Here is a list of the 7 responses to the Edge symposium question that I found most interesting. This doesn’t include Geoffrey Miller’s “Chinese Eugenics“. The site doesn’t provide a permalink to each response, and there are 150 + total responses so the best thing to do is do a text search for each entry.
Evolutionary Psychology and Sociosexual Dynamics
1. “The Mating Wars” – David Buss
People are uncomfortable placing a value on other humans. It offends our sensibilities. But the unfortunate fact is that mate value is not distributed evenly. Contrary to yearnings for equality, all people simply are not equivalent in the currency of mate quality. Some are extremely valuable—fertile, healthy, sexually appealing, resource-rich, well-connected, personable, and willing and able to confer their bounty of benefits. At the other end of the distribution are those less fortunate, perhaps less healthy, with fewer material resources, or imbued with personality dispositions such as aggressiveness or emotional instability that inflict heavy relationship costs.
2. “All the T in China” – Robert Kurzban
The precise details of the route from a biased sex ratio to anti-social behavior in humans is not thoroughly understood, but one possible physiological link is that remaining unmarried increases levels of testosterone—often simply referred to as “T”—which in turn influences decision making and behavior.
3. “The Loss of Lust” – Tor Norretranders
Throughout history human beings have executed great wisdom in choosing partners for reproduction through the guidance of instincts and intense desire. Much of the aesthetic pleasure and joy we take from watching other members of our species is rooted in indicators for fertility, gene quality and immune system compatibility. Thus our lust holds considerable prudence.
4. “Internet Silos” – Larry Sanger
Information silos in general are nothing new and not limited to the Internet; talk radio works this way, churches and academia are often silos, and businesses and organizations study how to avoid a silo culture. But Internet communities are particularly subject to a silo mentality because they are virtually instant, meaning have no history of competing, diverse traditions, and are also self-selecting and thus self-reinforcing. The differences between online communities tends to be quite stark. That’s why there are so many silos online.
5. “Worry About Internet Drivel” – David Gelernter
If we have a million photos, we tend to value each one less than if we only had ten. The internet forces a general devaluation of the written word: a global deflation in the average word’s value on many axes. As each word tends to get less reading-time and attention and to be worth less money at the consumer end, it naturally tends to absorb less writing-time and editorial attention on the production side. Gradually, as the time invested by the average writer and the average reader in the average sentence falls, society’s ability to communicate in writing decays.
6. “The Opinions of Search Engines” – W. Daniel Hillis
What about a search for “Dictators of the World”? Here the results, which include a list of famous dictators, are not just the judgment of whether a particular person is a dictator, but also an implied judgment, in the collection of individual examples, of the very concept of a dictator. By building knowledge of concepts like “dictator” into our shared means of discovering information, we are implicitly accepting a set of assumptions.
7. “Losing Our Hands” – Susan Blackmore
But the way we use them is. Our hands now spend little time making or growing things and a lot of time pressing keys and touching screens. Our brains have hardly changed in size or gross structure but their function has. Our evolved desires for fun, competition, and communication lead us into ever vaster realms of online information and away from the people right next to us. And who are ‘we’? Our selves, too, are changing as they disconnect from our bodies, becoming as much the person who exists on multiple websites and forums as the physical body who acts and interacts right here and now—as much a digitally propagated entity as the man now holding my hand in his.