Re: META: Memes and War [was: Tomorrow is a new day]

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri Nov 12 2004 - 17:23:32 MST

At 06:34 PM 11/11/04 -0500, you wrote:
>At 12:36 PM 11/11/04 -0700, David Clark wrote:
>If anyone on the list thinks David has enough understanding of the
>relevant subjects to be worth continuing this thread I might do so.
>Keith Henson

Randall Randall responded off list and when asked said I could quote him here.

>I'm not sure that this is an SL4 topic, but from
>this layman's viewpoint, he seems to point out
>what kind of evidence your hypothesis would require,
>and that it seems lacking.
>I really think he's made a good case that there
>may have been no particular selection pressure
>in this direction, since resource depletion is a
>distinctly modern (last few thousand years) issue.

I suspect you and perhaps David just have not thought about this much. The
*general* problem of living things depleting resources goes back to shortly
after life arose. It's a mathematical property of anything capable of

Trying to find the "mama bear" quote, I found that I had already discussed
this point back in May, here specifically:

<begin quote>

. . . at a psychology workshop this last weekend . . .

They are the kind of people who understand the "Mamma bear" problem that
William Calvin discusses in the first chapter of The Ascent of Mind: Ice
Age Climates and the Evolution of Intelligence.

"Unfortunately, a little arithmetic shows that this story doesn't have a
happy ending. How many bears can the environment feed? Obviously, that's
the average bear population. And that means, on average, only two babies
per mother get to grow up and become a parent, out of the dozen or two that
she produces. The maximum population level is not set by the birth rate but
by the number of job slots afforded by the environmental niche occupied by
bears. . . ."

"That means the average Mama Bear is raising five-to-ten times more baby
bears than can possibly survive, absent, of course, miracles -- . . . ."

The opposition I got to asking how far back it was that humans became their
own major predator was really interesting (at a meta level). It is obvious
that hominid lines were able to fill the environment to capacity and then
some. The simple fact that our line spread so far into Asia so long ago
indicates population pressure on groups at the population edges. Behind
that edge *something* (or things) held the population to the numbers the
environment can feed. Obviously diseases were a factor, but probably not

But the idea that human line groups killed off neighbors as a regular
feature of life long enough to select for a survival response genes when
things start to get tight . . . . . I wonder if humans generally have
emotional censors to reject such an idea. Perhaps such thoughts conflict in
with our view of ourselves--at least as that view has been shaped by times
of relative plenty.

[Editorial note, I now am wondering if rejecting thinking about this
subject might be due to _wired in_ censors, the kind that keep people from
thinking any more than they absolutely have to about their own mortality.]

"Global maturing" may be a lot harder if censor biases keep us from
thinking about this class of knowledge.

Then again, perhaps humans differ in some way from bears and they didn't
overfill the environment during the stone age or they had some other way to
control populations that didn't involve groups killing each other.

<end quote>

Human's generally don't have twins like bears, but in a primitive
environment the typical woman is pregnant or nursing from late teens to
early 40s. Five to six kids is typical. Just like bears, on average only
two of them will survive to reproduce (given a constant environment, which
includes technology). And typically 40% of the adults in present day
hunter gatherer groups die from violence.

I know bringing in bad news about our evolved psychological traits is not a
popular role, heck, I find the subject really depressing, but someone has
to do it because we really need to understand ourselves better if we are
going to survive into the Singularity.

Looking to see if I had ever used the word "Krell," I found I had started
another thread back in May with the subject line "Forbidden Planet." I
don't think anyone made a comment directly on the subject line and now
wonder how large a fraction of the list "got it." That's one of the
problems of a text only interface because you can't see the baffled looks
when you cite something which might not be as widely known as you think.

Keith Henson

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