Of Mind and Money: Post-Scarcity Economics and Human Nature

By Stuart Mason Dambrot, Synthesist | Futurist, Critical Thought

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil.

Why Socialism? Albert Einstein, Monthly Review, 1949[i]

These two quotes from the same article written by Albert Einstein demonstrate that intelligence and imagination do not necessarily guard against nonconscious cognitive bias and unexamined beliefs. The question is whether either, both or neither are correct. This chapter, Of Mind and Money, provides a perspectival answer showing not only that, given advances in science and technology, the first quote is not necessarily factual, but also that as such it would support the design and implementation of a post-scarcity economic environment by modifying our fundamental, evolution-derived beliefs about scarcity, capitalism, class hierarchies, labor, and competition.

The Nature of Human Nature Redux

In the myriad discussions focused on future scenarios envisioned and articulated in science, technology, humanities, business, politics, or military, and other fields, there is one fundamental factor that is invariably undefined yet implicitly or explicitly assumed to be an unchanging and unchangeable constant.

Human nature

This is curious, in that the creators of said scenarios appear to be all about change, be they Singularitarians, Transhumanists, scientists, technologists, philosophers, or any other of the countless labels with which we describe ourselves to both ourselves and the world-at-large. Moreover, this cognitive bias is perhaps most pronounced in those scenarios concerned with post-scarcity economies, in which goods, services and information are universally accessible without the need for capital or its exchange in order to produce and acquire said goods, services and information.

This chapter will examine the evolutionary neurobiology of what we experience and perceive as human nature[ii] – the thesis being that as we learn more about the human brain and learn how to modify ourselves using a range of methods and techniques, human nature will take its rightful place amongst all other aspects of physical reality that we have studied, understood and modified.

This shift in perspective will then form the cognitive foundation of a new approach to constructing a post-scarcity/post-capital scenario that is no longer bound to attitudes and behavior long and erroneously held to be inviolate.

Human Nature: Fixed or Flexible?

In general, we appear to understand what is meant by human nature, accepting the term as if it refers to well-defined and permanent aspect of our existence. As the above quote demonstrates, this unquestioned assumption is independent of intellect, education and imagination, being more akin to religious belief in its unquestioned adherence to the axiom that human nature is, in Einstein’s words, “fixed and unalterable.” While the concept that human nature is constant is understandable when viewed as an inference based on observing historically recurrent patterns in human behavior (which are amplified versions of behaviors found in our closest hominid relatives2), only recently have science and technology given us discoveries and tools with the potential to change our evolutionary heritage and architect a very different possible future.

To this end, neuroscience, synthetic biology (a branch of biology integrating evolutionary, molecular, and computational biology with biophysics and nanobiotechnology – the melding of nanotech and biology) and other fields of established and emerging science are beginning to provide us with an understanding of our neurobiology at neural, molecular and genetic levels. These advances will then be instantiated in technologies that enable us to physiologically modify our dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors. The resulting shift in perspective will form the cognitive foundation of designing and implementing a technology-enabled post-scarcity economy by abandoning the belief that our human nature has not allowed, and therefore never could allow, such an environment to emerge and thrive on a large – much less global or exoplanetary – scale.

In addition to neuroscience and synthetic biology, the other areas key to designing and effecting human neuroaugmentation include synthetic genomics (a field within synthetic biology); optogenetics (a neuromodulation technique using light to control neurons genetically light-sensitized); neural prostheses; artificially accelerated evolution (already achieved in laboratories with fruit flies); and biorecalibration (biophysical optimization and health/life extension).

One of the main focal points in this effort might be to fine-tune the effects of the human-specific gene ARHGAP11B[iii], which appeared when the ancestral gene ARHGAP11A made an incomplete copy of itself and subsequently may have contributed to evolutionary expansion of human neocortex. (When ARHGAP11B was introduced into developing mice, the number of cortex stem cells nearly doubled and their brains sometimes developed folds – are found in primates but not mice.) The goal could be to use synthetic genomics to selectively modify phenotypic expression in the developing human brain of neural tissue and connectivity between the neocortex and the more primitive brain areas where emotion, motivation, habituation, and other functions occur.

One salient example can be seen in recent neuroscience research[iv] showing strong evidence that interpersonal differences in a specific area of the human brain are associated with different prosocial behavior. In another relevant study[v], neuroscientists at MIT identified the brain circuit in laboratory mice that controls how memories become linked with positive or negative emotions, and as a result were able to modify the emotional associations of specific memories using optogenetics – a method for controlling brain cells with light. More recently the technique has been used[vi] in mice to dramatically reduce stress-related depression-like behavior by activating positive memories.

The question might well be raised of why we cannot rely on widely-promoted sociocultural measures as a way to create a different conception of human nature, and thereby to change, abandon or transcend our biologically-determined behaviors by which we practice various degrees of inhumanity. While science, technology, medicine, knowledge, and other endeavors continue to advance at an accelerating rate, our basic behavioral patterns (in Einstein’s words, “biological constitution” and “natural urges”) have not. In fact, despite protests and legislation, other factors such as air and water quality have globally declined due to capitalism-motivated processes, with air itself now being carcinogenic[vii](causing lung cancer and contributing to bladder cancer) and water becoming increasingly both polluted[viii] and scarce[ix].

For these reasons, the assertion that sociocultural programs and legislation (given the role of corporate and individual wealth in politics) will address our species’ destructive behaviors seems somewhat naïve. Rather, a solution based on a medical model in which dysfunctional individual and group behaviors are seen not as causative but as symptoms of a deeper cause – our evolutionary neurobiology. The transformation of human society via optimizing human nature thus becomes a crisis to be scientifically analyzed and corrected rather than an anthropological project to be observed and discussed.

The Ethics of Enlightenment

Would this approach raise concerns? By all means: Does genetically resetting human neurobiology cross medical and/or ethical lines? Might this approach be considered Eugenics? Should any group or societal class have the authority to proceed with such a project? And so on. How might these issues be addressed – and are they, even in principle, addressable? On the other hand, are they in principle very different from other medical-model-based interventions?

Consider bioaugmentation applied to a serious disease: Imagine the development of a completely safe genetic treatment for cancer using – the same protocol hypothesized for resetting human nature. Despite the technology, delivery vector and safety of this cancer eradication protocol being equivalent to those of the universal transformation of human nature, it is likely that the former would encounter far less resistance than the latter. Why might this be the case? Several possible explanations come to mind:

  • While eliminating cancer is clearly perceived as a medical protocol focused on a range of terrible diseases, human nature is decidedly not seen as a disease state despite the parallels in symptomology (that is, where the problems and crises endemic in human society are seen as symptoms of many of our evolutionarily-determined behaviors)
  • A nonspecific fear of medical or genetic technology that operates at a scale or in a manner that people do not understand
  • There may be a religious factor at play, as evidenced by the belief by a remarkable number of people (despite the tremendous advances in evolution and genetics) that human beings did not evolve from earlier hominids, but rather were created by a divinity in that divinity’s image

In the above situations, education and social programs may be very helpful in laying the groundwork for accepting a medical model as a way of stopping and reversing the destructive path capitalism, as well as those who blindly accept its principles despite suffering as a result, seem committed to pursuing.

The Consequences of Capitalism

Capitalism has clearly demonstrated its profoundly negative impacts on individuals, groups, nations, the planet, and the space surrounding Earth. In terms of individuals, there is profoundly unequal access to many critical foundation areas, including food, clean water, electricity, healthcare, income, housing, transportation, education, security, governance, voting, freedom from, and freedom to. Two real-world examples illustrate the immensity of the problem:

Extreme Wealth Disparity

  • The 85 wealthiest individuals on Earth have assets roughly equivalent to 3.6 billion others
  • In 2011 Deloitte & Touche reported that the wealthiest 400 American families had assets of approximately $11 trillion, with the 2020 estimate being $19 trillion
  • Social Security, Food Assistance, Medicaid and other social safety nets are under defunding attacks from legislators whose salaries are by the citizens who voted them into office

Income and Mortality

The following chart[x] shows a nearly linear relationship between income level and age-related mortality: Those with lower incomes die at an earlier age.

Mortality and incomeIncome level and age-related mortality. Source: The Zeitgeist Movement Defined: Realizing a New Train of Thought, The Zeitgeist Group. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

These large-scale expressions and implementations of capitalism and other problematic behaviors based on our evolutionary neurobiology are not entities in and of themselves: They appear that way because large-scale events are agglomerations of more-or-less coordinated individual behaviors. However, even single events – especially when identified as part of a widespread practice or trend – deserve our attention. A case in point: a few representative reports from a single daily issue published on the progressive Daily Kos[xi] website are representative of a range of dysfunctional trends – some far more disturbing than others:

The typical approach to addressing these problems, articulated by Einstein and many others – whether sincerely or cynically – invokes ethics, culture, education, communication, social programs, legislation and other indirect measures. Unfortunately, given the increasingly elitist and militaristic activities trending on a global basis, this solution appears to be (except on a limited and temporary basis) less than effective.

Human-induced Mass Extinction

Much as global warming is only one factor in climate change, climate change may be part of a much more severe event caused by capitalism-fueled human activity. A paper recently published[xvi] by scientists at the universities of Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley found, even using highly conservative criteria, that current extinction rates far exceed those known to exist in our planet’s five previous mass extinction events[xvii]as determined by fossil records. The researchers found that their estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid biodiversity decline over the previous few centuries, concluding that a sixth mass extinction – one that would take millions of years, with Homo sapiens disappearing sooner rather than later – is already taking place.

Cumulative extinctions

Cumulative vertebrate species recorded as extinct or extinct in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (2012). Source: Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction. Science Advances (2015) 1:5 e1400253. Copyright © G. Ceballos, P. R. Ehrlich, A. D. Barnosky, A. García, R. M. Pringle, T. M. Palmer. Creative Commons CC BY-NC 4.0 license. Courtesy: American Association for the Advancement of Science and Gerardo Ceballos.[xviii]

Specifically, they found that over the last century vertebrate species (that is, those having backbones) have gone extinct at an average rate as high as to 114 times than the background, or non-mass extinction, rate – a rate that would normally take place over as long as 10,000 years – and, critically, that this trend is caused by human activities including climate change, pollution, deforestation, habitat loss, and overexploitation for economic gain – all of which, the scientists note, are related to human population size and growth, which in turn increases consumption (predominantly by the wealthy) and economic inequity. They caution that “averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.”

Post-Scarcity Economics: Beyond Capital

It should be noted that the term post-scarcity economics is sometimes described as being self-contradictory, since most – but not all – definitions of economics are based the dynamic between scarce resources and demand for goods, services and information based on or incorporating these scarce resources, with capital as the foundation for all economic transactions. On the other hand, a post-scarcity economy can operate without the need for capital while still responding to supply-and-demand forces in determining the resources needed to fulfill demand.

This post-scarcity vs. post-capital question can be resolved by reconceptualizing and redefining economics – as has occurred repeatedly over the centuries – as the transformation of resources into goods, services and information that are provided to individuals or groups who demand and then acquire them. Given the technology-based labor-free structure of a post-scarcity environment, the definition of post-scarcity economics then becomes the post-capital, technology-enabled, demand-responsive transformation of resources into goods, services and information that are provided to individuals or groups who acquire them.

That being said, post-scarcity embodiments have been conceptualized for many years. The efforts most salient to the thesis herein include Technocracy Movement[xix], which proposed replacing politicians and businesspeople with scientists and engineers who had the technical expertise to manage the economy; Venus Project[xx], which calls for a culture redesign to make war, poverty, hunger, debt and unnecessary human suffering unacceptable and explores the determinants of behavior to dispel the myth of human nature, asserting that environment shapes behavior; Zeitgeist Movement[xxi], reminiscent of the Technocracy Movement and previously aligned with the Venus Project, is focused on technology, post-scarcity, post-capital, post-labor and direct (nonrepresentational) governance; and Transpolitica[xxii], a grassroots Transhumanist political organization focused on enabling society to transcend the limitations and constraints of today’s political models.

Post scarcity

How would a fully-realized post-scarcity environment be structured? First and foremost, despite having elements in common with some systems, it will not take the form of any existing sociopolitical economy, including the usual suspects: capitalism (private property and ownership of means of production, capital accumulation, wage labor, market competition, labor theory of value); socialism (social ownership of means of production and co-operative management of the economy); communism (common ownership of means of production; absence of social classes, money and the State); and anarchism (absolute individual freedom and absence of government).

While the closest post-scarcity analogue is communism, the essential differences are that in technology-enabled post-scarcity there is neither labor nor ownership of the means of production. Moreover, analogous to the assumptions about the term economics discussed earlier, it is often thought that there is only one form of anarchism[xxiii] (as per the standard definition above) – but this is decidedly not the case[xxiv]. Anarchism variants can support fundamentally different political systems that vary from extreme individualism to complete collectivism – and in addition, there is a well-established link[xxv] between specific anarchist schools and post-scarcity/post-capitalism, of which examples include:

A post-scarcity system will therefore have unique features and technologies. Firstly, it will be an technology-enabled post-capital, post-labor, Crowdsourced Peer-to-Peer Networked Anarchy characterized by an absence of wealth, class, and governance hierarchies; autonomous intelligent ownerless production; distributed egalitarian point-to-point self-governance in which each individual or group can self-define as an independent polity; and Nash equilibrium replacing zero-sum game theory. Secondly, a valuation system based on positive inclusive qualities and behaviors such as reputation, inventiveness, equanimity, enablement, and empathy will replace monetization and profit. Thirdly, a post-scarcity architecture will entail a number of current (but significantly advanced), emerging, and potential technologies in four primary areas: personal production (advanced 3D/4D printers, nanofabricators); security (reputation encoding, quantum encryption, blind quantum computing); Artificial General Intelligence and autonomous robotics; and emerging, exotic and theoretical energy sources (compact fusion[xxxiii] and Polywell fusion[xxxiv], quantum thermionic conversion[xxxv], antimatter[xxxvi], and zero-point energy[xxxvii]).

Coincident with the science and technology trends outlined above, researchers studying spatial models of complex systems found that genetically-programmed mortality, while not benefitting individuals, in certain cases results in long-term benefit to the local population by reducing local environmental resource depletion. While noting that intrinsic mortality is not favored for long-range spatial mixing or if resources are unlimited, the paper[xxxviii] does not actually suggest that post-scarcity results in immortality. However, the open question is whether post-scarcity might support a human-induced genetic adaptation that would modify the scarcity-based evolutionary default of aging and limited lifespan – potentially to the point of immortality.

Despite the utopian nature of a post-scarcity economy, however, the transition to a global post-scarcity environment without human nature being universally optimized not only virtually guarantees it being rejected and prevented by capitalist interests, but also carries with it the potential for a new generation of criminal activity corresponding to the technologies described above– that is, reputation spoofing, false demand process interruption, genome hacking, neural theft, robotic telepresence hijacking, blind quantum communication capture, induced entanglement decoherence, and Artificial General Intelligence cracking. These, of course, will necessitate a corrective response, which will simply replicate our current environment in a more advanced technological context.

For these reasons, it would be wise to stage the transition such that elevating human nature is accomplished prior to attempting to construct a post-scarcity economy.

Revolution through Evolution


  • Einstein was correct about capitalism but missed the mark on human nature
  • In a medical model, our myriad problems can be seen as symptoms of a central underlying condition, rather than cultural problems that can be addressed by social policies
  • That causative condition is a direct and primary consequence of our hominid evolutionary neurobiological heritage
  • The path forward to an enlightened world is for each individual to physiologically evolve beyond that heritage
  • We can wait for thousands of generations (natural evolution is slow) or use the science and technology our brain has manifested to achieve that step in a matter of decades.

The decision is ours to make.


[i] Why Socialism? Albert Einstein, Monthly Review, 1949


[ii] The Zeitgeist of Change


[iii] Human-specific gene ARHGAP11B promotes basal progenitor amplification and neocortex expansion


[iv] Spatial gradient in value representation along the medial prefrontal cortex reflects individual differences in prosociality


[v] Bidirectional switch of the valence associated with a hippocampal contextual memory engram


[vi] Activating positive memory engrams suppresses depression-like behaviour


[vii] IARC: Outdoor air pollution a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths


[viii] World Water Assessment Programme: Water pollution is on the rise globally


[ix] Water Fact Sheet Looks at Threats, Trends, Solutions


[x] Based on data in G. D. Smith et al, Socioeconomic differentials in mortality risk among men screened for the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial: I. White men, American Journal of Public Health (1996) 86(4): 486-496.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1380548/ (PDF)

[xi] Daily Kos


[xii] Teen stripped of National Honor Society position because she dared wear a sundress—in Florida


[xiii] NC Pastor tells graduating seniors they’ll be going to hell if they’re gay


[xiv] School lunch room manager fired for giving out food to children without lunch money


[xv] Florida police murder black computer engineer as he listens to music; attempted cover-up exposed


[xvi] Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction


[xvii] Mass Extinction Event


[xviii] Graphs show the percentage of the number of species evaluated among mammals (5513; 100% of those described), birds (10,425; 100%), reptiles (4414; 44%), amphibians (6414; 88%), fishes (12,457; 38%), and all vertebrates combined (39,223; 59%). Dashed black curve represents the number of extinctions expected under a constant standard background rate of 2 E/MSY. (A) Highly conservative estimate. (B) Conservative estimate.
For a larger version of the image, see http://d3a5ak6v9sb99l.cloudfront.net/content/advances/1/5/e1400253/F1.large.jpg

[xix] The Technocracy Movement


[xx] The Venus Project


[xxi] The Zeitgeist Movement


[xxii] Transpolitica


[xxiii] Anarchism


[xxiv] Anarchist Schools of Thought


[xxv] Post-Capitalism Anarchism


[xxvi] Post-Scarcity Anarchism


[xxvii] Social Ecology


[xxviii] Libertarian Municipalism


[xxix] Anarchist Communism


[xxx] Direct Democracy


[xxxi] Common Ownership


[xxxii] Anarcho-syndicalism


[xxxiii] Compact Toroid


[xxxiv] Polywell Fusion


[xxxv] Thermionic Energy Conversion (PDF)




[xxxvi] Antimatter Fuel


[xxxvii] Zero-point Energy


[xxxviii] Programed Death is Favored by Natural Selection in Spatial Systems



The article above features as Chapter 6 of the Transpolitica book “Envisioning Politics 2.0”.

The Zeitgeist of Change

By Stuart Mason Dambrot, Synthesist | Futurist, Critical Thought

When envisioning, planning for or attempting to create a future scenario, an often-overlooked problem is ignoring the Zeitgeist – the dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time. As a result, such scenarios have an overly narrow focus on that specific scenario alone. As a result, institutionalized aspects of human behavior do not change in isolation, but are nonetheless conceptualized as separate entities.

As a result, the scenario in question – whether, for example, political, technological, economic, or sociocultural – will carry a higher than necessary probability of failure to materialize or, if apparently successful at first, to sustain the structural and functional design originally intended. This then leads to increasing divergence from that initial design, and so requires propaganda – and more often than not, ultimately the application of force – to maintain power.

To understand why this ultimately counterproductive approach to governance characterizes human behavior, it’s necessary to look in a direction rarely addressed in political dialogue: the evolution of H. sapiens neurobiology.

The typically unarticulated factors at the core of this issue follow. While clearly interrelated, these will first be addressed individually before being integrated into a cohesive proposition that presents possible Transhumanism efforts in science and technology that might provide solutions to this pervasive and persistent dilemma. In short, H. sapiens:

  1. unconsciously forms in-groups and out-groups that compete for legitimacy and power
  2. is a social species with (typically) an alpha male-based structural hierarchy
  3. mistakes beliefs and observation-based inductive inference for knowledge and fact-based deductive conclusions, respectively
  4. has a cognitive system based largely on emotion and metaphor
  5. exhibits cognitive bias and often lacks meaningful self-awareness

While this chapter is obviously not an academic treatment, we can nevertheless deconstruct our cognitive and behavioral patterns in the light of these defining characteristics in the interest of transcending our current political systems.

Human Phylogeny

Human Phylogeny. Credit: Stearns & Hoekstra (2005). Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press [xvi]

The Nature of Human Nature

We can learn a great deal about ourselves by observing chimpanzees and bonobos – our closest living primate relatives. Our DNA differs from that of both species by only 1.2 % (although they differ from each other in both DNA and social behavior [i]). We all share a common non-human ancestor some eight to six million years ago [ii], while chimpanzees and bonobos diverged from each other some 1.5-2 million years ago. As such, it is more enlightening to say that we’re like them than the typical view that they’re like us – and what’s enlightening is the range and specificity of behaviors that we share.

In addition to chimpanzee behaviors observed in the lab that are associated with high intelligence – such as recognizing themselves in a mirror and communicating through a written language – it is their untrained behavior in the wild that is truly revealing. This includes having a dominant alpha male leader; ingesting medicinal plants for a range of ailments; using leaves for bodily hygiene; raiding and decimating other chimpanzee troops to acquire their territory and food resources; and – in perhaps the most telling example – practicing the art of deception: In a troop of male chimpanzees walking in single file though the forest in search of food, a single individual spots a piece of fallen fruit off to one side of the trail. That individual then turns to the opposite side of the trail and looks at the forest floor with an exaggerated stare. Once the other chimpanzees are straining to see what he is apparently looking at (as humans would do), he leaps to the fruit and grabs it for himself.

In other words, deception is a trait we share with chimpanzees that provides a highly functional evolutionary advantage in a hierarchical social species based on alpha-structured resource acquisition and control.

Interestingly, bonobos have a very different culture, being matriarchal and peaceful. For example, while chimpanzees engage in copulation primarily for propagation – with high-ranking males monopolizing and guarding females in estrus – bonobos engage in sex to reduce tension and resolve conflicts, offer a greeting, form social bonds, elicit social or food benefits (young females, in particular, may copulate with a male then take or receive food from him), and other reasons. Unlike chimpanzees, bonobos are female-dominant with an alpha female social hierarchy, and in the wild have not been observed to exhibit lethal aggression.

Since we exhibit qualities of both species, the question becomes one of scale. Specifically, at individual and small scales, we tend towards less aggressive bonobo-like behaviors – but within large-scale societal agglomerations artificially delineated on the basis of an abstract definition (in this discussion, politics, as well as economics, organized religion, nationalism, militarism, and so on), we engage in more chimpanzee-like aggressive behaviors.

Either way, in many ways we are (so to speak) chimps in suits.

This is the heritage we carry forward, even with our uniquely powerful brains. What’s even more astounding, however, is the revelatory finding reported in recently-published research [iii],[iv] that a single genetic mutation appears responsible for the uniquely neuron-dense neocortex we share with two other extinct hominin species, Neanderthals and Denisovans. (That said, since these two species did not create a robust culture as we have, it appears that more neurons are not enough: our cognitive abilities appear to rely on other factors, such as how those neurons are interconnected.) The point is that this unique gene is one out of the some 20,000 genes that comprise our genome [v], most of which share with chimpanzees and bonobos.

In-group Favoritism and Intergroup Aggression

That an us-versus-them mentality drives our social behavior [vi],[vii] is obvious – sometimes tragically – in politics, religion, nationalism, sports, multiplayer video games, and other large interest- and/or belief-based agglomerations. What is not fully realized is how little it takes for even a small number of strangers to quickly bond on the basis of almost anything – even eye color [viii], a random grouping, or a grouping based on an otherwise meaningless object or task.

In one such experiment [ix], investigators studied collaborations of 10-person groups in which some members were collocated and others were isolated. Individuals bought and sold shapes from each other in order to form strings of shapes, where strings represent joint projects, and each individual’s shapes represented his or her unique skills. The investigators found that the collocated members formed an in-group, excluding the isolates – but the isolates also formed an in-group.

In short, based on little or no substance we automatically form in-groups that are biased against and aggressive towards corresponding out-groups – without being aware of doing so. This characteristic alone is responsible for much of our discord, violence and dysfunctional governance.

Tools, Language and Logic

While other animals make and use tools – such as chimpanzees fashioning, along with other tools, “termite fishing toolkits” from twigs and branches [x] – we alone have created tools, structures and technologies that have dramatically transformed, and will increasingly transform, ourselves and our planet and exoplanetary environments. At the same time, our spoken and then written ability to communicate with other members of our species graduated from signs to symbols, leading to an incredibly rich language fueled by our ability to generalize and categorize the patterns we detect through our senses. The final component of this intellective triptych is the emergence of reason (using existing knowledge to draw conclusions, make predictions, or construct explanations) and its formal representation, logic.

While there are far too many reasoning methods and logic systems to cover here, the three that matter most in this discussion are deduction, induction and abduction[xi]. Deductive reasoning is a logical process which derives a definite conclusion as a logical consequence of premises that are assumed to be true. On the other hand, inductive reasoning infers probabilistic generalizations from specific observations, where the conclusion can be false even if all of the premises are true. Finally, abductive reasoning reverses the direction of inference, inferring a probable premise, cause or explanation for an observed consequence.

In this discussion, we’re primarily concerned with deduction and induction. (Abduction comes into play where, for example, we envision a future state – political or otherwise – and “reverse engineer” the conditions that would likely lead to that state – an approach well-suited to transpolitics, if only we could have universal agreement on that future state should be.)

In the case of deduction and induction, there are three critical issues that often go overlooked in daily discourse (“a watched kettle never boils”), but oftentimes – as a reminder of a chimpanzee deceiving others in his group in the pursuit of self-interest – are intentionally leveraged in rhetorical speech, political dialogue and propaganda: (1) depending on the truth of the original premises, a deductive conclusion can be true or false even if logically valid; (2) a deductive conclusion can be valid even if the premise is false; and (3) an inductive inference is erroneously thought to be or presented as a deductive conclusion.

As such, a central goal of a future transpolitical environment is educating, encouraging and supporting the abandonment of generating misleading communications by intentionally or unintentionally manipulating logic.

The Invisible Hand of Emotion: Rationality as an Afterthought

Rationality is the quality or state of being reasonable, based on facts or reason. Rationality implies the conformity of one’s beliefs with one’s reasons to believe, or of one’s actions with one’s reasons for action. However, it’s not that simple: What is considered rational is relative, in that the operational cognitive model – reflected in often unspoken framing – determines whether or not a decision is rational or not – for example, whether the model primarily values the individual or the group.

Moreover, unlike our advanced neocortical cognitive capabilities, emotions arise in a much more primitive part of our brain – the limbic system. Nevertheless, emotions influence and interact with cognition in a number of important ways. Perhaps more importantly, emotion is causative in decision-making by unobtrusively engaging prior to cognitive activity, reasoning and rational thought. A case in point: Scientists presented subjects with what is known as a visual choice reaction task, in which a button had to be pressed when an image was presented. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to image the brain areas active during this task, the researchers observed activity not in the part of the neocortex where rational decisions are made, but rather in a deeper brain area called the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with error detection, motor activity, conscious experience and, in this experiment, possibly, acting as an interface between limbic and cortical systems [xii].

Another factor that can be used in rhetorical or persuasive communications to facilitates a speaker’s ability to control the emotional component of cognition, memory and language is that we describe and understand the world primarily through metaphor [xiii] – a word or phrase used to compare two unlike objects, ideas, thoughts or feelings to provide a clearer description of one using the other.

Relatedly, a process known as framing – how individuals, groups, and societies organize, perceive, and communicate about reality – is used by mass media sources, political or social movements, political leaders, or other actors and organizations to make false or exaggerated comparisons that can be persuasive when a logical argument would not be.

Know Thyself

A field of inquiry since antiquity in both Eastern and Western philosophy, self-awareness (also referred to as self-knowledge, mindfulness, metacognition [xiv], and other terms) is the practice of intentional, non-judgmental introspection of our patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting. The goal is to develop the ability to go beyond mere consciousness of one’s body and environment to gain a deeper understanding of one’s assumptions, biases, predilections, biases, motives, values, emotions, thoughts, metaphors, and other typically unarticulated contributors to and causes of otherwise unexamined habits of cognition and behavior. Self-awareness is achieved through a variety of channels, including meditation, counseling, psychotherapy, education, and training.

The need for this new perspective is obvious. Our history – past, present and (at least in the short-to medium term) future – is marked by an endless series of violent practices in what is often archaically referred to as man’s inhumanity to man. Moreover, these large-scale events, such as invasion, war, genocide, atrocities, religious hatred, violent racism, abusive sexism, induced poverty, and exploitation, have their roots and counterparts in small-scale and individual antisocial – and sometimes seen as idiopathic – behaviors like lying, cheating, stealing, interpersonal abuse and violence, and other unfortunately everyday activities. When we do assign cause, we tend to point to a variety of secondary and tertiary causes of such behaviors. However, everything we do – not only the above, but all of our technology, economics, philosophy, beliefs, creativity, and most assuredly politics – is a primary expression or instantiation of a neural state of which we are seldom aware and therefore rarely articulate or consider as causative or even relevant.

In the specific domain of transpolitical change, the aforementioned issue of scale is central by virtue of the large number of persons involved in relation to the practice of self-awareness being de facto an individual pursuit. Given our near-universal priority being growth, productivity and wealth, a global environment supporting self-awareness appears to be a far-future scenario – an enlightened society that no longer requires laws defining, and enforcement maintaining, restricted and coerced behavior. In this scenario, individual self-awareness is an essential cornerstone of an enlightened transpolitical system in which the strong do not victimize the weak [xv].

The Zeitgeist of Change

Taking these powerful, universal, and often silent factors into question, and the way they influence – and when acted upon unthinkingly, determine – our thoughts, priorities, decisions, communications, and behavior, we can begin to see ourselves in aggregate as an enormously intelligent species that still prioritizes competitive self-interest, and that thinks and acts based more on instinct and impulse than reflection and insight. This clear and present reality is the fundamental causative determinant in the cyclical nature of political dialectic, as well as the generative force in creating the illusion that our social institutions – be they political, national, religious, economic, military, scientific, creative, or any other of the myriad aspects of human behavior – are rationally-created entities that have an existence of their own outside the realm of humans acting in groups of various sizes, values, goals, and resources.

In order to successfully and consistently consider societal evolution as a whole rather than just focusing on alternate political systems, and thereby to maximize the probability of creating non-dystopic futures, we would be best served by adopting what might be considered a medical model. In other words, to stop treating what can be considered the symptoms of human nature – that is, dysfunctional politics and other agglomerative In/Out group-mediated social institutions – we need to:

  1. use that awareness to move beyond our evolutionary impulses to acquire power and control over others
  2. foster a deeper awareness of our emotion- and self-interest-driven motivations
  3. learn through guidance and practice how to decouple those impulses from our political behavior
  4. use this new self-knowledge to model non-exploitative transpolitical systems that are no longer manifestations of evolutionary drives, unexamined beliefs and experience-based neocortical models of perceived value and alpha dominance
  5. use these models to design transpolitical constructs that implement our rational and cooperative traits


[i] The Social Behavior of Chimpanzees and Bonobos (http://primate.uchicago.edu/Stanford.pdf)

[ii] Comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes: Searching for needles in a haystack (http://genome.cshlp.org/content/15/12/1746.full)

[iii] Xeroxed gene may have paved the way for large human brain (http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2015/02/xeroxed-gene-may-have-paved-way-large-human-brain?intcmp=highwire)

[iv] Human-specific gene ARHGAP11B promotes basal progenitor amplification and neocortex expansion (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/02/25/science.aaa1975)

[v] The shrinking human protein coding complement: are there now fewer than 20,000 genes? (http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.7111)

[vi] Evolution of in-group favoritism (www.nature.com/srep/2012/120621/srep00460/full/srep00460.html)

[vii] Intergroup Bias (http://www.psych.purdue.edu/~willia55/392F-%2706/HewstoneRubinWillis.pdf)

[viii] In-groups, out-groups, and the psychology of crowds (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201012/in-groups-out-groups-and-the-psychology-crowds)

[ix] In-group/Out-group Effects in Distributed Teams: An Experimental Simulation (http://www.ics.uci.edu/~jsolson/publications/DistributedCollaboratories/Bos_IngroupOutgroup.pdf)

[x] Chimps Shown Using Not Just a Tool but a “Tool Kit” (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/1006_041006_chimps.html)

[xi] Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning (http://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html)

[xii] Volition to Action—An Event-Related fMRI Study (http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~span/Publications/gw02ni.pdf)

[xiii] The Metaphorical Structure of the Human Conceptual System (http://www.fflch.usp.br/df/opessoa/Lakoff-Johnson-Metaphorical-Structure.pdf)

[xiv] Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive–developmental inquiry (http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/34/10/906/)

[xv] Dialogues with the Dalai Lama (http://www.mindandlife.org/dialogues-dalai-lama/)

[xvi] EVOLUTION: AN INTRODUCTION (2nd Edition) by Stephen Stearns & Rolf Hoekstra (2005) Figure 19.1 from p. 481. Figure may be viewed and downloaded for personal scholarly, research and educational use. To reuse the figure in any way permission must first be obtained from Oxford University Press. Figure is not under a Creative Commons license.


The article above features as Chapter 8 of the Transpolitica book “Anticipating tomorrow’s politics”. Transpolitica welcomes feedback. Your comments will help to shape the evolution of Transpolitica communications.