Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » March 2005 » Reciprocity

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03/26/2005: Reciprocity

The upcoming April issue of Scientific American has a very interesting article (not yet online) about Society and the reciprocity of Human relationships. I find this intriguing as I've been musing on Society, our duties, philosophies and underpinnings related to certain issues (partly the Teri Schivo matter too) and things going on around the world.

Since it's not yet available, I'll quote a few pieces here for your review. So click on the "more" button to read about this piece. (There are also a few good articles like "Stopping Spam"; "A Toxin Against Pain" and ones about "Synthetic life for customizing a person's cells into drug factories for health" and "Low cost thermal cameras" available in this issue as well.)

"How Do Animal Do Business" by Frans B.M. de Waal

"...Classical economics views people as profit maximizers driven by pure selfishness...

...but as an afterthought, a "social contract" that our ancestors entered into because of its benefits, not because they were attracted to one another. For the Biologist, this imaginary history falls as wide of the mark as can be. We descended from along line of group-living primates. meaning that we are naturally equipped with a strong desire to fit in and find partners to live and work with. This evolutionary explanation for why we interact as we do is gaining influence with the advent of a new school, known as behavioral economics, that focuses on actual animal behavior rather than on the abstract forces of the marketplace as a guide for understanding economic decision making. In 2002 the school was recognized by a shared Nobel Prize for two of its founders: Daniel Kahneman and Vernon L. Smith.

Animal behavioral economics is a fledgling field that lends support to the new theories by showing that basic human economic tendancies and preoccupations -- such as reciprocity, the division of rewards, and cooperation -- are not limited to our species. They probably evolved in us -- to help individuals take optimal advantage of one another without undermining the shared interests that support group life..."

There is also an interesting "chart" of the a few key components of this theory about "What Makes Reciprocity Tick": "Humans and other animals exchange benefits in several ways, known technically as Reciprocity Mechanisms. No matter what the mechanism, the common thread is that benefits find their way back to the original giver." There are three types: Symmetry-based: "We're Buddies"; Attitudinal: "if you're nice, I'll be nice"; and Calculated: "What have you done for me lately?"

It's a very intriguing premise and theory. I can see the relationship of its points to our Societal and Human economic and interpersonal relationships as well. So, catch that copy of April's 2005 Scientific American and read more yourself.

Karen on 03.26.05 @ 08:04 AM CST

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March 2005

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