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Is man hard-wired to fail?
Posted: 26 July 2008 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]
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My idea of humanism is that one considers quandries from a global perspective. If I buy X, what impact does it have on the rest of the world, as opposed to the impact it has on just me. I wish I could say I practice this, but the fact that I drive my gasoline powered vehicle with the AC on the two miles to work more days than I ride my bike. Obviously, riding the bike is better for the world as a whole, but I choose to drive because its more comfortable and convenient for me. Knowing this, I examine my motivations and repeatedly vow to ride the bike more often, yet always fall back into the habit of driving. This is, of course, a small example of making decisions on a global scale.

For years, mankind has endeavored to better our everyday lives. Now, we’re facing the reprecussions of those generations of “improvements”. Global warming, peak oil, nuclear war, etc, are all issues directly resulting from our desire to make things easier and more comfortable. Our desire to be “better”, if you will.

Do you feel that man has the ability to overcome our comfortable lives in favor of our continued existence? If you were faced with giving up electricity for 12 hours a day in order to help preserve fossil fuels, could you do it? Would you be willing to skip a meal a day so that no one had to go hungry? I think, individually, most of us would answer yes to those questions and truly believe it. Now, do you think enough people across the world would do so that it would make a difference? My faith in humanity isn’t strong enough that I can confidently answer that with a yes. Years and years of social conditioning has us believing that personal success is the most important thing one can strive for. Can humanity collectively overcome that conditioning, or are we hard-wired to fail?

Hopefully, one of you can convince me I’m wrong, because it would be really gloomy if I turned out to be right.

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Posted: 26 July 2008 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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We have the ability to go either way. Luckily, nature will survive us - in time.

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Posted: 26 July 2008 12:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Without a crystal ball, I can’t say if we’ll solve our problems, or survive them, or not. I think it’s too close to call, and our natural inclinations to focus on our personal short-term welfare is a big problem, to be sure. All we can do is try.

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Posted: 26 July 2008 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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AbidingPuck - 26 July 2008 11:19 AM

My idea of humanism is that one considers quandries from a global perspective. If I buy X, what impact does it have on the rest of the world, as opposed to the impact it has on just me. I wish I could say I practice this, but the fact that I drive my gasoline powered vehicle with the AC on the two miles to work more days than I ride my bike. Obviously, riding the bike is better for the world as a whole, but I choose to drive because its more comfortable and convenient for me. Knowing this, I examine my motivations and repeatedly vow to ride the bike more often, yet always fall back into the habit of driving. This is, of course, a small example of making decisions on a global scale.

We went from walking or horseback to bicycles to streetcars and trains to personal automobiles over a very short period and based on ridiculously low prices for fuel.
We will have to revert to previous methods quite soon now.

http://www.pugetsoundtransportation.com/skytrain/index.html

We are continuing to build this although not without much aggravation.

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Posted: 26 July 2008 02:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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As I see it, we’re hard-wired to be conditioned by reward and punishment.  We’ve been rewarded for our present life-style so we’ll continue it, even in the face of dire warnings.  However, when we lose a good part of the world’s population, the rest of it is being forced to reduce their standard of living beyond what they thought they could to survive, then those of us who do survive will be conditioned to design a much “greener” society.

Occam

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Posted: 27 July 2008 02:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Occam - 26 July 2008 02:42 PM

As I see it, we’re hard-wired to be conditioned by reward and punishment.  We’ve been rewarded for our present life-style so we’ll continue it, even in the face of dire warnings.  However, when we lose a good part of the world’s population, the rest of it is being forced to reduce their standard of living beyond what they thought they could to survive, then those of us who do survive will be conditioned to design a much “greener” society.

Occam

It’s an old problem. If I do the right thing and my neighbors don’t only I suffer. So what do I do?

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Posted: 27 July 2008 06:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Quoting A Voice of Sanity:

If I do the right thing and my neighbors don’t only I suffer. So what do I do?

1.  If you know in advance that they won’t and that you will suffer, it seems plausible for you to change your behavior to protect yourself, even if it’s at the expense of your neighbor.
2.  If you don’t know in advance, all you can do is make sure you don’t do that again, and also see if there’s any new behavior that can recover some advantage from your neighbor and return it to you.

Occam

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Posted: 08 August 2008 08:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I think an important thing to consider is the rate at which the ill effects of societies behavior happens. The economy may slowly ween people off bad behavior without the apocalyptic suffering some see as inevitable.

Another thought I have is that you should do what’s in your best interest unless you know or can force others into doing whats right for humanity.

example: Why worry about carbon emissions if your reduction in fossil fuel use is only going to make fossil fuels slightly cheaper for people who don’t care.

example: People letting others merge lanes or turn during traffic, it happens to me all the time If others are also doing it I see no reason not to allow other merge/turn myself.

Altruistic acts only make sense if reciprocation will occur, or if you believe in that situation reciprocation would occur, or if you get some other benefit like feeling better about yourself etc.

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Posted: 09 August 2008 12:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Sorry, Dan, I see our human interactions as so complex that we can’t begin to predict when, where or even if reciprocation will occur.  For example, whenever I’m walking in a parking lot and I see a nail, I pick it up and dispose of it.  The guy who doesn’t get a flat tire doesn’t know someone helped him.  However, he may feel a bit less angry since he didn’t get a flat and let someone merge.  That person may be going to a research lab and the extra few seconds allow him/her run one more trial and discover a medication to get rid of skin cancers more easily.  My daughter may get a skin cancer which was cured by this.  All because I picked up a nail in the parking lot.  On the other hand, it could have been that none of this would happen and my picking up the nail didn’t result in any reciprocation. 

I just figure that we should all do whatever we can to make the life of others easier.  And I hope that philosophy spreads to the others so all our lives become a bit easier.

Occam

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Posted: 09 August 2008 03:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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AbidingPuck - 26 July 2008 11:19 AM

For years, mankind has endeavored to better our everyday lives. Now, we’re facing the reprecussions of those generations of “improvements”.

The blind see, the deaf hear, the barren can now give birth, those without limbs can have artificial limbs and walk again.  Heart transplants.  Smallpox eradicated. Polio all but eradicated.

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Posted: 09 August 2008 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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We have an amazing talent for taking steps both forward and backward. I’m choosing (or am I?) to become more of an optimist. Jackson’s examples in medicine are terrific indicators of our abilities to survive.

As a worldwide organism, who knows what our species will become. Which dominates - governments or the people? Most of the world likes American people but despises American politics. How much say do Iranians really have in the future of their country? Through my life experiences, I have developed a love of Chinese people but I’m disgusted with their government (as I am with ours).

Anyone who watched the Olympic opening ceremony had to be favorably impressed by what a large group of people can do when they cooperate. When it was revealed that PEOPLE, not machines, were creating fantastic patterns by lifting boxes to various levels, I got goose-bumps. A strong argument can be made that we are hardwired to succeed.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Two qustions first:
1) Is anything hard-wired in the universe? (Can you clarify this for me?)
2) Is this really true: For years, mankind has endeavored to better our everyday lives? (You are talking about our living together in peace and harmony?)
I don’t see that we have made any progress in this sense.
Be patient with me - I am slow witted! Thanks, John

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Posted: 27 October 2008 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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For years, mankind has endeavored to better our everyday lives? (You are talking about our living together in peace and harmony?)
I don’t see that we have made any progress in this sense.

I would argue that humanity has made enormous progress in the last 10,000 years, the last 1,000 years, the last 100 years and yes, (grimace) even the last ten years.

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Posted: 27 October 2008 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I am not looking to argue the point. I happen to believe we have not.
Perhaps communication needs to be refined here?

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Posted: 27 October 2008 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Hi John,

If you didn’t want to argue the point, the communication problem may be in the fact that you phrased your post in the form of questions. I agree with Chris in that we have come a long way to improve humanity. But since you don’t want to argue the point…

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Posted: 27 October 2008 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Socrate’s pupil - 27 October 2008 11:01 AM

I am not looking to argue the point. I happen to believe we have not.
Perhaps communication needs to be refined here?

Socrate’s Pupil,I agree with you 100%.Any “improvements” anyone can cite can be counter balanced by the continued degredation of the earth and mankind.
Advancements in healthcare are redundant.Overall suffering from disease has not declined.MRI machines are not an improvement to mankind.They are a diagnostic tool.If disease or suffering can be prevented from diagnosis or treatment the number of people with disease and suffering is still not reduced.
There is more conflict around the world in the last 50 years than ever before.Conflict involving death and destruction.
If,say in the 1500’s people were dying en masse due to starvation,there was nothing,logistically,that could be done for it.Today millions are still dying from malnourishment,and the logistical possibilities we have today are overwhelming.
In the last 60 years we have all lived under the shadow of nuclear weapons.Killing machines that indiscriminately kill large amounts of people.Man knew this was wrong at the time of there invention.
We must be careful not to judge mankinds self-betterment in terms of camera equipped cell phones,or AIDS clinics,or a Chinese astronaut shaking hands with a Polish astronaut in some spacestation.
The UN has been chartered now for around 60 years.It is a lofty sounding organization,what a concept.Yet what has it really done?
Be careful before you answer,because any thing you cite can almost surely bolster the the fact that mankind has not bettered itself.
And if you put the improvement thing on a sliding scale in relation to knowledge,scientific advancement,experience etc…then it surely proves that mankind is in fact deteriorating.

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