The Evolution of the SOCIAL CONTRACT
I am nearing the end of my Father’s Day present – “The Origin of Life” by John Maynard Smith and Sza…. (sp?). I have just finished the section on the evolution of stable human societies. Like all complex systems, human societies are made up of countervailing processes acting on the system components. (I have read widely – not deeply - in the areas of history, physics, biology, marketing, politics, language, philosophy, art and economics. I am driven by a search for paradigms that operate in all domains).
The authors make the interesting case that one needs effective models to understand complex systems, but that any model made up of too many relationships and variables will predict anything depending on the initial assumptions and thus is TOTALLY USELESS. The challenge is then to design a simple model that can predict the outcomes of complex systems. Such a conundrum...
Anyhow, the authors (two biologists) use “The Social Contract Game” as their simplified model for a stable human society. The main processes in their model are a “law of the jungle” kind of natural selection countered by cooperation among the populations. They had extrapolated this model, believe it or not, from the well-known insect societies (ants, bees and termites).
They posit that a stable society must be governed by LAWS that enforce cooperation that are supported by MYTHS and RITUALS. DEFECTORS must be punished for their derelictions to prevent individuals from taking advantage of the law-abiding populace. Most interestingly, they insist that all society members MUST PARTICIPATE in the punishment of defectors.
By their definition the US is not a stable society. One might wonder if a stable society is worth the tradeoffs required. I THINK IT IS. The goal is then how do you maintain a stable society consistent with modern democratic sensibilities.
I believe that biology is the most complex system of all (physics is more subtle but much less complicated), and that many of the paradigms and processes we discover in our researches into the mechanisms of life will have application in politics. Given that the future of biotechnology will be shaped by our politics (I know you hate politics, BUT POLITICS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT HUMAN ENDEAVOR, … it is nothing less than the total determination of the parameters of our lives), it is crucial to the success and survival of our species that we make a real science out of political science.