Gigi Foster on the Economics of greed and love

See below for how my co-author Gigi Foster has been explaining key facets of our joint book to Tim Harcourt in anticipation of launches in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Enjoy!

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conrad
conrad
8 years ago

Not that I’ve read the book, and it’s hard to understand exactly what’s going on in an 8 minute clip, but I’ll comment anyway :) — there’s growing evidence in psychology that people just do quite complex stuff because they’re basically programmed to do it, not because they’re trying to satisfy something. Thus, it may well be that after they’ve done something it satisfies something but the causal relationship is reversed.

Take the case of an altruistic act — I might be altruistic just because I’m programmed to be altruistic, but after I perform my altruistic act, it satisfies some emotional state I have. If I saw someone fall over, for example, I might pick them up, and that may satisfy no particular need I have. It’s just that I’ve evolved to do altruistic acts. However, after I’ve done this, I might find that I feel good about it, which might be falsely interpreted as satisfying a need I had to feel good.

I don’t see why the same might not be true for love. If you look at some species of birds, for example, you can find some groups where they generally pair for life. Is this happening because the bird is satisfying some need? Unless you’re counting satisfying evolutionary algorithms they have embedded in their heads, then the answer I assume must be no. If you are counting those, then it’s hard to see how you exclude anything as a need even just counting complex things (imprinting would be another example from birds). Obviously birds arn’t people, but I don’t see why one would assume that these sorts of acts are done to satisfy any sort of immediate needs (or indeed, any needs within a lifetime — some things people do are clearly in conflict with individual needs, like having children, which for most of the animal kingdom is often associated with dieing in childbirth, as it has been for most of human history).

On an entirely different note, the interview comes over as if one has a set of needs that are entirely in competition with each other. I doubt that’s the case — surely some are essentially orthogonal even if it is possible to satisfy more than one with a single act.

Paul frijters
Paul frijters
8 years ago
Reply to  conrad

In this case I think it fair to say a proper discussion is really difficult if you haven’t read the book. But I will in short say that love is not as pre-programmed and blind as you make it out to be. The countries, families, religions, isms, and other entities we love are not accidentally the ones that have purposely moulded us and via which we get a lot of the things we want. There is method to love. You show me a bird that changes from ardent socialist to committed capitalist when it gets rich!

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago

Paul new scientist recently ran a article on ‘self’ the article had a touch of the usual free will / determinism paradox crap.
The article drew a number of interesting responses that are relevant to this thread.
This letter was from the Bishop of Huntingdon :

At the end of your very interesting exploration of “the self” (23 February, p 32) you slip into the dichotomy of subjective illusion and objective reality, with the self in the first category.

I suggest it is more profitable to remember that objects, from our bodies to quantum dualities, are also constructed by our consciousness via observation. Yet we remain confident these are “real”. So is it unreasonable to say the self is real too?

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
8 years ago
Reply to  john r walker

yes yes, lots of cognitive psychology in our book, particularly on the notion of self but also on studies relating to birds (the whole imprinting literature).

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Frijters

At the hight of the Mad Cow scare there was a joke:
Two cows standing in a paddock,
First cow says to the other cow, “have you heard about this mad cow disease … very worrying, no?’
The second cow responds, ” i’m not personally worried……I’m a squirrel”