Monday, May 21, 2012

Social perspectives . . .

WHAT DO DEBUTANTE BALLS, the Japanese tea ceremony, Ponzi schemes and doubting clergy all have in common? According to NEW STATESMAN, Daniel Dennett's article "The social cell", they are results of interaction that mimics the behavior of biological cells.

Cells may be the simplest life forms on the planet - even the simplest possible life forms - but their inner workings, at the molecular level, are breathtakingly complex, composed of thousands of molecular machines, all of them interacting to provide the cell with the energy it needs to build offspring and maintain its membrane. Echoes of the design wisdom embodied in this very effective machinery can be found in human culture, which is dazzlingly complex, too, composed as it is of about seven billion interacting people, with their traditions, languages, institutions, occupations, values and economies. Some cultural phenomena bear a striking resemblance to the cells of cell biology, actively preserving themselves in their social environments, finding the nutrients they need and fending off the causes of their dissolution.

Consider four unrelated species of social cell that share some interesting features. What do the Japanese tea ceremony, debutante parties, Ponzi schemes and many Christian churches have in common? They are all variations of an insidiously effective social mechanism that:
1) thrives on human innocence, and
2) nobody had to design, and
3) is threatened with extinction by the rising tide of accessibility to information.

Interesting way of looking at social process; to me, a variation on Transactional Analysis of Eric Berne, but that's just my initial consideration. One's own internal motivation is whatever it is. Human consciousness, the mind, is so complex that it is essentially unfathomable for the precise definition of consciousness as each person is unique — is my consciousness the same as yours, or anyone else's? Certainly we have a myriad of mind-sets and attitudes, and nobody knows why they are what they are.

Generalizations are always suspect, but people repeat behavior if there's a reward. They may be unaware of just what that reward is — and that's where the fun starts. One of the essential components of the standard human mind are the capacities for wishful thinking and self-deception; add them to the behavior-determination process in the mind, and it gets even funner.

1 comment:

Aroger said...

Very well said. As a friend of mine says" the only thing that's for sure is that an activity done once,with positive/pleasurable results will be repeated again."