Intelligible systems are built on a few basic principles.1 While reducing my dour skepticism to the memorable maxims that codify Informed Naked Ape Protocol I repeatedly asked myself what animates unflagging skepticism? What turns naturally cheerful and optimistic people like myself into raging cynics? What motivates noble trolls to put down the pizza and grab the keyboard? Only one answer sprang to mind: other people.
Regardless of your politics, gender, education, race, age, nationality, or ethnicity, you have probably noticed there are a lot of scummy people out there.
Why is this?
The answer derives from our evolution. Evolutionary advantages often accrue to individuals that cheat. Cheating is a fundamental behavioral adaptation that has been observed in many animal, bird and plant species. Cheating is so common that cheating the system is the system! How cheaters might benefit was best illustrated in the hilarious Ricky Gervais movie The Invention of Lying. In Ricky’s world, everybody told the truth until one day he discovered that you could lie. The best scene in the film has Ricky running into a beautiful woman on the street. He tells her that the world is doomed unless she immediately agrees to have sex with him. Given the dire circumstances, she instantly agrees to save the world. Clearly, liars are going to enjoy immense reproductive success in a world of truth tellers. Similarly, scumbags will profit in a world of purely honorable people.
We don’t live in a world of purely honorable people or purely scummy people. Human scum density is complicated; it depends on more variables than the weather. Nevertheless, we can infer that human scum density is seldom zero and is often appreciable.
How big is appreciable?
My bitter sampling of humanity yields an estimate of approximately 0.05 for contemporary American society.2 It’s definitely bad news that 5% of the people around you cannot be trusted or depended on. It’s even worse news that human scum, like pond scum, often floats to the upper echelons of society. This is a nasty reality and I wish it wasn’t so but reality is often unpleasant and leaves few options: either adapt or be crushed.
The first step in adapting to scummy naked apes is acknowledging the most fundamental fact about them — enough people are scum!
- The human preference for systems with a few axioms is an artifact of our primitive intellects. There are few if any human beings that would be comfortable with axiomatic theories that depend on trillions of independent axioms yet we know that such systems exist and remain incomplete. Our drive to reduce things to a manageable set of rules, even when we know it is naïve and futile, amounts to little more than thumb-sucking. It makes our baby brains happy even if it will not solve our problems.↩︎
- Yes, human scum density varies with culture. Some societies are briefly more virtuous than others.↩︎