Horizon or EP Theory?

From: Keith Henson (hkhenson@rogers.com)
Date: Wed 07 Jul 2004 - 04:09:24 GMT

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    At 07:14 PM 04/07/04 -0700, David Brin wrote:

    > -What Keith is talking about is what I call Horizon
    > Theory.
    > A people's horizons... not only of tolerance and
    > inclusion but also of perceived worry/danger... are
    > inversely proportional to the level of ambient fear.
    > Those who are BOTH satiable and satiated at one
    > level
    > tend to expand their horizons in distance, time and
    > otherness. Those with the lowest fear and highest
    > satiation worry not about the next meal, or next
    > harvest, but whther their great grandchildren will
    > have enough topsoil.

    I am perhaps play the EP note too loudly, but I can't fold in new ideas about people without referencing them to the deepest level, namely our psychological traits as they evolved in tribes during the Stone age.

    Tribal people who worried about the conditions their great grandchildren would face would have been out reproduced by those who were putting their concern on getting their children through the next winter (or drought).

    So while there *are* people with such long range outlooks, the psychological traits behind such an outlook have to be a side effect (such as the tail of a distribution) of a trait that could be selected. (If people with long range concerns existed on Easter Island, they didn't have a noticeable effect.)

    > Clearly BOTH Liberals and Libertarians are the most
    > future-oriented, inclusive and farthest-looking in
    > their horizons. Their differences over MEANS to get
    > there should not be discounted. But both perceive
    > utopian goals as achievable and desperately
    > important.
    > By contrast, most "conservatives" operate on much
    > closer horizons.

    Right. For example:

    "Mills continued, "The President's domestic and monetary polities, too, are in harmony with a literal interpretation of biblical prophecies. There is no reason to get wrought up about the national debt if God is soon going to foreclose on the whole world." Reagan's support of his Interior Secretary James Watt "makes sense if seen in that way, too. Why be concerned about conservation? Why waste time and money preserving things for future generations when everything is going to come to a fiery end with this one?""


    >This is not a matter of "left or
    > right", but something deeply psychological based
    > upon fear.

    I don't think "fear" is exactly the right word, though it might be a component. People do have conditionally turned on psychological traits that *were* selected in the Stone age. Before modern times human populations almost always lived near the ecological limit. If the rains failed and the game moved away, you and your family were likely to starve.

    Under those conditions, awareness of "looming privation" turned up the gain on xenophobic memes and synchronized the tribe's warriors to attack a nearby tribe. Usually all the males in the losing tribe were killed, though the (non Y) genes of the losers often survived through their female children. Bad as this scenario is, from the *genes* viewpoint, win or lose it beat the heck out of starving.

    So how does these Stone Age traits get turned on in modern times and why? It might be that the liberals are to blame after all! Who has been harping on running out of oil, water, farmland, and everything else for the last generation or two? Liberals (and perhaps libertarians) are on "if we are careful, the future looks bright" side. Conservatives have lower trip points and see the liberals harping on "looming privation" so they get ready for war and hoard all they can for the hard times a-coming. Short time horizons make sense in such situations (use it up before the enemy gets it).

    Another thing worth mentioning is that war and mental states leading up to war seriously interfere with rational thinking. It makes sense that mechanisms to suppress rational thinking would evolve. A tribe whose warriors *didn't* go irrational and put their lives on the line when facing starvation starved and didn't contribute many genes to the next generation. Along that line, see the PS.

    > But the agenda of saving the world is vastly more
    > noble than the agenda of stealing a trillion dollars
    > from our children and handing it over to 20,000 frat
    > brothers, including 1,000 Saudi sheiks.
    Agreed. Unfortunately these insights have not led me to reasonable courses of action to advocate. Still, if enough people understand these psychological mechanisms, perhaps someone will figure out something shorter term than lowering the birth rate. As it is, I foresee at least a generation of social disturbances unless the population takes a major hit from an epidemic or there is a massive technological breakthroughs such as nanotechnology.

    Keith Henson

    PS June 22, 2004 —Genghis Khan left a legacy shared by 16 million people alive today, according to a book by a Oxford geneticist who identified the Mongol emperor as the most successful alpha male in human history.


    The genetic testing follows another Oxford study, which involved a survey of the Y chromosome — which is passed unchanged from father to son — from all over Central Asia.

    The researchers found one Y chromosome fingerprint that was identical in eight percent of the male population.

    "This was highly unusual and suggested that they may all have descended from one man living in the fairly recent past. By seeing what small changes had occurred, it was possible to estimate the time at which this common ancestor lived, and it was consistent with an origin in the 12th or 13th century," Sykes said.

    Matching that evidence with the overlap between where the chromosome was abundant and the geographical extent of the Mongol empire established by Genghis Khan in the 12th century, the researchers concluded it was Genghis' chromosome.

    The Mongol emperor's habit of killing the men and inseminating the women when his army conquered a new territory, coupled with handing the Empire and other wealth to his sons, and their sons, would explain how the chromosome came to such prevalence today, said Sykes.


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