Human Instincts and Society
To understand yourself, others, our existence in the Universe, and current political and social affairs in any society on this planet, it is extremely important to understand human nature, instincts, and behaviors. Such understanding is a key to improving our situations individually, in our society, and for improvement of life on Earth, in practical and workable ways.
Our animal instincts which developed by evolutionary natural selection got us to where we are now, but we need to understand and manage them in the modern era using our intellect if we are to live our lives in the best ways, both mentally and behaviorally, and choose peace and progress over warfare and destruction, which has reached a critical level in our current technological capabilities suddenly in the current generation.
Our evolutionary roots have bred into us selfishness and tribalism in competing to improve the gene pool. Thus, we have tricky business, nationalism, and wars.
We won't improve the gene pool significantly in the near future, but these instincts are the roots of violations of modern ethics, destruction of the environment (which will eventually impact us heavily by climate change, not just global warming), personal addictions (of many sorts), and many sorts of rationalizations and offenses in the business, political, and social realms.
In geologic time, our current species has suddenly changed from small tribes of hunter-gatherer cultures with primitive tools, to large agricultural communities, then kingdoms, then empires, then technology driven societies, and now an interconnected world community whose members are increasingly urban. We have developed laws and rules for societies, in geographically segmented (national) ways, as well as international laws, but enforcement is quite often infeasible in the big bad world. There is overwhelmingly too much evil, corruption, power by the greedy, money politics, and simple selfish carelessness.
Even though it is the 21st Century and internet has driven peace and economic interdependency, there are still national government regimes suppressing free communications and promoting military power, with locks on power, whereby there's not even free dialogue for much of a checks and balances system. However, even Hitler was elected democratically, and free speech does not necessarily mean reason will prevail over instinctual behaviors, which should be quite obvious to any observer in the modern world, though of course the world is far better with free speech.
Corporations acting out of self-interest and the drive for new breakthrough technologies to create major profits also pursue the development of synthetic biology in ways which are dangerous to our species. "Money politics" as regards weak regulations, legal loopholes, "corruption", and lack of real ability to detect and enforce laws, give wealthy and powerful interests a lot of free reign.
Above are the big existential threats. However, it's also worth discussing below the more routine elements of our evolving existence.
Within the high population density areas of modern times, the psychological and social dynamics of individuals is very different from how life was in small communities thousands of years ago when everybody knew each other.
Likewise, our tribal identities and group belongings have changed to national, religious, cultural, trendy, political, and other group identities, such as sports fans. (I consider some team sports to appeal to tribal warfare and group belonging instincts, though we try to keep it civil by good sportsmanlike conduct. Political identities and partisanship are a bit different ...)
The social status instinct within a group has both a positive and negative side. The positive side includes that it motivates many people to do better than the competition and improve things, and in many people it motivates them to behave ethically in order to maintain high respect from others. The negative side includes greed, unethical behaviors to become more wealthy and powerful than others, and put-downs of others (such as bullying, racism, and unnecessary disparaging of others). The status instinct includes "image consciousness".
These instincts evolved around leaving our DNA in the next generation. Males often competed for mates by achieving higher status, wealth, and power, and many females are attracted to this, rather than a humble male. Females chose superior males, based on wealth or intelligence or physical strength or other desirous traits for offspring, to maximize the chance of offspring survival and well being. It's not always a conscious decision, and is often based on subconscious instinct. However, it's not 100%. Many females choose a male for his kindness, caring, and just plain handsomeness. (A man can experience the differences by one day dressing up very professionally and walking very self-confidently, and another day dressing just very informally and comfortably, walking around very relaxed, and just being nice. Different females react different ways.)
Compared to the past, it doesn't take much money to live a comfortable and good life in modern times, but people seek relatively high status whereby there seems to be no limit to greed and excess comforts. Many people have become addicted to materialism and outperforming others.
What makes us "happy" is what satisfies our instincts. We do what we "feel" like doing. Emotions and feelings are instincts.
In contrast, objective intellect is rather dry and boring to many. TV, internet videos, movies, and advertisements are designed mainly to appeal to emotions, and predominate in the market. Not intellect. How many movies based on action, destruction, romance, and other basics are blockbusters? The vast majority. On the other hand, how many documentaries are blockbusters? Not many.
However, in this technological age, it means massive destruction of Earth's environment, the ability to harm others on a large scale, and warfare which threatens our very existence.
We will not solve these problems until we understand the roots of the problems, in both ourselves individually, and as a society, and then change our behaviors, social expectations of others in our communities, laws, regulations, and at times actual enforcements, accordingly.
It starts with understanding. Then discussion. However, what matters is not just the talk and platitudes but the actual behaviors.
Realistically, once we get out of our "ivory towers" and "echo chambers" with our carefully chosen intellectual peer groups, and look at society as a whole from the ground up, which I have an exceptionally wide traveling and engaging experience with, I think it's a very tall order to try to get vast numbers of people to understand our own nature and conform to changing our behaviors to benefit the Greater Good of our species and the planet's environment.
My own changed behaviors are at least a measure of how easy to difficult it is, as a human, to live a sustainable lifestyle, from my own direct experience. I have also observed others who have done the same, many of them apparently much better than I have. My empirical experience gives me hope that it is possible for our species to reform.
However, we must understand the wide variety of people out there who are very different from us, and approach them in various ways. This means getting outside of our Ivory Towers and echo chambers to better understand the variety of other kinds of people out there, for starters. This is something I've already been doing for decades, but seem to constantly be running into policy makers, influencers, and others who are actually clueless to a large extent of how people think beyond their own peer groups.
Some of the issues are so basic that you can see it in other animals, especially mammals, how they compete within their group for status (ego), pursue their selfish interests, and deal with outsiders they come across, whether it be dogs, wolves, lions, dolphins, whales, or whatever. It's also interesting to compare them with socialistic ants, bees, and other, much more different forms of life on this planet.
It really makes me wonder about extraterrestrial life which has evolved elsewhere. Of course, if you can imagine far advanced extraterrestrial life looking at us, you should be humbled, to say the least. We are not such an endearing species.
We are basically primates who have hands which can manipulate tools well, and have developed language far beyond other species -- words, advanced concepts, and written language. We can do math (some of us much better than some others). We can change the environment of our entire planet, the first species ever to have had that capability on Earth. And we are done it massively in this generation.
We do not deserve to be very proud of ourselves in the Universe when we look at what we are doing to each other, life on our planet, and as regards so many people on this planet what they are doing with their own lives as regards purpose, meaning, and missed opportunities. Life is a blessing which is so often wasted and neglected for the most part.
I am not very proud of myself, as in my past, especially during my youth, I have been selfish, status conscious, and inconsiderate at times, as well as stupid socially. Not as much as many others, but a lot more than I am now. Life is a process of continuous self-improvement and appreciation. I don't expect perfection in others nor in myself, and I am a very forgiving and understanding person, but I do try to improve myself when I recognize a fault, and I don't let myself make excuses nor rationalize nor dodge issues. I try to take life and ethics head on. Unfortunately, many others don't care to.
Taking on the future is much more formidable, so I try to work with all kinds of people on that.
The future will not be much like the past, contrary to many peoples' lazy beliefs which they stubbornly try to hold onto. Of course, this has happened over history, but the world is changing at a faster and faster pace. Reality will turn out quite differently than imagined. Further into the 21st century, there may be practically no safety net in place in a world changing so dramatically and quickly.
Eventually, our species will destroy itself within our biosphere by synthetic biology, and maybe take a lot of other life of our unique planet down with it, another mass extinction event. There will be no second chance.
Most people don't want to think about it and will just brush it away from their minds and go back to their feel good happy pursuits by instinct, for the remainder of their lives.
The following pages will cover both individual issues and societal behaviors, and also many of the practical matters. This page is mainly just an overview.
mark-prado.com > Our instincts, yourself, society
Additional, children pages of this current parent page:
If you choose to submit feedback, then I wish to thank you in advance. After you click on Submit, the page will jump to the top.
Site map for all pages on this website: Site Map
Copyright by Mark Prado, 1995 to 2023, All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to contact me.