HUMINT: Your Cerebral Cortex


HUMINT: Through observation - "selfishness", AKA, "self interests" or simply "interests" are complex emotions expressed by systems. A system can be an individual, family, community, race... and so on. Although insightful, interests are as complex as identity, so it becomes difficult to account for historical social behaviors or predict future ones from Ayn Rand's assertions. The more complex a system is, observers should expect more specialized behavior to occur. For example, individuals in society tend to adopt distinctly different rolls to facilitate greater efficiency. Individuals often make their life choices to symbiotically improve their individual and social systems at the same time. Under normal circumstances, one need not be sacrificed for the other. When a system is threatened however some of the most important specializations are those that exhibit altruistic behavior. If I recall, Ayn is not particularly impressed with altruistic behavior so we should ask, why is altruism so common in society?

Considering contemporary observations of individuals - as a cognitive system - we cannot escape altruism. Our cerebral cortex, the source of all rational thought, exhibits altruistic behavior during instances of crisis. For the most part, the benefits of our brain's altruistic behavior outweigh the risks. Our cerebral cortex basically shuts down, ceding authority to the brain stem, severely limiting our capacity for rational thought. Flight or flight human reactions are relegated to regions of the brain geared to saving rather than rationalizing our lives. The benefit of surviving however does not come without risk.

After surviving crisis, thanks to our brain stem, our cerebral cortex automatically re-engages and attempts to rationalize the behavior we exhibited that saved our life during the crisis. Most of our rationalizations and the behaviors they manifest are absurd but benign. Sometimes however those efforts to rationalize the irrational can lead to rituals that are extremely destabilizing, like drug abuse and suicide for the individual and ritual human sacrifice and suicide bombing for complex social systems.

In terms of functional as opposed to dysfunctional social philosophy, Ayn is an extremely articulate capitalist. Of economics, I believe value is dynamic. Sounds simple doesn't it, but it's not common sense. If you want to talk about communist or capitalist economics, fine, but we'll only make progress if we first agree that value in any given economy is dynamic. The belief that value is static is all too common in the world today. It's a big misunderstanding that is a big problem. The most ardent believers in static value tend to be proponents of the socialist redistribution of wealth. In their world, value is represented by a single pie chart and the capitalists are hogging nearly all of the pie. Only a small wedge belongs to the worker and or the people - where the worker is an blue collar archetype who produces widgets all day at the widget factory - the people is a more complex social construct, it includes the worker, the worker's retired parents and the worker's kids.

Society is far more complex than the widget making worker and his kin. In any case, there are far better methods to analyze society than misleading oversimplifications. Problem solving at any level requires first and foremost a willingness to understand the problem. For those that believe value is static, they do not realize capitalist leadership in free market economies play a central and irreplaceable role in creating the value that the "value pie chart" represents. They do not realize that the overall value in society decreases when captains of industry are admonished by law for their repeated successes. How could they understand such intangibles when everything in society is logically reduced to trading unemotional widget? They do not realize that widget ownership (when the widget is a home) adds value to a community, greater than rental units ever do, irrespective of their initial costs.

The fact is, a growing economy and improved quality of life is about creating value in society where none existed before. Economies are complex systems that evolve. Within economies there are sub-system industries that are specialized. Some industries thrive, others are rendered extinct. Monopolies under certain circumstances stifle growth but not always. Sometimes industries require monopoly rights in order to become established in an economy. Fortunately, there are no shortages of examples in history and in neighboring economies that can be used to assist in the decision making process.

To be sure, the final decision on any given social or economic issue will be both "virtuous" and "selfish" from someone's perspective.




  • HUMINT: Your Cerebral Cortex

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