Monthly Archives: November 2012

Prisoner’s dilemma and closed social groupings

The prisoner’s dilemma is a widely know experiment. If you know of it, please skip the following explanation paragraph.

The gist of it is that two people are put in cells. Person A is told that if they snitch on the other person for a crime they both supposedly committed, that Person A will get a 1 year sentence. But if the other person snitches too, they’ll both get 5 years. And if both don’t snitch on each other, they both get 2 years. Now you can imagine what happens. Both people invariably snitch, because neither can ensure in any reliable fashion that the other won’t snitch.

Interesting update: if the game is played for long enough with some other type of reward or punishment, the two people will learn to cooperate. They will fall into what researchers call the tit for tat strategy. If me and you play often enough, we will come to trust the other person and if you cheat once, then I will cheat once too and we will both be worse off. We are incentivized to simply cooperate. The key to ‘teams’ falling into this strategy and being better off is that they know that the other person will be around to ‘play again’ and they don’t know when the game will end.

Next let’s think about interpersonal interaction among a closed and small society. If I know everyone in a group and that these members are going to be part of my group for the foreseeable future, it’s obvious what happens. People no longer sit in the prisoner’s dilemma and fail to cooperate. They know the other player will be around to play many more of the types of games that, with cooperation, will end with both sides benefiting overall. And so it’s in closed social groupings that people fall into the tit for tat strategy. It’s a one time prisoner’s dilemma when you don’t know the person in the car next to you… because, to the wind with it, you won’t likely ever see that person again.

Thanks Behavioral economics, you’re the shiz.


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The success of a species defined

When most people think of an animal being successful in its habitat, they would likely gauge that success by the number of offspring it has. When the single cheetah in Africa’s wild Savannah can’t seem to raise her cubs because there is a lack of resources, she is likely to be deemed a failure. Whether the reasons for her failure are any various number of environmental factors is immaterial. And when the majority of litters in a given area prosper and the cubs are raised to be strong, successful hunters, her species is considered to be successful and doing ‘well’.

And so one can extrapolate to the human race and conclude that we are the most successful species on the planet.

What let us get to such enormous numbers? Mainly the advent of agriculture. We were simply able to feed more people with less space.

But what did that do to us as people? Humans using the agricultural method were able to sustain a higher rate of population growth. They began to geometrically reproduce, cover the world and take over areas where more naturally living tribes existed. A fun fact here is that because agriculturally sustained peoples live in closer quarters with many more people, disease is more easily evolved. So when these peoples go exploring, they always tend to give their diseases (to which they’ve grown semi-accustomed) to the indigenous… which in Jared Diamond’s research shows is thought to have been responsible for the deaths of around 90% for the native american population.

In any case, what I’m arguing is that the proliferation of the number of humans around the globe is not indicative of success.

We have simply found a way to provide a feeding trough for our species. No other species on earth lives in such a way that is so far off from its naturally evolved ways. We evolved to live in small tribes of 50-150 people where each member knew every other. The religion and culture that allows cities to thrive puts us so far from what humans are naturally meant to be like. And you wonder why with the ever increasing wealth of developed countries, that we are no more happy than at previous levels of wealth and the most medicated populace ever.

Our population numbers are not indicative of our success.

Success should be measured by how happy and content we are on a daily basis. And when I look around at all the sad faces that feel like they have to drag themselves to the office each day or trudge through their unhappy marriage or get divorced, I don’t see peace and happiness in the general populace.

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Who likes sex more?

The Ancient Greek mythological story of Tiresias tells us that upon separating two mating snakes with his staff, Tiresias was immediately turned into a women. He stayed that way for a number of years. Happening upon two more entwined snakes, she separated then again an was turned back into a man.

Now Hera and Zeus were in an argument about whether males or females enjoyed sex more. Since Tiresias had enjoyed living in both forms, they asked him. And Tiresias proclaimed that not only do women enjoy sex more than men, they enjoy it nine times more.

This tail is wonderfully telling. Any man that has dated a woman for a time long enough for the woman to feel perfectly at ease with him knows that once she feels at ease, her wanton will outstrip his quite quickly (so long as the relationship is healthy, etc). And so I think it’s a terrible and unnatural thing that our society has done to label women whores and men studs for those who enjoy selectively pleasing themselves with the company of other high quality mates. Way to go religion. Way to fuck it up for everyone.

Look at the divorce rate and the number of couples that though they aren’t divorced, are probably less than satisfied with their sex lives. It’s simply not natural for most. I’m not saying deep, beautifully intense and long relationships aren’t natural, they are and they are one of life’s most incredible gifts. I’m just saying the monogamy game and how society cultures women to think about what they should want is incredibly unnatural. More to come on this one.


November 17, 2012 · 10:33 pm

Every day, closer to death

Each day that passes brings you one more step closer to the day that you will die. So if I have 40 years left, tomorrow I will have 39 years and 364 days.

This means that if everything goes to hell in life or all the worst worries come true, for every day that passes, there is that much less time to have to deal with the results of everything going to hell.

This is an incredibly freeing concept or way to look at life. Many old people think they have much to lose from all that they have built in life. But that can easily be flipped around. Shouldn’t one become even more bold, daring and risky as one gets older and therefore closer to departure? I think it can be a very freeing way to look at life. Screw your worries, each day that passes is one day less that you have to endure the results of those worries.

In light of this, I love thinking about my death. Well, not thinking about it, but fully acknowledging and being mindful of its existence. It reminds me of the fact that I have one less day, one less hour and one less moment on this planet to experience all that I want. That’ll getchya ass movin’.


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Sex industry facts

Americans spend more money at strip clubs than at Broadway, off-Broadway, regional and non-profit theaters, the opera, the ballet and jazz and classical music performances – combined.

In 2008, the Catholic Church paid out $436 million dollars in compensation for sexual abuse.

The worldwide porn industry rakes in an estimated $7  to $100 billion dollars in revenue each year. That is more than CBS, NBC and ABC combined and also more than all professional football, basketball and baseball teams combined.

Sounds like we’re a little bit of a sexual species. There’s so much we’ve changed about the way our environment surrounds us since we stopped living in hunter-gatherer societies. There’s a lot to be said for reflecting on how different your mind might be if, for example, women didn’t have access to the rewarding attention of hundreds of matable men and men didn’t have access to porn. Think about how different you might act if there were only a few mates from which you could ever choose.

On a related note:
We used to live in small groups that shared everything. Time and again, tribes that had not been previously contacted by the developed world, have shown to carry an enormous disdain for any member of the group that hides food from the rest. It utterly shameful and sinful for them. Imagine living in a group like this. I think there’s a lot to be said for porting some of that same intention into the lives we share with our family and closest friends now.

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