The Nature of Altruism
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22-10-2011, 02:04 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
Hey, deamonowner.

Anonymous giving, Blackmore argues, is not reciprocal altruism. But it is a behaviour that confers social benefit on the giver.
"You gave to Africans?"
"Twern't nuthin."
"You're so modest. What a guy."

This is the core of the idea of the meme fountain.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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22-10-2011, 06:52 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
The benefit to self doesn't have to be direct. Improving the world, even a tiny bit, benefits humanity. Donating money, or goods, or service anonymously - even if you never tell, never get a pat on the back, never gain status in your own social circles - does improve the world in which you and your children live.
Probably, very early hominids figured out that sharing necessities cut down on intra-species fighting, and some sane remnant of our brain retains the conviction that non-starving Africans are that little bit less likely to slaughter imperialist Europeans.

Then, too, we're not aware, every minute, of all our motivations for everything we do. (See Lucradis and Friends)
Sometimes we just see a problem that needs solving, a task that needs attending, and we do it - maybe just for the sake of order and harmony? Or the accomplishment itself? Or to join people we respect in a common enterprise?

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22-10-2011, 09:32 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
I remember reading an article about a study at some point in the last 3 years or so that compared mortality in groups of senior citizens--one group who engaged in "altruistic" behavior and one which did not. The study seemed to indicate (at least to the author of the piece I read) that there was a longevity co-relation to altruism in that the members of the first group generally lived longer than those of the second.

Not having read the actual study, I cannot swear to the veracity of the claim presented in the article (I suspect that there are probably many other factors muddying the waters, no idea as to sample size, etc.) but it doesn't seem to be an outrageous supposition that there may be some as yet unidentified direct biological benefit to altruistic acts.

If science eventually identifies such a factor, then the OP (in general terms) will be confirmed. Not to mention we would have a definitive answer for the evolution-deniers claim that being altruistic somehow disproves evolutionary theory.
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22-10-2011, 03:17 PM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
(22-10-2011 09:32 AM)BadKnees Wrote:  I remember reading an article about a study at some point in the last 3 years or so that compared mortality in groups of senior citizens--one group who engaged in "altruistic" behavior and one which did not. The study seemed to indicate (at least to the author of the piece I read) that there was a longevity co-relation to altruism in that the members of the first group generally lived longer than those of the second.

Well, i can certainly imagine how longevity would be affected. One resident of the seniors' home reminding another to take his blood pressure pills, or looking in on a neighbour often enough to call for help when she falls ill... direct, obvious benefits of mutual caring.
I can't help wondering, though, where they found the mean control group.

Quote: If science eventually identifies such a factor, then the OP (in general terms) will be confirmed. Not to mention we would have a definitive answer for the evolution-deniers claim that being altruistic somehow disproves evolutionary theory.

All social species exhibit mutual concern and helping behaviour. Elephants, dolphins, apes, beavers, groundhogs. It's a common, long-standing necessity of communal survival. We're just the only species that makes a big song-and-dance about it.

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22-10-2011, 03:28 PM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
(22-10-2011 09:32 AM)BadKnees Wrote:  I remember reading an article about a study at some point in the last 3 years or so that compared mortality in groups of senior citizens--one group who engaged in "altruistic" behavior and one which did not. The study seemed to indicate (at least to the author of the piece I read) that there was a longevity co-relation to altruism in that the members of the first group generally lived longer than those of the second.

Not having read the actual study, I cannot swear to the veracity of the claim presented in the article (I suspect that there are probably many other factors muddying the waters, no idea as to sample size, etc.) but it doesn't seem to be an outrageous supposition that there may be some as yet unidentified direct biological benefit to altruistic acts.

If science eventually identifies such a factor, then the OP (in general terms) will be confirmed. Not to mention we would have a definitive answer for the evolution-deniers claim that being altruistic somehow disproves evolutionary theory.

It's love. I classify love as the emotional dynamic of least entropy, and I'm an evolutionist - there will be none o' that "disproving evolutionary theory" stuff coming outta this unit.

Ghost seems to have this topic licked. One thing that gets others jacked up is the idea of selfishness. I love, is life - simple math from this self. There's a world of difference between being self-centered and being selfish.

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23-10-2011, 09:40 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
(22-10-2011 02:04 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, deamonowner.

Anonymous giving, Blackmore argues, is not reciprocal altruism. But it is a behaviour that confers social benefit on the giver.
"You gave to Africans?"
"Twern't nuthin."
"You're so modest. What a guy."

This is the core of the idea of the meme fountain.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

Ok, explain this to me. And, I'll give you an example. A couple of years ago I was checking in for a flight and the ticket agents were talking and trying to rearrange some passengers so they could be sure to get some soldiers coming home from Iraq to their homes for leave. At least, that's what I gathered from their discussion. Anyway, after I checked in I had some time to kill so I went to the bar. While in the bar their was a soldier drinking a beer at the bar. I have no idea if he was one of the guys home from Iraq or not but I figured he could be. Anyway, I sat at a table, turned on my laptop and when the waiter came I ordered a beer and asked him to by one for the soldier, on me. I also asked him not to tell the soldier who bought him the beer (and, oddly, the waiter didn't want to do this, I had to argue with him - we can cover that topic next, maybe). The reasons I did not want him to tell tell the soldier I bought the beer was I didn't want the solider to feel obligated to come over and thank me, because then it became about me. I did not want it to be about me.

So, where does my action fit into your analysis? Am I the one-in-a-million "great guy"? Was I selfish for doing this? Was I taking a social benefit, and, if so, what was that social benefit?

I'm not sure if this is an unfair question or not so am curious to see what you come back with.

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23-10-2011, 10:55 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
Hey, BnW.

Not at all an unfair question. It's actually a great question.

You were expressing a meme: do nice things for (people you respect, soldiers, heroes: whatever the case may be).

The idea to buy a soldier a drink was not generated from nothing in your mind. The idea was already there. You received this meme from a meme fountain at some point. As Blackmore points out:

Quote:The memes he spreads might include... all those memes that make him the way he is – memes for giving good parties, for sending out lots of cards, for helping people in need and for buying them drinks.

She literally says buying them drinks lol. It could just have easily been "do something nice". The way you expressed it in that situation, the phenotype, was to buy him a drink.

Basically, being a friendless douche makes you a meme sink while being a nice person with lots of friends makes you a meme fountain. Part of what makes a meme fountain a good meme fountain is altruism. Therefore, altruism memes are spread as a matter of course by meme fountains.

Memes are basically logical algorithms:
IF you see a soldier THEN buy him a drink
IF you see a red light THEN stop
IF you go outside THEN wear a hat
IF you build a table THEN use oak
IF you're hungry THEN make a curry
IF you want information from them THEN waterboard them
IF the Star Spangled Banner plays THEN stand THEN remove your cap THEN put hand on heart THEN sing along

Memes allow us to react to given situations in unified ways. That's why they're the basic unit of cultural transmission. You saw the guy, you were hosting a meme with instructions for how to act in that situation, you expressed the meme.

Now you might say that not everyone in your culture (lets say Americans, but we might just as easily affiliate you with, say, lawyers because all human systems develop a culture and humans can be affiliated with multiple human systems) would have bought the dude a drink, that's where representation comes in. Not everyone in the culture hosts every meme. The more people within the culture that host the meme, the higher it's representation in the meme pool. Cultural norms stem from those memes with the largest representations.

In the end, you, the survival machine, were not selfish, but your meme was. A meme, regardless of content, wants to be expressed and replicated.

Most importantly to my original thesis, you certainly didn’t do it for the sake of doing it. That’s romantic garbage.

Hey, Peterkin.

Quote:Probably, very early hominids figured out that sharing necessities cut down on intra-species fighting, and some sane remnant of our brain retains the conviction that non-starving Africans are that little bit less likely to slaughter imperialist Europeans.

The idea of cutting down on intra-species fighting is linked to group selection, which has been debunked. What the early Hominids did engage in is kin selection. Helping the family unit meant your genes had a better chance of being transmitted.

As Blackmore points out, kin selection likely facilitated Tit-for-tat, so yeah, that remnant still has a function. Also, reciprocal altruism: we’ll feed you if in return you don’t slaughter us.

Quote:Sometimes we just see a problem that needs solving, a task that needs attending, and we do it - maybe just for the sake of order and harmony? Or the accomplishment itself? Or to join people we respect in a common enterprise?

We never do anything just cuz.

If we need to solve something we'll do one of two things.
-Express the corresponding meme
-If no meme exists, we'll trial and error until a solution is found, at which point memetogenesis occurs

Hey, Cantor.

Quote:There's a world of difference between being self-centered and being selfish.

Absolutely. A self-centred person is a defector. They violate reciprocal altruism in that they are all right with others being altruistic towards them, but they themselves are not altruistic towards others. This is why self-centred behaviour is punished and why self-centred people lose social standing.

Being selfish just means doing something that benefits you. In the case of altruism, being nice to others has selfish benefit.

Hey, Badknees.

Neat study. Hook us up if you can find it.

Quote:...it doesn't seem to be an outrageous supposition that there may be some as yet unidentified direct biological benefit to altruistic acts.

It's been identified. Kin selection.

In terms of using my common sense, reciprocal altruism means that people who are altruistic are owed altruism by others. So when you have a group of seniors being altruistic towards one another it makes sense that they'd live longer than ones that were being cold-hearted dicks to one another.

Plus there are physiological reactions to altruism. (I’m not a biologist so take this with a grain of salt) Altruistic behaviour triggers the pleasure centre (selfish benefit). Chemicals are released. Those chemicals have a positive physiological consequence. Conversely, feeling isolated and unsupported can trigger the release of stress chemicals which have a deleterious physiological consequence.

Quote:Not to mention we would have a definitive answer for the evolution-deniers claim that being altruistic somehow disproves evolutionary theory.

Between kin selection, reciprocal altruism, Tit-for-tat and memetics, they ain't got a leg to stand on.

The most important take away from Blackmore is that TWO replicators motivate altruism: genes AND memes. So not only does altruism not disprove evolution, it proves UNIVERSAL DARWINISM.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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23-10-2011, 11:31 AM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
Quote: Me:Sometimes we just see a problem that needs solving, a task that needs attending, and we do it - maybe just for the sake of order and harmony? Or the accomplishment itself? Or to join people we respect in a common enterprise?

Ghost:
We never do anything just cuz.

I didn't say just cuz. By way of explaining how we don't always know what our precise motivations are, i gave three possible motives that may make people feel good about their environment or themselves and are therefore self-rewarding.

As to the other jargon... sure; whatever.

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23-10-2011, 01:47 PM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
Hey, Peterkin.

Sorry. It was more of a statement.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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23-10-2011, 05:14 PM
RE: The Nature of Altruism
But how am I "meme fountain" if I did it anonymously? And, when I say I did it anonymously, I mean I not only did not tell the soldier, I did not tell anyone. Well, that's not completely true, but I told almost no one. I told my wife, and now I've told you and everyone else here. So, what is my benefit here?

Btw, I did not say that I did it for the sake of doing it. I actually deliberately did not give a reason for doing it at all, although I did have one (and I've bought drinks this way for people in uniform on more than one occasion). But, I thought giving my logic for this would taint the discussion. Your original premise was that all altruism was inherently selfish, which means we all get "something" out of it. I presume your definition of "something" includes "feeling good about one's self". So, ok, I got something out of it. But, now you've gone further and said that I'm a "meme fountain". So, if no one knows that I did this, how am I a fountain?

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