I suppose Wikipedia is twenty years behind the times, and not a full collection of all human knowledge up to this minute, but I think I’ve got another theory, a better explanation for altruism, at least for some sorts of creatures.
The most basic definition of altruism there says it’s when a creature does something at some cost to itself and its chances in the world to improve the lot of another individual and/or their chances (for survival, reproduction, etc.). The definition itself shows the biologists’ lens for viewing the world, a creature helps another individual – biology views everything as from the point of view of individual creatures, or that creature’s genes.
There was some group talk, the suggestion that groups of creatures that practice this one on one altruism perhaps get a competitive leg up on groups of that sort of creature that behave less selflessly.
My other theory suggests that other behaviours produce their fruits at the group level, and that these can be higher priority behaviours than “individually” motivated ones, and I’m now trying out the idea that the group will best explain altruism as well – whups, sorry. I haven’t finished the definitions.
Generally, biology seems skeptical, the evolutionists are not sure “real” altruism exists, meaning that they seem to feel it must add up to an advantage to the altruistic giver somehow, or it would not be selected for, or it wouldn’t, what is it, exist. They go to perhaps the group idea above. Trivers’ reciprocal altruism would seem to redefine it that way, a fairly demonstrable quid pro quo between group members, exactly as stated above, giving their group an advantage over other groups. I’m not refuting these ideas, they’re great, and I haven’t developed my idea yet! Here goes.
Continuing the train of thought I’ve been on, it’s about alphas and the age-old problem of living with them. I think I typed it somewhere this week: what if altruism is a strategy developed by non-alphas to limit and contain the violent chaos of the alphas? What if doing unto others is beta society’s answer to the king’s random violence and narcissism, the stuff of the social bond that enables any sort of society at all? It suddenly occurred to me that when we observe the alphas’ rule in nature among horses or primates, that we are doing just that, going outside and observing what the eternal rule of the alphas produces, and then we go back indoors to the world the betas were able to produce, through affiliation and cooperation, to read and write about it, by portable lights.
If this is the function, or an important function, then it’s a group related thing, but not the whole family group, perhaps. Perhaps alphas are full time cheaters and so are left of any deal-making done among the betas, and it is perhaps not so much a group strategy then as a status strategy, a class strategy, and then one can start to ponder what it means across multiple groups. Now it doesn’t appear that among the baboons or the chimpanzees, the other primates, that it’s the king starting the raids, it looks with the chimpanzees like a band of brothers – but perhaps someone can enlighten me? Is the alpha part of the chimp raiding party, and is he an instigator as he seems to be in the human case? It may be difficult to find primate stories of alphas starting trouble and betas working together to control them, but it’s not a hard fantasy to conjure for us, is it?
A couple of alphas, or would be alphas beating their chests and going straight to madman doomsday scenarios before they ever speak on the phone, and betas on both sides scrambling to save their asses and not minding at all cooperating across borders to do it, whenever possible? (Ha! No-one tell Rodman I said he was a beta, OK?)
This is going to be my new filter for a while. I’ll be looking at things this way, alphas and betas, game theory is for alphas and altruism is for betas. There’s a world of dichotomies in there, maybe. America is caught up in an alpha fantasy, amplified by its enemies, and it elected an alpha to the highest office, something that always means a dark period in history. Nations need their alphas, and alphas will find their way to power anyways, but nations are huge things these days, way beyond our evolved meme of the tribe, which is about a hundred and fifty people. You place your alphas in the military, you give them anything upwards of a hundred and fifty people to push around, and the betas get back to the drawing board, trying to also contain the other nations’ alphas. Altruism.
There’s a book in this, but I’m writing jacket covers these days, apparently.
Mind you, the book’s already been written, at least somebody seems to know how some of this stuff works, even if it’s only the Russian intelligence community.
This is my note to myself to think about this, write something later. If anybody’s read it elsewhere, I hope you’ll tell me.
Nov. 29th., 2017