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Monday, March 7, 2011

How to build ourselves and a community at the same time.

A popular theme in my writings is the fact people don't care about us. They care what we can do for them. I would like to bring new light to this belief. I do believe this is only true, because of the current structure of society. Karl Marx once argued that reaching a state of communism would allow us to return to the hunter gatherer style communities we once lived in, but on a more developed scale. I think this may be a little idealistic, but who knows what the future will look like. At one time in history before civilizations existed, caring what people could do for us, and caring for others were the same thing in many cases. In tribal life, taking care of others more directly helped them take care of us for survival and well being. This is harder to see in a civilization with many indirect benefits of helping each other. However, we can still develop some direct communities we interact with too, and create a cycle between caring what others can do for us, and caring about them as people to a point the two become so intertwined, they become hard to distinguish from each other.

One thing I would like to argue is there is a middle way we can reach this on some level. It uses some concepts of game theory, Hegelian Dialectic, and Kant's categorical imperative. The communal way of living isn't on a macro scale as Marx would argue, but in communities we directly interact with. What we want is to develop our ties to communities. The first concept is the Hegelian Dialectic. When we meet people, there are two things taking place. First, we don't see them for who they are, but what we would like them to be. Second, they are pretending to be someone they aren't to make a good impression. A mistake many people make is to rush forward believing what they see, and what others are pretending to be.

The dialectic I propose is to do so mentally instead of physically. Instead of acting on our impulse to show too much caring too soon, which exposes our facade, and shows we can do anything a person wants like a puppet, we need to understand we are creatures of games. In this game, acting on the belief someone can be more than they are is a fallacy. We need to take the time to see people for who they are, and not what we want them to be. We want them to see us for who we are too. This takes months or even years on different levels depending on how much we care to see. The Hegelian Dialectic is to have a thesis, antithesis, and synthesis in order to reach truth. Every belief we have of someone can be tested by showing a little piece of ourselves at a time, and seeing if we are getting a positive or negative response back. Think of it like putting a penny in a mutual jar, and waiting to see if the other party puts a penny in too. Until they do, there's nothing else to show them about what we can do for them. These interactions eventually synthesize into the reality of what two people or parties can actually be and do for each other. Reality reveals itself for us when we sit back an enjoy the ride.

There are many concepts in game theory that can be applied, but the problem in many cases, is the fact we may not know the kind of game we are involved in. One game theory rule that works well is reciprocal altruism or tit for tat. In this game we always cooperate at first, keep cooperating as long as the other person is, cheat or defect if they cheat, and cooperate again if they cooperate. It is best to always defect in finite games, but a community is full of infinite games, where we aren't sure when we'll never see someone again. In this case, it's best to seek cooperation with tit for tat. How do we know our strategy is working? We use our emotions as a barometer for right and wrong. If we perform an act, and the reaction, or lack thereof feels bad, we should discontinue the action toward a person or party. If it feels good, we know we can likely perform the action again with positive results.

The Kantian idea I want to propose is the categorical imperative. This implies there are certain maxims we should live by as universal truths. I'm not claiming these truths exists, but there is an applicable concept here. The idea is to treat everyone by the same maxim. We obviously shouldn't treat everyone in a community the same way all the time, but there are some situations where we can treat each other equally, and this uses another game theory concept. I'll give the example of liking someone as a mate or spouse. You don't want to expose your feelings too soon, because it will cause a chain reaction of both parties continuing to pretend, and show other than we really are, until finally, one party exposes themselves for their reality, causing the other to lose their whole investment. If we follow the categorical imperative to treat everyone equally by certain maxims, we don't expose ourselves too soon. If there is something we want to do for that special person, it has to be something we can do for all our mutual friends, like giving a present, or taking interest in their lives. This spreads our investment out among the community, and allows them to see us as a legitimate person who cares about everyone. At the same time, we have created a blanket of good deeds that camouflage our feelings toward that one special person. If the action we desire is one that would feel awkward to our mutual friends, like asking for a phone number too soon, we shouldn't do it till we have the phone numbers of many other mutual friends to the point it feels simply friendly to ask for such.

You may be thinking, this is far too long of a process to see if someone likes you. I'd argue we have lost our patience at this time in history. We're too quick to try making people into what we want, and not what they want to be consciously or not. Making our life what we want is something we do in a market, social market, or in contrast to inanimate objects, but people have a nature we can't explain in many cases. There are situations where we can become more conscious of their motives than they are. However, their nature is to be that way, and we shouldn't seek to change something more powerful than our desires - nature. Even if we manage to do so temporarily, nature will reassert itself over our plan for others. The best long term relationships I've seen work, were five or ten years after a couple knew each other since High School in a community, or after many years of developing a real friendship in a community. I think these work best, because all the little games were played at the friendship level over many years. The foundation of friendship is much more solid than love alone. Even if love doesn't work, these people will remain good friends. At the same time, we didn't lose out on our investments. We built a community that thinks highly of us, and speaks well of us, and it's only a matter of time before the right people for us sees us positively, because of our good reputations.

Caring is categorical and not general. Sometimes you may hear someone say, that person doesn't care about you. If they are willing to interact with you on occasion, they care about something you can offer. We can't always know what the benefit is for others, but we can tell if we feel benefited. It's not till both parties feel a desire is being fulfilled in a situation, that we have cooperation in a given category. The mistake many people make is putting too much hope into a potential future of a given category where there's no cooperation on the other end in the present. If they aren't cooperating now, they likely never will. The reason we perform acts are to see if we will get a positive reaction back in a given category. If there is no reaction, or a negative reaction, we should no longer perform an act toward someone in a category. We should try to perform acts we can do for the greatest number in a community. The reason is we are likely to get the most positive returns compared to investing in an individual continually we haven't developed ties with yet, hoping they will be something we want, instead of being who they are. At the same time, we can see who didn't react, or react positively to our similar acts toward many, and use that to determine if we should act toward them in a particular category in the future. We shouldn't focus on the voids in our lives when it comes to people, but the things we have in order to build them up. We perform acts to test our boundaries with people, and see how much we matter to them in given situations. The situations we know we have cooperation in are the ones we should repeat, and discontinue those that aren't favorable to us. What can happen in time is a spillover effect. If we focus on the categories and situations that do work, we build trust with people, and eventually this can spill over into categories where they would not cooperate with us prior. We shouldn't put our hope into those other categories working in the future that aren't now, but it's a good reason to keep focused only on what we know is working.

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