All humans have an inherent drive towards violence and dominance

All humans have an inherent drive towards violence and dominance. Like the positive attributes in humanity, some of this is biological, some of this is because of societal pressures.

We evolved to maximize two outcomes – our own survival and replication. In order to maximize this, we evolved to cooperate socially in order to build up a tribe – a community of people with similar interests that add to the collective strength and efficiencies of the group.

We also evolved to be competitive. We are competitive because we get energized by driving toward something – even if that thing is at the expense of others, and because we are rewarded for winning in competition. Being engaged in a task comes from this drive – this want to succeed. Being engaged in a task focuses the mind. Focus allows us to be present in the moment, which can be used to be productive and accomplish or to have fun.

We are also competitive because we are rewarded for winning in competition. This applies across all games – all opportunities to be competitive, and it applies interpersonally as well as socially. There are winners and losers in life. Some people live longer than others, one guy marries and has children with the hot chick, and one person’s company gets funded and goes on to make billions of dollars. This happens at the expense of others. One guy settles for a woman he sees as less attractive. Another dies early. Employees at one startup work hard for years but get crushed when they don’t get additional funds while a competitor does.

There are psychological rewards for success across any of these games. By “winning” we are given the satisfaction of a job well done. We reap fruits of the hard effort we put in. Accomplishment is a big motivator. It gives us meaning, and reinforces that we are valued by society when we do a good job. This allows to have confidence in what we do, which manifests in mental strength and more confident actions and decision making in the future. This is why positive reinforcement has been proven to be much more effective than negative reinforcement in order to get results.

Likewise, social rewards come in many forms. Socially, we can get public recognition for a job well done – such as our name in the newspaper, a bonus, or a pat on the back. In the sexual market, we are rewarded for being more attractive. If we are best able to communicate our ability to appeal to a woman’s want to survive and replicate, then we can be given access to sexual favors from that woman (or women). It is in this competition that we seek to be better than others. Humans will out-work and out-charm other humans at the expense of other humans.

Another aspect of competition is the jealousy and greed that emerges as a result. When people achieve and reap the rewards society has to offer, we look at them with contempt. It takes a wise man to be unfettered by the success of others. Jealousy is a very natural feeling. Jealousy emerges when we are not being rewarded by society at the rate of others. We become resentful because they pose a threat to our ability to appeal to the other sex, to money and resources, or the status of being a leader in the in-group.

Similar, greed is the obsession of the accumulation of things. This usually comes at the expense of others too. If someone controls wealth and power, they will be rewarded with sex, status, and control over others. These things feel good when they are experienced, and they reward with more material goods, which also feels good. Greed is a reinforcing loop that leads to more greed, which comes at the expense of others.

While jealousy and greed can motivate an individual to build the skills and knowledge necessary to climb a dominance hierarchy to achieve the status and wealth he set out to realize, there are downsides these traits. Jealousy and greed make us wanting of more. They reinforce that we are not good enough, or don’t have enough things, and in doing so make us want. When we want, we are necessarily not content with what we currently have.

Wars and acts of terror happen for these reasons. We feel threatened by another group, or we are greedy for resources that other people have. So, we seek destruction and dominance in order to satisfy our cravings, which can surface at an individual or a societal level.

When we aren’t content with what we currently have, we have two options. We can acquire more (status, things, etc). This is more likely to be chosen by people that are greedy and jealous, because they have been rewarded for their greed and jealousy in the past. The other option is to stop wanting. This requires psychologically detaching ourselves from the wants and needs of a given competition. Most of these competitions are externally pushed onto us. We can reject them, and learn to be happy with what we have.

Finally, human beings are inherently violent because we despise the routine. We hate being bored, and we actively seek things to interrupt what is normal. We get drunk after a good day (or bad day). We change sex positions into something more risqué. We travel somewhere we’ve never been.

If we were given a “perfect society”, where everyone was happy and received what they want and were also rewarded for their efforts, it would not take long for people to destroy the whole system. We would bring the perfect system to ashes because it’s boring. We crave adventure. We crave the disorder that keeps us interested and motivated to learn how to overcome that disorder – to create order out of chaos.

In summary, all humans have an inherent drive towards violence and dominance because:

  • We are competitive and compete for status and sexual favor.
  • We are jealous, manipulative, and greedy.
  • We despise the routine.

All humans have an inherent drive towards being loving and caring.

All humans have an inherent drive towards being loving and caring. We have a natural want to get along with other humans and to love others, and we are rewarded psychologically and socially when we do this. It makes us feel good when other people feel good, we have greater access to good things like sex, and we can be rewarded in business with more money.

Our genes evolved with distinct goals in mind. These goals shaped the psychology of humans, which manifests in our behavior. These are our primal drivers in life. There are two genetic drivers in life – survive and replicate. Genes, which do not contain the capacity for conscious thought, have a want to survive as long as they can, and to reproduce to ensure the continuity of that gene for generations. As genes work together to build a basic, non-thinking animal, those goals makeup the existence of the species. Even as consciousness develops through the growing brain, the ancient, animalistic part of our brains still have those desires hard-coded into our wiring.

All humans have a primal desire to survive and replicate. To survive means to not die. Our genes want to live as long as possible, and so do humans. We are afraid of death, even though it is natural and inevitable. We worry about the future, we have insecurities, and we get nervous because of the primal want to survive and not die.

A lot of this is biological. We evolved to get along with others. It is in our best interest for survival to be liked by others. To be liked by others is to not be excluded from the group. To be excluded means to have a smaller tribe, and to have a smaller tribe – especially in caveman times, meant to be exposed to more risks such as war by other (larger) tribes, fewer access to resources, and attacks by saber tooth tigers.

We want to replicate. To replicate, we need to have sex and multiply our genes through the production of offspring. To do this, men must have sex with a woman and she must keep his seed. The act is simple. If a man meets a girl in a bar and gets her drunk and has sex with her, his work is done. He is partly incentivized, psychologically, to do that. That’s why the act feels good. However, is also disincentivized from that have sex and never see her again behavior.

If a man leaves the woman he impregnates, he faces consequences from the law through child support payments and alimony. Even if those consequences weren’t enforced by the law, he would still face ostracization from his tribe – from his local community. To leave the woman with the responsibility is to be dishonorable on both an individual level, and on a communal level. He will not be trusted in the community and, from that, unable to participate in the local economy, unable to date or have sex with other women, and unable to maintain relationships with men. In this way, people are self-policing. One person can inflict harm, but he will be ostracized from his community and will have to establish himself somewhere else. It’s much easier and more beneficial to be a good person – and humans tend to like doing the easiest thing.

We enjoy when others are happy. Not only does companionship increase the strength of our local tribe in times of war, but we actually get a positive hormonal kick when we recognize that someone else is happy. A rising tide lifts all boats. We are rewarded, chemically, for making others feel good or, simply, by others feeling good. But, when others aren’t feeling good, we are rewarded for showing sympathy and care in order to change their mood and get them feeling good again.

This is why we have fun when we go to bars and parks to interact in a positive way with others. We enjoy when others are positive and happy, so we go to places that encourage that behavior. It’s “fun” to go to these places and see and be a part of people laughing, dancing, and sharing in common experience. Many times, the shared, common experience is reflecting on a work day where everyone hates their boss or traffic or the local football team’s rival that won the game on Sunday and beat the point spread. Even when the common experience is negative, it still brings people together to relate to each other and show sympathy for the common situation. We call it “happy hour” even when we say nothing happy at all.

Humans are rewarded in the economy when we get along and consider the care of others. This manifests in a couple ways. One, when we are trusted by others, others are more likely to do business with us and transact their goods and services for our own. In caveman days, that could be the initial segregation of duties. I’ll kill a bear for food, you build me a place to live. This economy only works if people trust each other. The economy in 2018 is built on trust also, it’s just less in-your-face. But we don’t return to businesses that we don’t trust. We don’t visit businesses with one star on Yelp, and we don’t visit businesses our best friend said stinks, because we don’t trust them.

The second economic incentive to love and care for others is that if we understand and have empathy for the wants and needs of others, then we can provide products or services to fulfill those wants and needs. We will be rewarded in the market for having empathy and the creativity to solve problems that others have. If many people share that problem, you can turn a profit. Even if only one person has the problem that you were able to solve, you did a good thing.

In summary, all humans have an inherent drive towards being loving and caring. This is because:

  • It is in our survival best interest because a tribe will defend us.
  • We feel good, physically, when others are happy.
  • We can be trusted in business transaction.

 

That didn’t explain monogamy

I watched another trash show that cloaks itself as “science” yesterday. This one, a new Netflix show called Explained: Monogamy, set out to explain how we are not meant to be monogamous and that culture instituted monogamy to suppress people’s sexual desires. 

The show goes further. They take this fact and draw the conclusion that because sex with lots of people is natural because it feels good, we should therefore do it.

The documentary is right – it is unnatural to suppress our sexual appetites. And yes, that’s exactly why marriage and monogamy came about. That’s the point of marriage and monogamy.  And that’s not a bad thing. 

Monogamy gives us meaning. It’s good for culture. This isn’t because of arbitrary rules. It’s healthy when men at the bottom have a chance of receiving intimacy. Women don’t have this problem. Dudes at the top will have sex and share intimacy with many women.

Men at the bottom aren’t afforded that luxury. Men at the bottom do things like shoot up schools and commit crimes when they have no value and don’t receive intimacy.

We don’t just have sex because it feels good. If we did we would be much more eager to fuck the new sex robots and we would be content masturbating. There wouldn’t be angry kids shooting up schools because they have an outlet of their hand and a video. But that’s not what we want. We want intimacy.

Monogamy is a recent invention. That was cited as a reason it shouldn’t exist. You know what else is a recent invention?

Democracy. Modern infrastructure. Transportation.

Society civilized when it became monogamous. No longer were people physically fighting each other to maintain a dominance hierarchy and access to the harem.

With monogamy, the average man had a chance to be with women they didn’t previously have access to. This allowed him to focus on actually being productive instead of fighting for access to pussy.

The documentary says monogamy started for property rights and alliances between families. That’s not true at all. We’ve seen kings and queens marry but kings maintain their harems. Marriage and monogamy did not start to help the one percent. It started to help the 90% that did not have access to women and resources.

90%? Yes. It was, and still is that large of gap between the attractive and unattractive. This is evident in the modern dating world. There’s published data from all the dating apps, but it’s also observable in bars – men find more women attractive than women find men attractive. We don’t date people we don’t find attractive.

Without monogamy, women wouldn’t date 90% of men. It’s because of this phenomenon there aren’t a lot of attractive men. “There’s someone for everyone.” No, there’s not. Not in a society where we go for what’s attractive.

It’s not a bad thing to have freedom and choices. It is a bad thing when there are consequences to those freedoms and choices that women aren’t told about. I want women to have freedom. I want them to be aware of the consequences to those freedoms.

When women chase what’s attractive and don’t enter a monogamous relationship when they are at their peak attractive level, they remove the option to be with a very attractive man (because they too have options). When women settle, they get unhappy because they’ve had “more attractive”. When women are unhappy in a relationship, they leave. Cue divorce rates, split families.

“If marriage wasn’t a thing we wouldn’t have divorce rates.” Sure, but it’s not just men who are unhappy following divorce (which are predominantly initiated by women). Women have been getting less happy for decades (by every measurable measure). This is despite all the freedoms women have been given.

Monogamy should be in place to restrict the options of attractive men – more so than restricting women.

Marriage for love is an even more recent idea. It’s only a few hundred years ago. There were critics. The documentary says there shouldn’t have been – that love is noble. There should have been critics.

Love is largely defined today as the feelings of attraction, which is aimed at those top 10% of men. That leaves scraps for the bottom of men, and started this long journey toward nonmonogamy. Love is to blame for today’s rampant divorce.

Darwin says man surpassed women in cognitive ability because of sex. The documentary says this is sexist. It is. There are differences between men and women and they exist because of sex. Men need to develop our socioeconomic status, intelligence, and social skill in order to receive intimacy. Women don’t. It is sexist. It’s not misogynist.

Are people jealous? Yes. It’s a natural emotion that surfaces when we want something we can’t have but feel entitled to. How about when a woman is monogamous with you (manifests entitlement) and cheats on you? Cue jealousy.

Commitment to monogamy and not the person is a good thing, contrary to the movie. Before love people were committed to monogamy for monogamy’s sake. You could call in and out of love, but you honored he relationship. This goes counter to the modern “do what feels good” mantra.

Relationships based on love don’t hurt the 10% that are attractive. Even relationships with multiple people can work well for these people at the top. These are the people that were interviewed for the film – people with active sex lives, including those with multiple partners.

But this doesn’t apply for the bottom 90% of men – none of whom were interviewed in the making of this documentary. It would have been an entirely different movie, with a different meaning, if it were lonely unattractive outcasts that were interviewed for the film.

Pleasure is natural. We evolved to feel it, and to want to give into it.

Honor is a virtue.

Virtue doesn’t become less attractive, addictive, and with diminishing returns. Pleasure does.

Enter relationships built in something that will last forever.

Badass Buddha

I wrote the following essay for a homework assignment for a class called “Buddhism and Modern Psychology” on Coursera. It’s taught by Robert Wright, evolutionary psychologist an author of The Moral Animal, which is a great book and I recommend if you’re interested in learning more of evo psych.


 

Badass Buddha

According to the Buddha, suffering is part of the human existence. The first two Noble Truths of Buddhism spell out that suffering is not only found everywhere around us – it is a part of us. The first truth, dukkha, tells us that suffering is a lack of satisfaction and that pleasures are fleeting and are therefore not a path to lasting satisfaction. The second truth is that because pleasure is fleeting, we cling to these pleasures as our source of satisfaction. We chase their return. I agree with the Buddha that suffering is part of the human existence, and I will give two examples to show this.

The first example comes from principles in evolutionary psychology. We did not evolve to not suffer. Not suffering was never a goal in evolution. Instead, we evolved to survive and replicate. The traits we developed are in some way related to our evolved need to accomplish these two goals. According to Professor Wright in the lectures, feelings of pleasure are among the traits that developed to incentivize people (and our animal ancestors) to survive and replicate. For example, we describe food (survival) as “tasting good” and sex (replication) as “awesome.”  

Natural selection doesn’t care if you are happy. If we must suffer in order to accomplish natural selection’s goal of surviving and replicating, then that is still the priority of natural selection. According to evolutionary psychology, it is this natural selection that drives our psychology. When natural selection is what drives psychology, then our default behavior will be whatever most increases our likelihood to survive and reproduce. This is what Professor Wright meant when he said that Buddhism is a “rebellion against natural selection” – Buddhism seeks to end suffering, and that can only be accomplished by not giving in to urges that we are designed to feel.

My second example is a more recent, more practical application of our evolved psychology steering us to suffering. Social media preys on our psychology and leads us to feedback loops of chasing pleasure – these feedback loops which the I argue on behalf of the Buddha that lead us to suffer.

Social media exploits a lot of the behaviors that we developed as ape ancestors way back in the day. To increase our likelihood to survive, we evolved to be tribal – to stick to those close to us and to feel a sense of connection. By increasing the size of his tribe, a man had less enemies and more people to fight off enemies, therefore decreasing the likelihood he would die in attack. We evolved to experience pleasure when we make connection with someone and to seek friendship to encourage us to grow our tribe so we would not die in an attack. Social media exploits this reward for growing our tribe.

Social media exploits the reward for growing a tribe by rewarding an individual with “likes” or retweets if the user posts content that other users find appealing. We get our pleasure feeling when others click “like” or “retweet.” The downside is that, as Wright explained, when pleasure is routine and then removed, dopamine (pleasure sensors) goes negative and we actually feel less happy than our neutral state because we fail to reach expectation.

When a user fails to reach expectation our pleasure expectations, social media users generate more content in hopes they will get those pleasure triggers. It is this clinging the Buddha warned against but on an immediate, constant scale. Social media users, and there are a lot of them, are constantly creating and seeking this fleeting pleasure. Ex-Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya warns against this (link), I warn against this, and the Buddha would warn against this. It is unhealthy to constantly worry about these pleasures inspired by the action (click) from others.

In conclusion, suffering is part of human existence. The very things we are designed to do are sources of our desires that lead us to unhappiness. The need to survive and have children shaped our psychology to seek pleasures, and these pleasures are short-term. We become addicted to the pleasures, like a drug user (which probably also has evolutionary roots).

The Buddha says to acknowledge that these pleasures are fleeting, and that we can end our suffering by removing the search for these fleeting pleasures. This is easier said than done, especially in our modern world where social media creates not only a recurring source of pleasure from “likes” and “retweets”, but also serves as a more common means of finding sexual partners. To be free from the suffering found in seeking pleasure, we must rebel against our default psychology and remove the need for the pleasure that gives reason for us to suffer.