If we are to survive for a lot longer

It cannot be emphasised too much that modern man is as much a hunter-gatherer as he and his predecessors were 10,000 years ago, evolutionarily trimmed by the exigencies of living on the African savannah for millions of years beforehand.

The result of all that? Most anthropologists are fairly united in saying that a hunter-gatherer clan of more than 100 or 120 individuals didn’t exist without splitting into two smaller groups. At around that maximum figure, then there’d be about a dozen young and mature adult males in which a crisis would be building up as to who was to be the next leader. Around a successful leader, able to remain in power for more than a short time, then there would need to be a particularly loyal group of two or three supporters who would be guarding against any further take-over of the leadership.

And that this is precisely which we find in all organisations of the modern world, whether of governments, businesses, organised religions. charities, scientific research, sports and entertainments. It’s always the case that there is one leader only and that he or she is then supported by a small group of loyal followers who make sure that strategic decisions are conveyed decisively throughout their respective organisations.

All this is beyond coincidence. This is a subject that needs a great deal of further study if we are to survive a great deal longer.

. . . . On the other hand

Despite the claim made in my posting yesterday (“Will we become two species?”) an equally logical case can be made out that two co-existent populations can never occur, at least in an advanced country. This is that in times of increasing hardship for the majority and the poor, the number of voluntary charities increases substantially.

Most of these are faith-based. Though they ensure more than ever before that everybody who needs help is assessed at least once and, in practice, many times, they don’t have the effect of increasing worshiping congregations.

What it does mean, however, is that in the years to come any individual can be repeatedly identified as being what Victorians called a ‘deserving person’. Sooner or later every average-to-poor person is able to be helped — so long as he has the intelligence and social skills — to up through the pecking order to find his natural group for both work and relaxation.

Will we become two species?

For years I’ve also been writing that a serious social divide is taking place in the US and the UK — having very similar economies — but also in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France. In today’s Sunday Times, concerning the US, Irwin Stelzer writes: “For every man between the ages of 25 and 55 that is counted among the unemployed, there are three who are neither working or looking for work.”

In short, in the most advanced countries there are gradual accumulations of so-called ‘jobs’ — as defined by economists — which have neither the financial incentive, skill-attractiveness nor social satisfactions that even the meanest jobs had recently as, say, 30 or 40 years ago. A cultural phase change is going on in which — at the top end — the number of specializations is growing, incomes are rising, and education requirements need to be higher than ever.

There is already something like a 10-points IQ divide between those in the social elite — about 15% of the population? — and the average of the remainder. This would not be so serious if there were a fair degree of intermixing of marriage — and subsequently of talented children — between the two halves. But this is not what happens.

Those who have interesting, well-paid jobs tend to meet similar partners at the elite universities. As for those who don’t make the grade in the superior part they will, of course, tend to drop out before they produce their children. Also rare, but running counterwise, are exceptionally talented young adults in the majority population becoming accepted by the elite and joining them for marriage and jobs — with bright children as a consequence.

In the advanced countries we might therefore be at the beginning of a widening division between two parts of the population. There is nothing unusual in this. It is called sympatry in biology and has already happened many times in man’s past. Is it happening again? Will we become two separate species living side by side or will the high profile part of the population ‘defeat’ the other in some way — in survival efficiency perhaps — it’s an intriguing question.

Profound changes to follow . . . as night follows day

I’ve written many times in the last few years that we haven’t had a uniquely new status consumer item in the last 50 years, the last one being colour television.  So far no-one has contradicted me.

There are two apparent exceptions at the present time.  One is the smartphone and the other is the electric automobile.  But neither of these are uniquely new, both being developments of items that were originally genuine signs of social status 100 years ago.  The latest versions confer brief status but this soon goes as sales of both rapidly expand.

The drone has been suggested.  But this is either an unmanned aerial vehicle used in warfare or a plaything  for boys and immature young men or a genuine production item as, say, Amazon wants to use them.  There’ll be hundreds, if not thousands, of similar innovative items in the decades and centuries to come.

The expiry of new status goods in the advanced countries speaks for a profound change in our economics and cultures in the years to come.

“He achieved the impossible during the election race . . . .

” . . . he may be doing it again.” So says a headline in my morning paper today. Nonsense! He may have been lucky with a fickle electorate. Trump will not be so lucky with his political advisors — no matter how extremist some of them are, or even more so, some of his specialist civil servants. He’ll not be allowed to be anywhere near as dangerous as some fear he might be.

If they decide to impeach him, as they were going to do in Nixon’s case, how will be react? There’s lots of fascinating events almost immediately ahead of us.

The why of social hierarchy

A recent essay discusses the reason why the pecking order is so interesting in our own and others’ lives.

The main point of social hierarchy in humans is why it should have ever evolved in the first place.  It is the social context in which the instinct of the female can operate when she wants a child.  She will always generally choose upwards towards the best males available for partnership with best abilities, intelligence and genetic fitness.  She will ignore the unfit and inept males, so that they will be unable to pass inferior genes onwards to children.

It is our quality control mechanism. Without our DNA would increasingly flounder in a morass of average abilities in in which a steadily growing number of harmful recessive genes and obfuscate the necessary genes for species survival.

The most permanent attribute of all

With his wild tongue, Trump has now gone far too far when describing judges as ‘so-called’ judges.   Judges don’t have to be the most honest people in the land nor the brightest nor the most knowledgeable about the law.  They happen to be the individuals given the responsibility of protecting the most precious attribute of any civilized culture — the permanency of a sense of justice.  When that is gone nothing remains.

Man’s prolific inventiveness

In the advanced countries we spend by far the most of our surplus income on ‘status’ goods (and services).  We gather these around us in order to show our friends, work colleagues, local neighbours and sometimes — if we are very rich — the public more generally, just where we think our social rank-order is, or ought to be.

As a simple check-list of what constitutes a status good rather than a necessity or a tool, does it satisfy the following criteria?

1. Originally, it was an exceedingly expensive hand-made unique item made only for the very rich;
2. It was later capable of being made in successive stages of automation until mass-producible and relatively cheap;
3. It is highly desired by individuals in all social ranks as a guide to show others during social interchange;
4. It has to be readily perceptible by others — visually, audibly and tactilily, particularly on first meeting.

We have run out of new status goods, but man’s prolific curiosity and inventiveness will no doubt continue  whenever it’s a case of “necessity is the mother of invention”.  Instances of these include environmental catastrophe, man-made mess, more energy-efficient infrastructure, and search for a better scientific hypothesis than the one in current use.

The unavoidable scenario

It is a deeply unfortunate fact of life that the medical knowledge gained in the last 250 years has also been the cause of the world population growing from about 1 billion people to about 8 billion as now — with a further 3 billion to come in the next 35 years as middle-aged poor people around the world proceed into old age.  Only then — around 2050 — is there likely to be a tailing off.

Already, half the population of the world is unable to eat an adequately nutritious diet.  This will become immensely more serious in the next 35 years as the middle-aged hump mentioned above grows older but also as 0.5 billion Chinese people and perhaps as many Indian proceed to a better proteinaceous diet.  This will require something like 10 times as much grain to be fed to farm animals and fish as now, so the total result will be a diminution of the present barely adequate diet of 0.5 billion people.

Ir will take at least 200 to 250 years for the world population and adequate food supply to get into pre-1750 balance again.  Not a single growth economist has yet produced a model to show how this scenario can be avoided.

Incalculable investing in the new era

About 30 years ago it suddenly became politically incorrect to use First, Second and Third World without somehow demeaning all those countries who were not Firsters.  Instead, we had “developed” and “developing”.  I’m sure others besides myself become confused sometimes.  Perhaps they ought to be typeset as “developed” and “developing“.

As a reminder, First World countries are the Seven which first set the industrial revolution going in the early decades of the 19th century — Britain, France, Belgium,  The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and the United States.  Between them they presently monopolize fundamental research across every scientific faculty that has yet been set up.

The Seven were joined in later decades by another seven — Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Israel, Sweden and Russia — which rapidly caught up by copying Western technology.  Between them all fourteen produce, and trade, high value goods and services almost exclusively with one another and have reached the highest levels of cultural pursuits.

Two World countries are those which might, in due course, break through into the fourteen above.  They are Brazil, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and about twelve former communist countries of eastern Europe.  These have yet to show that they are capable of developing scientific research of the relevant depth and width to be able to innovate the new goods and services of tomorrow’s economy and thus get to share the First World’s standard of living.

This still leaves about 170 countries which have registered as nations with the United Nations Organization.  These can only be regarded as Third World countries because they have little to offer besides food and other low value resources for exports to mainly First World countries .  They have no education system worth speaking of — never mind scientific research.  They have little by way of adequate government and most will be suffering one way or another under dictators.

There will be some, though, with superb ecologies that make them attractive to both scientists and holiday makers. Taking care in developing these for sophisticated tourism and saving their wild life  at the same time will probably become highly profitable to some countries and their people in decades to some. But their one and only master strategy is, of course, to get their populations down — to approaching the sizes they were about 250 years ago.

This is a totally different scenario from the one that most orthodox economists were assuming — if not promoting — in the years before the 2008 Crisis.  This is that the world economy could keep on growing for centuries to come.  But this will be impossible because it would need a parallel growth in the use of high intensive energy.  The world economy has to stabilize at some stage, and it may be that we are not far off that now.

And we are also entering a world of advanced service occupations in which heavy investments — in education and training — will have to be made.  The rub is that, unlike now, when reasonable calculations can be made of what the returns might be, this will not be possible in tomorrow’s world.

How virtuous are you?

What makes you what you are — and our success in life?

Let’s assume that the basic bedrock of success is intelligence.  If we ask psychologists what makes for intelligence there is general agreement that it’s 50% genetic and 50% environment.  We could now speculate a little by suggesting that 50% of the environment is due to the culture you absorbed from your parents, and 50% due to the external environment experienced after puberty.

Further, the latter could be due to physical circumstances — and contingent shocks — but also the friends we make and the socialization skills we acquire in the work and social groups we are comfortable with as we approach full adulthood at around the age of 30.

For most individuals with normal levels of testosterone their future lot is largely settled at around the age of 30 years.  For the more ambitious it depends on whether they have sufficient intelligence and ability to practise a myriad of new social skills in order to insinuate themselves into a higher social level.  More gratifyingly, members at a higher social level like what they see and offer a way into joining their group.

If we add up all the percentages for average individuals we have something like — 50% +25% +12.5% + 6.25% + 6.25%.  There’s not a lot of room there for individual decision-making is there?  If we do the same for an individual too ambitious to stay for long in any one adult group before moving upwards, we have — 50% +25% +12.5% + 6.25% + x% + y%, ‘x’ being environmental circumstances, ‘y’ being individual personality change and genuine free will when it comes to taking decisions. How virtuous are you?