- Home Page
- Library of Eugenics
- Genetic Revolution News
- Cosmic Heaven
- Transhuman News Blog
- Future Art Gallery
- Guest Book
- Contact Us
- About the Website
- Site Map
- Artificial Intelligence
A Review of the Robot's Rebellion and its implications for eugenics
The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin, 2004, written by Keith E. Stanovich, is another groundbreaking book that delves deep into the evolutionary meaning of life, and humanity's failure to come to grips with the meaning of a world that is now what he calls universal Darwinism—our existence makes no sense outside of evolution influencing politics, economics, sexuality, warfare, race relations, and why we get up in the morning. Unfortunately, after having presented a case for our dilemma[s], he never really proposes a meaningful solution—that is what I intend to do.
Deep inside academia in several different fields, there is a raging debate regarding human rationality—are humans at all rational in the way they behave? The answer seems to be clearly no, and much of this book looks at the research that explains why. More on that later, because this book mixes scientific research with the author's desire for a rebellion against our genes and memes that control us.
Stanovich states that, "This book was written because of an image that haunts me. It is the image of a future dystopia in which an intellectual elite is privy to the implications of modern science, but implicitly or explicitly deems the rest of the populace incapable of assimilating these implications. Instead, the general populace is left with stories from our pre-scientific history—soothing narratives that require little conceptual reorientation. In short, it is the image of a future scientific materialism that successfully eliminates a socioeconomic proletariat only to replace it with an intellectual proletariat."
This is a strange remark, and I must assume that like many intellectuals, Stanovich is bothered by inequality. Yet he fully understands that humans are programmed to dominate, and they will do so both economically and intellectually, so what exactly does he find haunting about humans again diverging between those who succeed and those who fail? It seems his implications are clear with regards to evolution, but his angst seems odd. As a eugenicist, I simply accept that many will never be capable of understanding our increasingly complex world, and the only solution is to advance the human genome to genetically increase our abilities to understand—or slide back into a more primitive state.
Stanovich: "Over two decades ago, Dawkins called for a rebellion against the selfish replicators. This rebellion is needed because humans, as coherent organisms, can have interests antithetical to those of either replicator. In this book I use the term 'robot's rebellion' to refer to the package of evolutionary insights and cognitive reforms that are necessary if we want to transcend the limited interests of the replicators [genes and memes] and define our own autonomous goals."
Of course, this is what eugenics is all about. Eugenicists recognize that we need to increase general intelligence or we will not be able to deal with an increasingly complex world. However, I have argued in previous articles that eugenics should not mess with personality traits, leaving variations intact, until we are no longer in danger of other population groups [races] using altered personality types against us. That is, we should not filter out just yet, by breeding, personality types that we may need in the future. This book does a good job of noting that we may be able to teach intelligent people to not only be intelligent, but to be aware of their intelligence and to begin to question their belief systems.
Stanovich: "The robot's rebellion becomes possible when humans begin to use knowledge of their own brain functioning and knowledge of the goals served by various brain mechanisms to structure their behavior to serve their own ends."
He complicates I think how the mind works, so I will simplify it as best I can. Humans, like all organisms, have complex mental modules that evolved to keep the genes from extinction. Lately there has been an increased appreciation for how complex all organisms are, and that humans are only unique in one area—accumulating knowledge by passing it on culturally from generation to generation. All other organisms (for the most part) lack this ability, so we appear to be masters of the world we inhabit. What we fail to understand, is that lying beneath all of our collective knowledge, lays a brain that functions independently of what we know consciously. It has evolved to react naturally or instinctively to events without our knowledge or understanding.
Over the last million plus years or so, plus or minus a million, humans evolved larger executive brains that made it possible to think serially, like computers, to solve more complicated problems than the massively parallel processing primitive brain. Now we have two systems in place—the consciousness of being and being able to think in terms or our past, present and future; and the primitive brain that continues to blindly supply the newer brain with information about the world outside. But this primitive information system is not open to the executive brain; it is permanently hidden because to understand its operation would cause a recursive overload of the system; a computer that not only computes, but understands why and how it is computing.
All one has to do to understand the conflict between the autonomous brain and the primitive brain, is to watch politics. When it comes to science where science does not tread on the primitive brains turf, all is fine. We can cure disease, go to the moon, calculate weather patterns, and use a GPS system to tell us where we are within a few feet of an exact position anywhere on earth. Then get into abortion, race, equality, warfare, crime, and human cloning and all hell breaks lose. The primitive brain wakes up and reacts, as the autonomous brain tries to make sense of the whole situation to no avail—science is pushed aside.
For a very small fraction of humans however, we are (collectively) starting to understand these two systems and "Once this insight is appreciated, it immediately becomes apparent why humans must aspire to so-called broad rationality—one that critiques the beliefs and desires that go into instrumental calculations. Otherwise, the meme goals are no better than the preinstalled gene goals. Principles of rational self-evaluation drawn from cognitive science and decision science provide tools for rooting out parasite memes that may be in our goal hierarchies—that is, memes serving their own ends rather than those of the person who hosts them. People in possession of evaluative memeplexes such as science, logic, and decision theory have the potential to create a unique type of human self-reflection."
Right or wrong then, Stanovich uses three levels of cognition:
1) The primitive brain, evolved to bring in information, decipher it, and keep the organism alive to pass on the genes to the next generation.
2) The autonomous brain sitting on top of the primitive brain most developed in humans, which can reflect on past, present, and future states of affairs and may not fully comply with the primitive brains goals and desires.
3) The broadly rational brain, one that uses not only one's own knowledge, but the collective knowledge of science to understand the internal conflicts taking place between the primitive brain and the autonomous brain. This level requires not only intelligence, but also a desire to understand and question belief systems that inhabit and mediate between the primitive brain and the autonomous brain.
Stanovich is worried that most people will never reach level three. He doesn't state it directly, but he does insinuate that to reach this level one has to be intelligent, and that intelligence is in fact genetic. So intelligence is necessary but not sufficient, a person also has to desire to question their belief systems. Now watching the Democratic and Republican conventions, and realizing that the participants seem to fall well short of a desire to understand belief systems, we do seem to be in a dilemma, one that I have predicted since 9/11 will lead us into another world war.
Stanovich: "Hiding from these implications will risk creating a two-tiered society composed of cognoscenti who are privileged to view the world as it really is and a deluded general public—an intellectual proletariat—deemed not emotionally strong enough to deal with the truth. To avoid such a two-tiered society we must openly acknowledge an intellectual cataclysm—the collapse of a worldview that has sustained human energies for centuries. I intend to show how an alternative conception of the human condition can be built on the foundation of neuroscience, cognitive science, philosophy of mind, and the central insights of modern neo-Darwinism."
Stanovich is fully aware that both intelligence and personality styles are highly genetic, and that even the most intelligent person may desire to ignore his Darwinian insights, and will prefer faith over science—the anti-racists are a good example of this new breed of anti-science (see excerpts from Critical Race Theory). I agree with him that if our educational system taught universal Darwinism, we may be able to collectively reach level three, and question our belief systems, but I see little desire in most people to do so. In fact, it seems to take a rather rare personality profile to rebel against memes and take a broad rational stance. But we could use eugenics to breed a highly intelligent human with a desire to openly question our belief systems. Stanovich makes a good case why breeding will in the end bring about broad rationality—he makes no case for bringing it about politically or socially.
As he states, humans are the "supreme hypothesis testers," but he fails to mention that only a very small fraction of people understand the scientific methods to do so. Few people, even many people like doctors, lawyers, engineers, chemists, or computer scientists, can explain what the scientific method entails. They may intuitively understand it, but they have never been taught it formerly. While educators, journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, corporate executives, social activists, and homemakers alike are generally unable to comprehend even the most mundane scientific discoveries, much less understand the difference between observations made by our President and those made by behavioral scientists as to why terrorists do what they do.
Stanovich wants humans to practice rational behavior that will fulfill the goals for us, and not for our genes. We must take over, using our autonomous rational selves to overcome impulses from our primitive brains, and in the end stop being robots and begin to fully question all possible decision making. To do this, we must come to appreciate and understand how powerful these primitive impulses are, and how they can override rational choice. It seems paramount that we understand that to do this on any large scale means that it must be done collectively, not on an individual basis, and this is why.
My wife, and most of her friends that I meet, prefer narrow rationality to broad rationality—they delight in talking endlessly about people and social situations, but have no interest at all in the underlying causes of belief structure and no interest in questioning them. Quite literally, they seem to get board and glazed over if these more primitive emotions are looked at and connected with observed behavior. They simply prefer the simpler, hedonistic aspects of life like shopping, gossiping, being entertained, and doing a good job at work without question. In contrast, when I come across someone who is interested in questioning beliefs and desires in terms of universal Darwinism, they are able to lock in to the conversation with interest, even if they are not well versed in the subject. This indicates that in the future, people will form associations according to their intelligence and their ability to question belief systems—people who desire to be broadly rational. And as the few break new ground in universal Darwinism, the many will entrench themselves against increasing threats to their systems of belief.
It is easy to see how some people who are uneducated, low in intelligence, or highly biased towards religion might prefer to run from anything scientific that threatens their belief systems. But it is also just as prevalent among conservatives who hold fast to trying to preserve family values while embracing free markets. Stanovich notes that, "Uncle Ralph says he's for traditional values, stable families, cohesive communities, and free-market capitalism. But the last of these does not cohere with the previous three. There is no more continuously disruptive force in the world than unrestricted capitalism."
On the left, the religious faithful includes: environmentalists, anti-globalists, anti-racists, multiculturalists, diversity advocates, anti-growth and anti- Wal-Mart traditionalists, historic preservationists, feminists, pro-choice advocates, animal rights activists, socialists, etc. Not that one can't be a broad rationalist and hold certain opinions about any of these issues, but most certainly, the advocates of these positions are more like religious fundamentalists than they are broad rationalists or scientific empiricists.
So whether someone is of low intelligence, has mental problems (highly schizoid personality), a religious fundamentalist, a hedonist (obsessive materialist), or a social/political activist, that leaves very few people aspiring to live their life by not only evaluating their beliefs and desires, but evaluating any forces that attempt to control them against what is best for them. That is, it seems that to be a broad rationalist, one also must be inegalitarian (one who loves but without universal compassion), immune from being easily indoctrinated or conforming to marketing trends, and living a life with goals and desires that are under constant review and questioning. The only people who seem to come close to these ideals as advocated by Stanovich are eugenicists and some others on the empirical right such as race realists (Jensenists), a few scientists who also embrace libertarian or free-market doctrines, and those with a natural personality and intelligence towards scientific empiricism. I don't think Stanovich would appreciate how few people there are who are capable of embracing his universal Darwinism.
On the other hand, a broad rationality could be practiced in a collective. Scientific communities are sort of like this, as they keep each other at least somewhat honest in pursuit of truth over dogma. Stanovich provides numerous examples in this book on how even intelligent people can error in decision-making because we are all as individuals highly biased emotionally towards heuristic behaviors. For example, "This is why people are often risk averse even for gambles with positive expected values. Would you flip a coin with me—heads you give me $500, tails I give you $505? Most people refuse such favorable bets because the potential loss, although nominally smaller than the potential gain, looms larger psychologically."
However, as part of a collective or community, acting together, these biases to act instrumentally irrational can be overridden. Someone in the group will bring forth our primitive inductive bias to be discussed, and as a group, come to the conclusion that the bet should be taken. That is, groups, like scientific communities, can build their knowledge based on distributed knowledge that can override our primitive irrational tendencies. As a group, one member can point out to another that "the reckless way you drive is because you enjoy being dominant, not because you are a better driver than someone else. You may want to consider being as courteous on the highway as you are when not driving your BMW." The group can help each individual with their own biases that are potentially harmful.
Stanovich would seem to prefer legislation to protect people from themselves. "There is the unsettling idea latent here that people's preferences come from the outside (from whoever has the power to shape the environment and determine how questions are phrased) rather than internal preferences based in their unique psychologies. Since most situations can be reframed either way, this means that rather than having stable preferences that are just elicited in different ways, the elicitation process itself can totally determine what the preference will be! Such a conception brings the foundational concepts behind the idea of 'rational man' from economics crashing down. It also has potent social implications. As Kahneman has pointed out, the assumption of stable, rational, well-ordered preferences has been used to 'support the position that it is unnecessary to protect people against the consequences of their choices.'"
Stanovich is asserting that politicians, the media, consumer marketing, advocates, and various other freely spreading memeplexes can override what is good for us, and that we may need an elite to protect the masses from themselves. Of course, this just continues the divide he is worrying about between those who are moving forward in understanding the world versus those stuck in the past. I see no safe way of protecting people from themselves without also destroying the very autonomy that Stanovich thinks we need to embrace by better understanding human behavior and our false belief systems.
Stanovich: "So far in this chapter I have focused on the strictures of instrumental rationality, but people violate the principles that define epistemic rationality as well. They improperly coordinate theory to evidence, they display confirmation bias, they test hypotheses inefficiently, they do not properly calibrate degrees of belief, they over-project their own opinions onto others, they allow prior knowledge to become implicated in deductive reasoning, and they display numerous other information processing biases in the epistemic domain. Several reviews of this literature describe these errors of reasoning in considerable detail…."
"The four interrelated biases I have discussed in detail elsewhere are:
1) The tendency to contextualize a problem with as much prior knowledge as is easily accessible, even when the problem is formal and the only solution is a content-free rule,
2) The tendency to 'socialize' problems even in situations where interpersonal cues are few,
3) The tendency to see deliberative design and pattern in situations that lack intentional design and pattern, and,
4) The tendency toward a narrative mode of thought."
As stated earlier, the above four are dominant among neo-Marxist academics. Increasingly, scientific approaches are being replaced with narratives from some "minority's way of knowing." Patterns of income or neighborhoods are attributed to some "deliberative design" by racists or capitalists rather than to open markets. Problems are "socialized:" Whites are out to oppress immigrants. Inequality falls within the "context" of unfair practices by the rich, rather than the failures of individuals under varying circumstances.
Stanovich explains, "Each of the fundamental computational biases discussed previously is a functional aspect of human cognition. Indeed, they are fundamental precisely because they are orientations in our basic systems (TASS [or primitive brains]) that arose in our evolutionary history—probably long before the more abstract features of analytic intelligence. Many investigators have painted compelling theoretically and empirically based explanations of why these computational biases developed in the course of human evolution. The socialization of problems and the tendency to see deliberate design in the environment follow from the evolutionary assumptions behind the social intelligence hypothesis—that attributing intentionality in order to predict the behavior of [others] and to coordinate behavior with them was a major evolutionary hurdle facing the social primates, in many cases more computationally complex than mastering the physical environment."
Again, the social scientists, most of them deliberately ignorant of universal Darwinism and still embracing naïve environmentalism, see all social problems from the perspective of tribal interactions, where any activity has an impact on other members. Therefore, inequality is always "by design." They fail to understand that where society has grown to millions of people, individuals carry on without thinking much about the downtrodden. The middle class does not "collectively" act in a way to oppress others. Market forces, political structures, economic patterns, natural resources; these and other cultural artifacts of complex societies are the causes of both perceived and imagined inequalities.
Modern life can be defined by the necessity to increasingly use the analytical system, and to suppress the social, narrative, and contextualizing styles that characterize the operation of the primitive brain. Throughout much of the heated debate with regards to racial differences in intelligence, there have been assertions that many people with low tested intelligence have exceptional "street smarts" while many intelligent people fail simple basic tasks.
Stanovich notes that, "Critics of the abstract content of most laboratory tasks and standardized tests have been misguided on this very point. Evolutionary psychologists have singularly failed to understand the implications of Einhorn and Hogarth's warning. They regularly bemoan the 'abstract' problems and tasks in the heuristics and biases literature and imply that since these tasks are not like 'real life' we need not worry that people do poorly on them. The issue is that, ironically, the argument that the laboratory tasks and tests are not like 'real life' is becoming less and less true. 'Life,' in fact, is becoming more like the tests! Try using an international ATM machine with which you are unfamiliar; or try arguing with your HMO about a disallowed medical procedure. In such circumstances, we invariably find out that our personal experience, our emotional responses, our TASS-triggered intuitions about social fairness—all are worthless. All are for naught when talking over the phone to the representative looking at a computer screen displaying a spreadsheet with a hierarchy of branching choices and conditions to be fulfilled. The social context, the idiosyncrasies of individual experience, the personal narrative—all are abstracted away as the representatives of modernist technological-based services attempt to 'apply the rules.'"
Stanovich takes the evolutionary psychologists to task for not appreciating that while humans have many heuristics and biases that are very similar from our evolutionary past, humans also vary a great deal between individuals and between different races:
"Well, for starters, some of that 'genetic variability that geneticists have found' is in general intelligence (g)—which consensus scientific estimates agree is at least 40 to 50 percent heritable. Is g a 'functionally superficial' individual difference property of human cognition? No responsible psychologist thinks so. It is, indeed, the single most potent psychological predictor of human behavior in both laboratory and real-life contexts that has ever been identified. It is a predictor of real-world outcomes that are critically important to the maximization of personal utility (instrumental rationality) in a modern technological society. This is why measures of the ability to deal with abstraction such as g remain the best employment predictor and the best earnings predictor in postindustrial societies. The psychometric literature contains numerous indications that cognitive ability is correlated with the avoidance of harmful behaviors and with success in employment settings, as well as social status attainment, independent of level of education…. For example, heritable personality traits such as conscientiousness and impulsivity have been related to important life goals such as work, status attainment, mortality, and faithfulness in partnerships."
Over the last few decades evolutionary psychologists have been attacked by the left for their "genes eye view" of human behavior. Now, it is the evolutionary psychologists that are attacking any "genes eye view" of genetic difference in human behavior. Many if not a large majority of these researchers take a liberal or egalitarian stance with regards to policy, and no doubt slant their research towards the Left. It is interesting how the evolutionary psychologists—originally called sociobiology—were attacked as racist or fascists in the 70's and 80s. Now, it is this discipline that is trying to build up a wall to deny the validity of research into human genetic differences, rather than human genetic similarities. Strange how science just keeps pushing the envelope and how different disciplines move in to try and slow down the progress.
Stanovich continues, "Thus Tooby and Cosmides write: 'Human genetic variation... is overwhelmingly sequestered into functionally superficial biochemical differences, leaving our complex functional design universal and species typical.' And continue: 'Humans share a complex, species typical and species-specific architecture of adaptations, however much variation there might be in minor, superficial, nonfunctional traits.' One boggles at general intelligence—one of the most potent psychological predictors of life outcomes—being termed 'nonfunctional.' But then one realizes what is motivating these statements—a focus on the gene. Even if one buys the massive-modularity-of-adaptations line of the evolutionary psychologist and views general intelligence as some kind of spandrel or byproduct, from the standpoint of the vehicle's interests, it is certainly not nonfunctional."
Stanovich also discusses the "smart but dumb" phrase, which is the other side of "street smarts." That is, not only do people who are not intelligent seem to do well in some areas like making change (monetary transactions) even when they are illiterate, but smart people act in ways that often seem just plain dumb. (See my article on Robert Sternberg, who attributes this dichotomy to failures in the Jensenist understanding of general intelligence.) He explains this observation at length, yet it can be reduced quite simply to this: Smart people who do dumb things have the analytical ability not to, but fall back on their primitive brain biases in many circumstances. On the other side, dumb people (low levels of analytical ability) who seem smart are relying on either rote learning or primitive brain biases that work well on "the street," like face recognition, reacting to danger, or even a primitive system of weighing value using an "intuitive number module." Sternberg, like Howard Gardner and Jared Diamond, fail to understand what general intelligence means in terms of different systems operating in conflict.
Again, "Variability in intentional-level thinking dispositions means that there is at least the potential for cognitively competent people to do irrational things. Such an analysis implies that it should be no surprise that a lot of smart people act dumb sometimes." I have found out that the more I understand my primitive brain and urges, the more I am able to override my emotional tendencies to react in ways that are not instrumental to my benefit. Sexual desire for me at least is much less obsessive now that I understand the battle between the sexes, and the baser motives lying beneath. I am able to tolerate reckless drivers, not getting mad myself, and become more reckless in return. I analyze whether I am doing or saying something to just impress others that will just lead to resentment or jealousy. Nonetheless, overriding the primitive emotions is very difficult, and it would be a lot easier if a person could get input, confirmation, or warnings from committed others (like a eugenic community).
Stanovich has some hope that humans generally could become more rational: "In a testing-obsessed Western society with all kinds of assessment instruments now being used in schools and industry, there is very little emphasis on assessing rational thinking skills. This is not because the components of rational thought cannot be assessed or taught. A massive literature in decision science and cognitive psychology contains a variety of methodologies that can be used to measure a host of rational thinking skills including the ability to: form conclusions commensurate with the evidence, assess covariation, deal with probabilistic information, calibrate degrees of belief, recognize logical implications, have coherent assessment of degrees of uncertainty, have consistent preferences that maximize utility, consider alternative explanations, and make coherent judgments. Teaching and training programs for many of these components of rational thought also exist." Well, at least there is hope for a more universally rational human without breeding a new genotype—but as a minimum rationality will require innate or genetic intelligence. And that can't be taught, it must be bred for.
Stanovich has come up with what I think is a very creative insight into how the Left has inadvertently sided with the genes:
"[The primitive brain] in humans may contain many such subsystems with just these propensities. Institutions, of course, have very direct systems for controlling the subentities within them, and they view such monitoring as a critical component of institutional success. As humans, we must do the same. The analytic system needs to constantly monitor the outputs of the short-leashed subsystems in [the primitive brain] to make sure they are not sacrificing the overall goals of the vehicle. Humans, as large structural entities, lag behind corporations in the recognition of this function. We remain quite confused about the purpose, origin, and meaning of our [primitive brain] subsystems. Many modern-day irrationalists and opponents of the scientific world view actually champion the interests of the genes over those of the analytic system. In many contexts of life, we are urged to follow our 'gut instincts'—the equivalent, in our analogy, of a corporation telling its employees to set their own wages."
Eugenicists then are really trying to bring our genes (and memes) under control, saying flatly that we will not yield to the interests of the genes any more than we have to. To take control of our own beings then means increasing our intelligence, our ability to act autonomously, so we can begin a long journey of decoupling our primitive brain designed for the interest of the genes in favor of an analytical brain that serves our best interests. The genes will still come along for the ride, but they will be controlling us less and less.
Likewise, Stanovich makes an interesting and convincing case that memes, like genes, are just as dangerous to our interests. When we embrace religion for no other reason than that we were indoctrinated into the faith at an early age, that religion was chosen for us, not by us. When we side with one nation in warfare because we have been indoctrinated to do so, we are not being rational—especially when it leads to our own death. Stanovich states, "A brain aware of the replicator/vehicle distinction and in the possession of evaluative memeplexes such as science, logic, and decision theory might begin a process of pruning vehicle-thwarting goals from intentional-level psychology and reinstalling memetic structures that serve the vehicle's interests more efficiently. This is exactly what the canons of instrumental rationality—largely a product of the twentieth century—were designed to accomplish."
Stanovich goes on to explain that science "delivers the goods," and in so doing, the scientific world encroaches into every part of our lives. Neo-Marxists may reject all science as merely "A Western male's way of knowing." Nevertheless, they still fly in the planes, are cured by the medicines, and get their books published electronically, by that (largely) Western way of knowing called science. It will be impossible to push back progress without also imposing a totalitarian wall within science that separates the purely utilitarian from the more belief disrupting discoveries, like the genes that program us for intelligence.
This book is in fact a good example of the forward movement of science and society's failure to stop particularly explosive developments like research into the differences in average intelligence between races. Stanovich was much more forthcoming than I have come to expect, and it shows the continuing failure of any alternative hypotheses other than Jensenism.
The crux of this book is that "The full robot's rebellion is achieved by
pursuing instrumental rationality in the context of a continuing critique of
those desires being pursued." It also has a lot of data on consciousness,
it is refreshingly insightful and free of bias, it is critical where it needs
to be, and informative, especially in the area of memetics and what it means to
be a species that is easily indoctrinated, and seems to have such a difficult
time inoculating itself from destructive memes. Still, I have to conclude that
to reach our goals of freedom from genes and memes that are detrimental to our
interests, the best hope is to breed for higher intelligence and then practice
rational discourse between committed empiricists.
- Astro Physics
- Eco System
- Gene Therapy
- Genetic Engineering
- Genetic Medicine
- Health Care
- Human Genetics
- Medical School
- Mind Upload
- Molecular Medicine
- Moore's Law
- Nano Engineering
- Nano Medicine
- Red heads
- Space Flight