay on track to meet them. I signed up on the recommendation of two close friends who said it had dramatically enhanced their lives and it has had a similar impact for me.

The strategy of Beeminder is to remove procrastination as an option. Beeminder takes whatever long term goal you are aspring towards and sets out a linear trajectory until it is reached. If you ever fall below that trajectory you have failed at your goal. As a result you regularly face days when you must make some progress towards your goal, or lose. If you do extra today, then you build up a buffer that takes the pressure off tomorrow. The system does rely on you being honest about what you have done, though you could give your account to a friend and let them enter the data for you. It’s very satisfying to see your graph grow as you inch towards your goal, and once you have made some progress, it feels tragic to let your graph get frozen and have to start from scratch.

The first time you attempt a task there is no penalty for failure – apart from whatever disappointment and shame you happen to feel – but if you want to reattempt it Beeminder prompts you to put some money on the line. That money is taken from you if you fail and choose to attempt again. The financial penalty grows three-fold for each subsequent attempt, so you can pretty quickly end up with a lot of cash on the line, if you weren’t otherwise sufficiently motivated. These penalties are how the Beeminder folks hope to make money.

I now approach my evenings and weekends in a much more structured way. On Saturday morning I knew for example, that I had to work-out twice, write two blog posts and get at least three unreplied emails out of my backlog before the weekend was over. Rather than drift through until the early afternoon, as I often used to do, I mentally set out a schedule that allowed me to achieve all of those things. When I’m not working on Beeminder tasks I get to enjoy true ‘down-time’ and the fact that I have ‘things to get done’ means that I treasure and use that time much more effectively than I otherwise would. The fact that I have satisfied my pre-defined targets also means I don’t feel guilty when I do relax.

Some people who hear about Beeminder are nervous about the apparent loss of control over their lives. While it is true that the ‘momentary you’ loses some control, it is only giving up control to your ‘past self’. You can always change your goals with a week’s notice, so you are only ever a slave to a very recent past ‘you’. And while it can be a pain to have to complete a task on a particular day, once you notice that, you will naturally work up a buffer so you can always take the day off if something urgent does come up.

Other people feel that Beeminder will crowd-out their ‘true’ discipline, which is what they should be relying on. If you care about outcomes the proof will be in the pudding; for now at least this tool has enhanced my apparent discipline. The immediacy Beeminder creates does mean I need less willpower to motivate myself to do some things, but I see that as a postive rather than a negative. Drawing on willpower is exhausting.

Others value carefree spontaneity over the kind of focus Beeminder is designed to foster. Certainly a Beeminder task mandating that you ‘relax and enjoy the moment’ would have a touch of irony – though if I ever do a PhD I think I’ll need one. If you are comfortable with how much you satisfy your second-order desires or your first-order and second-order desires coincide – lucky you – then feel free to ignore this post.

But for the rest of us there’s now Beeminder.

For those concerned about the future there are a lot of things to worry about. Nuclear war, bioterrorism, asteroids, artificial intelligence, runaway climate change – the list goes on. All of these have the potential to devastate humanity. How then to pick which one is the most important to work on? I want to point out a reason to work on machine intelligence even if one thinks that there is a low probability of the technology working.

Preventing catastrophes like nuclear war does avoid human extinction and keep us on the path of growth and eventual space colonisation. However, it is unclear how pleasant this world will be for its inhabitants. If a singleton does not develop, that is “a single decision-making agency … exerting effective control over its domain, and permanently preventing both internal and external threats to its supremacy,” the logic of survival means that we will eventually end up regressing to a competitive Malthusian world. That world is one where vast numbers of beings compete for survival on subsistence incomes, as has been the case for most creatures on Earth since life first appeared billions of years ago. The creatures working to survive could be mind uploads or something else entirely. In this scenario it is competitive pressure and evolution which determine the long run outcome. There will be little if any path dependence. Just as it was not possible for a group of people planted on Earth millions of years ago to change the welfare of the beings that exist today after evolution has had its way, so too it will be impossible for anyone today to change what kinds of creatures win out in the battle for survival millions of years from now. The only impact we could have now would be to reduce the risk of life disappearing altogether at this brief bottleneck on Earth where extinction is a real possibility. The difference between the best and worst futures possible is that between the desirability of life disappearing altogether and the desirability of a Malthusian world.

As competitive pressures do not necessarily drive creatures towards states of high wellbeing, it is hard to say which of these is the better outcome. I hope that technology which allows us to consciously design our minds and therefore our experience of life will lead to a nicer outcome even in the presence of competitive pressures, but that is hard to predict. Whatever the merits of the competitive future, it falls short of what a benevolent, all-powerful being trying to maximise welfare would choose.

On the other hand if a singleton is possible or inevitable, the difference between the best and worst futures is much greater. The desires of the singleton which comes to dominate Earth will be the final word on what Earth originating life goes on to do. It will be free to create whatever utopia or dystopia it chooses without competitors or restrictions, other than those posed by the laws of physics. In this world it is possible to influence what happens millions or billions of years from now, by influencing the kind of singleton which takes over and spreads acoss the universe. The difference in desirability between the best and worst case is that between an evil singleton which unrelentingly spreads misery across the universe, and the ideal benevolent singleton which goes about turning the entire universe into the things you most value.

If you think there is much uncertainty about whether a singleton is possible, and want to maximise your expected impact on the future, you should act as though you live in a world where it is possible. You should only ignore those scenarios if they are very improbable.

What technology is most likely to deliver us a singleton in the next century or two, giving you a chance to have a big impact on the future? I think the answer is a generalised artificial intelligence, though one might also suggest a non-AI group achieving total dominance through mind uploads, ubiquitous surveillance, nanotechnology, or whatever other emerging technology.

So if any of you are tempted to dismiss the Singularity Institute because the runaway AI scenario seems so improbable: you shouldn’t. It makes sense to work on it even if it is. The same goes for those who focus on the possibility of an irreversible global government.

Update: I have tried to clarify my view in a reply to Carl Shulman below. My claim is not that the probability is irrelevant, just that it is only part of the story and that working on low probability scenarios can be justified if you can have a larger impact, which I believe is the case here. Nor do I or many people working on AI believe that an intelligence explosion scenario is particularly unlikely.

A quote from Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate (pdf):

“This grew into the modern catechism: rape is not about sex, our culture socializes men to rape, it glorifies violence against women. The analysis comes right out of the gender-feminist theory of human nature: people are blank slates (who must be trained or socialized to want things); the only significant human motive is power (so sexual desire is irrelevant); and all motives and interests must be located in groups (such as the male sex and the female sex) rather than in individual people. The Brownmiller theory is appealing even to people who are not gender {362} feminists because of the doctrine of the Noble Savage. Since the 1960s most educated people have come to believe that sex should be thought of as natural, not shameful or dirty. Sex is good because sex is natural and natural things are good. But rape is bad; therefore, rape is not about sex. The motive to rape must come from social institutions, not from anything in human nature. The violence-not-sex slogan is right about two things. Both parts are absolutely true for the victim: a woman who is raped experiences it as a violent assault, not as a sexual act. And the part about violence is true for the perpetrator by definition: if there is no violence or coercion, we do not call it rape. But the fact that rape has something to do with violence does not mean it has nothing to do with sex, any more than the fact that armed robbery has something to do with violence means it has nothing to do with greed. Evil men may use violence to get sex, just as they use violence to get other things they want.

I believe that the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence, and is getting in the way of the only morally relevant goal surrounding rape, the effort to stamp it out.

Think about it. First obvious fact: Men often want to have sex with women who don’t want to have sex with them. They use every tactic that one human being uses to affect the behavior of another: wooing, seducing, flattering, deceiving, sulking, and paying. Second obvious fact: Some men use violence to get what they want, indifferent to the suffering they cause. Men have been known to kidnap children for ransom (sometimes sending their parents an ear or finger to show they mean business), blind the victim of a mugging so the victim can’t identify them in court, shoot out the kneecaps of an associate as punishment for ratting to the police or invading their territory, and kill a stranger for his brand-name athletic footwear. It would be an extraordinary fact, contradicting everything else we know about people, if some men didn’t use violence to get sex.

Let’s also apply common sense to the doctrine that men rape to further the interests of their gender. A rapist always risks injury at the hands of the woman defending herself. In a traditional society, he risks torture, mutilation, and death at the hands of her relatives. In a modern society, he risks a long prison term. Are rapists really assuming these risks as an altruistic sacrifice to benefit the billions of strangers that make up the male gender? The idea becomes even less credible when we remember that rapists tend to be losers and nobodies, while presumably the main beneficiaries of the patriarchy are the rich and powerful. Men do sacrifice themselves for the greater good in wartime, of course, but they are either conscripted against their will or promised public adulation when their exploits are made public. But rapists usually {363} commit their acts in private and try to keep them secret. And in most times and places, a man who rapes a woman in his community is treated as scum. The idea that all men are engaged in brutal warfare against all women clashes with the elementary fact that men have mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives, whom they care for more than they care for most other men. To put the same point in biological terms, every person’s genes are carried in the bodies of other people, half of whom are of the opposite sex. Yes, we must deplore the sometimes casual treatment of women’s autonomy in popular culture. But can anyone believe that our culture literally “teaches men to rape” or “glorifies the rapist”? Even the callous treatment of rape victims in the judicial system of yesteryear has a simpler explanation than that all men benefit by rape. Until recently jurors in rape cases were given a warning from the seventeenth-century jurist Lord Matthew Hale that they should evaluate a woman’s testimony with caution, because a rape charge is “easily made and difficult to defend against, even if the accused is innocent.” The principle is consistent with the presumption of innocence built into our judicial system and with its preference to let ten guilty people go free rather than jail one innocent.

Even so, let’s suppose that the men who applied this policy to rape did tilt it toward their own collective interests. Let’s suppose that they leaned on the scales of justice to minimize their own chances of ever being falsely accused of rape (or accused under ambiguous circumstances) and that they placed insufficient value on the injustice endured by women who would not see their assailants put behind bars. That would indeed be unjust, but it is still not the same thing as encouraging rape as a conscious tactic to keep women down. If that were men’s tactic, why would they have made rape a crime in the first place?

As for the morality of believing the not-sex theory, there is none. If we have to acknowledge that sexuality can be a source of conflict and not just wholesome mutual pleasure, we will have rediscovered a truth that observers of the human condition have noted throughout history. And if a man rapes for sex, that does not mean that he “just can’t help it” or that we have to excuse him, any more than we have to excuse the man who shoots the owner of a liquor store to raid the cash register or who bashes a driver over the head to steal his BMW. The great contribution of feminism to the morality of rape is to put issues of consent and coercion at center stage. The ultimate motives of the rapist are irrelevant.”

Ultimately the conscious motivation of rapists is an empirical question and some rapists could get enjoyment from wielding power over others. But as Pinker describes, the prima facae case has to be that desire for sex is an important factor in the occurrence of rape. Few people are sadists, and if power achieved through violence were the only goal, rape would only be one of many options.

Looking at it from an evolutionary point of view rather than the conscious motivation the rapist perceives themselves as having, the fitness value a person’s genes gain from their carrier potentially making a woman pregnant is huge compared with any gains from improving their carrier’s self image. For that matter, ‘power’ should only be enjoyable to have when it is useful. It might therefore be satisfying to know you have the ‘power’ to force someone to have sex with you if the alternative is not being able to have sex at all, but someone who must use violence is less ‘powerful’, impressive or high status than someone who can get sex from willing partners. There are surely few if any social benefits from having others think you are ‘powerful’ or threatening because you are a rapist; others are much more likely to avoid you and make your life difficult. For this reason it would be extraordinary if rapists preferred raping to having consensual sex.

This certainly gave me a good laugh:

Tiger Woods, who recently admitted to multiple extramarital affairs, said he is receiving treatment. David Duchovny, who plays a sex-obsessed professor on the TV show “Californication,” underwent rehab in 2008. Dr. Drew Pinsky has launched a reality series dealing with the subject.

Sex addiction talk seems to be everywhere. But mental health experts are split on what underlies such behavior.

Patterns of extreme sexual acting out are described variously by therapists as an addiction, as a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder or as a symptom of another psychiatric illness, such as depression.

The lines specialists draw between what is sexually normal or abnormal have long been in flux. Some behaviors, such as pedophilia, are almost universally considered abnormal and have been described in the DSM for decades. Homosexuality was once considered deviant, but that reference was dropped from the DSM decades ago.

Therapists who see patients — mostly men — with problems caused by repetitive sexual behaviors, whether sex with consenting adults, pornography or cyber-sex, said the addition of a hypersexual behavior category was long overdue.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this condition exists and that it’s serious,” said Dr. Martin P. Kafka, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard University who was a member of the DSM-5 work group on sexual disorders.

“There are definitely men who are consumed by porn or consumed by sex with consenting adults — who have multiple affairs or multiple prostitutes. The consequences associated with this behavior are very significant, including divorce, pregnancy” and sexually transmitted disease, he said.

Given how much people enjoying having sex, surely it’s our failure to have sex whereever the opportunity presents itself which is the peculiar behaviour demanding hand wringing by psychologists. If a man’s revealed preference is to have sex very often with as many people as possible, why not label his residual desire for a stable monogamous relationship as the pathology requiring a cure? If the man’s desire for a stable marriage is more than just a desire to fit in, such a man does indeed have competing desires that are hard to reconcile. However, as long as they only engage in consensual sex it’s not clear why the rest of society should side with one over the other. If ‘sex addiction’ made men so impatient it was impossible for them to plan to get the sex they want, I could see the problem. However, the results listed here not sexual frustration but rather divorce, pregnancy and STIs.

Why not instead praise sex addiction? Just think of the potential benefits to women who might otherwise struggle to find sexual partners! Desire for sex is after all one of  the primary reasons men strive to become educated, rich and impressive. If sex addicted men go out and get women pregnant and have many children out of wedlock, all the better for those children who get to live who otherwise might never have been given that chance! We might just as well choose to pathologise those who so desire a sexually exclusive relationship so much that they ruin their sex lives by staying married to people who no longer excite them, killing off their creativity in the process. If we took this diagnosis seriously most boys would surely qualify as mentally ill at some point during puberty.

If any condition in the new DSM is a result of imposing a particular set of values not clearly conducive to human welfare, surely sex addiction is it.

When we’re talking about famous men like Tiger Woods, we should be least surprised that they sleep around. Satoshi Kanazawa exaggerates but is on the right track:

In the very short time since I have been a “blogger” at Psychology Today, since February 2008, there have been numerous sex scandals of politicians, athletes, and other celebrities:  Eliot Spitzer;  Silvio Berlusconi; David Paterson; John Edwards; Mark Sanford; David Letterman, and now Tiger Woods.  This is nothing new.  The only puzzle is that some of them had to pay for the sex.  At least, Berlusconi, the only non-American on the list above, does not have to face the “outrage” and “disappointment” of his countrymen; in Europe, for some reason, people know that this is normal for politicians and other powerful and resourceful men.

To recap everything I have said in the last two years on this blog, men do everything they do in order to get laid (Read Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV,Part VPart VI).  This is mostly unconscious on the part of the men; they don’t necessarily know that they do everything they do in order to get laid.  They consciously think that they want to attain the highest political office in the state or in the country; they want to become a successful businessman and make more money than anyone else; they want to practice and play hard so that they can become the best in their sport; they want to make America laugh so that they become the most successful entertainer.  Men want to do these things because they are evolutionarily designed to compete and achieve, and, when they do, women seek them out as sexual partners.

Highly successful men have sexual affairs, not because they want to (if what men want mattered, all men would have a maximum number of affairs), but because women choose them.  As I have said again and again, sex and mating among humans and other mammals is an entirely female choice, not a male choice; it happens whenever and with whomever women want, not whenever and with whomever men want.  What men want doesn’t matter, because it’s a constant.  What matters is what women want.

Added: The Onion on fire.

Smart people are more likely to develop and hold new and unusual beliefs:

More intelligent people are significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history. Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds. The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values. The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years.

“General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions,” says Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”

Intelligent people are more likely to be able to think of their own solutions to any problem and so it is natural and adaptive for them to put more faith in their own judgement over inherited rules and habits. This reminded me of Jon Haidt’s research on our evolved ethical instincts which found liberals were more likely to prioritise harm/care and fairness/justice as moral principles while conservatives valued those two as well as ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect and purity/sanctity equally. Loyalty, authority and sanctity evolved as rules which would ensure the smooth functioning of a society and the welfare of individuals within it. Liberals are usually less interested in using such rules to ensure the coherence of groups, but why? Looking at Satoshi’s evidence, it’s possible that because they are more likely to think up and embrace novel solutions to problems, they are more willing to expand the generalisable principles of care and justice to ensure social stability and cooperation, perhaps through a more expansive welfare system. Having gone through such a thought process they have less need for whatever specific rules and intuitions we evolved to ensure social stability in the ancestral environment.

Intelligent men embracing sexual exclusivity is probably a weak example of smart sincere syndrome. In near mode, men want sex and lots of it with lots of people. Just notice the Coolidge effect. In far mode though we value exclusive love. Intelligent men are more likely to suppress their near desire for sex and generalise their far value for exclusive love. Were there a long run in human evolution this impractical value would eventually disappear, as intelligent men are more attractive and have more to gain from embracing polygamy.

Longitudinal happiness studies estimate the impact of major life events:

“WHAT’S a marriage worth? To an Aussie male, about $32,000. That’s the lump sum Professor Paul Frijters says the man would need to receive out of the blue to make him as happy as his marriage will over his lifetime. An Aussie woman would need much less, about $16,000.

But when it comes to divorce, the Aussie male will be so devastated it would be as if he had lost $110,000. An Aussie woman would be less traumatised, feeling as if she had lost only $9000.”

It makes sense for a man to value a marriage more than a woman – they are more likely to go childless in their lives so locking in a partner is a greater relief. However it is surprising to me that men are so much more harmed by a divorce. The woman may find it easier to find another partner, but if she has aged much while with her husband or had children already, she will risk getting fewer resources to support them and perhaps not finding a new partner. Can anyone help explain this?

Theres a lot going on in your brain that you arent aware of. Enough thinking to accomodate a second person?

There's a lot going on in your brain that you aren't aware of. Enough thinking to accomodate a second 'person'?

Psychology experiments give us a good reason to think that there are multiple streams of thought going on in our minds. For example the classic experiment where the brain stem is cut, separating the right and left hemisphere, demonstrates that the two sides of the brain can continue to function and perform plenty of tasks without contact between the two. The left side of the brain is clearly conscious in these cases and can carry out a  conversation on its own. The right hemisphere is a less familiar beast as it lacks the ability to speak but it can process images and do spatial tasks similar to before. If you are willing to admit those who can’t speak as conscious, then you could reasonably say that each hemisphere was a largely separate consciousness after such a cut. Of course, in normal brains, these two streams are intimately linked, sharing lots of information about language and images back and forth, making any boundary invisible.

This lovely video demonstrates the above:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Robert WiblinHi! I am a young Australian man ostensibly interested in the truth and maximising the total number of preferences that are ever satisfied, weighted by their intensity. I also enjoy reading and writing about the topics listed above. If you share my interests, friend me on , , or or subscribe to my RSS feed .

All opinions expressed here are at most mine alone, and have nothing to do with any past, present, future or far future employers.

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Twitter Updates

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Past Posts


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