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Journal spun's Journal: Risk and Reward 17

The primary function of society is the sharing or mediation of risk and reward. Thoughts?

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Risk and Reward

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  • Society is a automatic function of our particular organism. Like the heart, humans just pump away. We make babies, we have families, of one sort or another. Modern Industrial society is a statistical blip in the evolution of humans (and possibly the end of, but that's another journal post). So much cheap energy allows us to organize in different ways. So, I think the question is too broad, It has also been debated by some great minds such as Hobbes, Marx, Oliver Cromwell, Burke and Jefferson (my favorite).

    • Interesting thought. I think that some of the problems that we are facing are due to scale. While our innate behaviors work well enough in small groups, larger groups are vulnerable to manipulation (even if only based on statistical factors) and flawed by our inability to conceptualize a large association by anything other than the most general principles - the least common denominator, if you will. When the competing groups were small and relatively powerless, the consequences were more or less safe in
    • by spun ( 1352 )
      Society transcends and predates humanity, and I think its function is the same in all species, which is why I'm trying to strip it down to it's most basic function. The heart, while automatic, has a purpose, and its purpose is similar to society's. The heart facilitates the sharing of risk and reward among individual cells by providing energy (oxygen and fuel), circulating information on potential threat, and the means for dealing with those threats.

      When examining human societies, one can categorize them ac
      • by bodan ( 619290 )
        I don't see why you'd sum it up in terms of risk and reward*. You can generalize it further in term of costs and benefits. Risk is just one of the costs that are shared (potential ones, to be precise).

        (* Of course, if you need to express it in terms of risk, say because it makes a pet theory more elegant, you can express any cost in terms of risk. E.g., if I need to pay the cost of 1$, you can say that I have a 100% risk of loosing 1$. This of course works for bits of shiny metals, hours of work, tasty frui
        • by spun ( 1352 )
          Well, cost and benefit are synonyms for risk and reward in my book, use whatever words you like, the concepts are the same.

          As for market theory, first, people aren't rational agents. Second, people do not work primarily towards their own self interest. Modern economic and games theory research shows that people will act against their own self interest to punish unfairness. Most people value fairness and reciprocity over personal profit. We are cooperative animals by nature, and it is in our gene's best inte
          • I'm a bit ambivalent about the terminology issue. It's true that wants & needs (in positive or negative forms) can be in general expressed as (or translated between) different concept systems, eg. cost/benefit or risk/reward. So on the one hand, it seems that it shouldn't matter which way they're framed.

            But on the other hand, we don't really have all these words (or word pairs) for nothing --- it wouldn't be economical, would it? ;) --- we could only have a pair of good/bad words, and be done with it. I
          • Most people value fairness and reciprocity over personal profit.


            These nine words are exactly why I don't buy the "people aren't rational agents" counter-theory---and the more general "economists are silly" argument. It's plainly self-contradictory: If people _value_ X more than Y, isn't it plain silly to say they're irrational because they choose X over Y, just because we labeled Y a priori as "profit"?

            The basic tenet of market theory is that nothing has value by itself. The value of X is just what some agent is willing to give in exchange for it, *no*matter* what th

            • by spun ( 1352 )
              You are redefining things to suite your argument. You are conflating the errors in the 'science' of economics with the errors in other sciences, when there are differences in orders of magnitude between say, physics, and economics.

              I refuse to accept your interpretation of the split money experiments. No one thinks their choices are going to affect inflation, that is ludicrous. The fact is, people act against their own self interest to enforce fairness, and you can redefine words in order to 'win' the argume
  • The primary function of society is the sharing or mediation of risk and reward. Thoughts?

    Society is. We create society in the same way that water molecules generate waves. If society has a function, it has as little to do with humans as the function of waves has to do with water molecules.

    We can attempt to steer society though laws and norms, although in doing so, we're quite likely to find our natural interests usurped by "memes". Still, it is reasonable to call a least-effort system of arbitrati

    • Somehow, your post has reminded me of Solaris []. Society seen from the outside, as you describe it, seems as weird as an alien living world.
      • Interesting. I have intended to see Solaris since a friend raved on about it, but never got around to it.

        I paid dearly for my view of society, since a few years ago, I went to see a therapist who was a bit of a trendy lefty. After I told have that the golden rule doesn't work "because different people want different things", and generally not seeing that things were a particular way "for a (good) reason", he took me for being a sociopath (I now have a diagnosis for Asperger's syndrome), and proceeded to

        • by spun ( 1352 )
          Oh fuck. Worst possible outcome to therapy. One of the most cogent criticisms leveled against the field is exactly that: the aim of therapy is not to get you healthy and free, it is to make you fit in.

          The other most cogent criticism is that the field is based on abnormal psychology, the psychology of damaged individuals, rather than the psychology of healthy and free individuals. Those two criticisms were what the humanist psychologists such as Maslow tried to fight against.
  • I'm not sure about "the primary", unless one defines risk and reward very broadly, but it certainly is an important function. I would generalize a little further, and say that the primary function of society is to provide infrastructure (of which risk and reward sharing is a part). The more economic power a society has at its disposal, the better the infrastructure is - and the more free the members of the society are to follow their own ideas.

    At tension with that freedom (as I suggested in my reply to o1
    • by spun ( 1352 )
      If infrastructure is seen as 'physical plant that is shared," then we are talking about the sharing of reward and the decreasing of risk, as infrastructure is itself a reward of labor and a tool to mitigate risk.

      Primitive humans 'worked' about four hours a day, but they had no surplus and next to no capacity for mitigating risk. You either did well or you starved. Now, we work longer hours but we have a huge investment of shared rewards built up.

      While I agree that larger decision making bodies are inherentl
  • Well, certainly risk. We're communal animals, and communal animals form social groups because the group provides a competitive advantage...When you get attacked by a tiger, it's a lot better to have a couple of friends nearby with pointy sticks.

    Likewise the group allows for diversity and specialization. Thag, who can't throw a spear to save his life, but who is a top notch spear maker, can focus on spear making and be fed by his customers.

    I can see that situation as a type of reward; certainly my life is be
    • by spun ( 1352 )
      Would you say then that the sharing of reward is for the purpose of mitigating risk?

      Human nature is not static. It is malleable and dependent on circumstance. Broadly speaking, when people are motivated primarily by fear, they act selfishly. Society currently creates individuals motivated primarily by fear. But it can also create individuals primarily motivated by love, and these types are cooperative.

      There are two stable modes for society, and it is hard to switch between them. One is what I like to call
  • From an evolutionary standpoint, I think that society has the described effect, but only as a stepping stone to reproductive success. But I'd personally like to see us wrest control from evolution, and start pursuing beneficial forms of collectivism for their own sakes.

    I was listening to a discussion about the implications on happiness research on public policy. Of course, in order to achieve "balance", KQED had this right-wing shill [] on. If his ideas weren't a dead giveaway, Amazon relates him to Jonah G

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford