humankind be able to use its growing self-knowledge to overcome the
biologically programmed instincts that could otherwise destroy it?"
I am intrigued by the interplay between the following:
always want a little bit more than they have.
2) The economic and political systems built on this instinct are conquering
3) Yet there is no correlation between owning a little bit more and
happiness. Instead, the long-term effect of everyone seeking to own
a little bit more could be calamitous.
religious figures have appealed to people to overrule their greed with
a concern for some higher good. In our supposed scientific age, these
arguments have lost their force. Instead our public affairs are governed
by the idea that people should just be free as much as possible to choose
what they want.
But what if people are programmed to make choices that are not in their
own best long-term interest? Suppose we discovered that what we instinctively
thought would bring us happiness is an illusion created by our human-gene-built
brains to induce human-gene-spreading behavior?
Today's evolutionary psychologists provide compelling arguments why
this picture might be accurate. A species programmed to acquire stuff
might well spread itself successfully across the globe. But evolution
is blind. It has no plan regarding what might happen to that species
when the globe has been conquered. And in the meantime our genes don't
give a damn about our happiness. For them it's just another propagation
technology... perhaps made doubly efficient by ensuring the carrot is
yanked away each time it comes within reach. To achieve true happiness
we may need to be a great deal wiser than the loudest demons in our
head would suggest.
Will the new model of "Why We Are The Way We Are" finally
convince us that our political and economic systems, and the assumptions
on which they are based, are dangerously flawed. (The"problem isn't
just the economists' assumption that "greed is good", or the
politicians' assumption of politics that "growth is good'. We've
all been brought up to believe: "natural is good". As if it
weren't the most natural thing in the world for a planet to self-destruct.)
And how long will it take for the new ideas to have any impact? (What
if it were to take 50 years? In an era of exponential growth, and accelerating
technological change, can we afford even 10?)
More generally, can memes that have evolved in a single generation countermand
the influence of genes that evolved over millions of years?
is the incoming Chairman and Host of the TED Conference (Technology,
Education, Design) held each February in Monterey, California and formerly
a magazine publisher (Future Publishing).