In Brief— An explanation of how capitalism coupled with human nature is leading inexorably toward the extinction of humanity. [Written in January 2017.]
Eat, Drink, Be Merry for Tomorrow We Die—
Imagine we are on an eastward-bound train from Chicago to New York. Now substitute “Life’s Goals” for Chicago and “Death” for New York. Next imagine that we are walking from the front of the eastward-bound train toward the back (i.e., toward Chicago). We may think we are headed for our life’s goals, but we are, in fact, headed for death. Put simply, despite what we think, we are going to die.
The title of this piece— Capitalism Plus Human Nature Equal Extinction— is deliberately intended to provoke thought and possibly debate. I may be wrong in my conclusion, but I don’t think so.
Capitalism is generally defined as an economic system based on trade that is intended to give its owners a profit. This is a summation of assorted definitions, but the key concept is “profit.”
Human Nature is essentially those aspects of human personality that are found in all of us regardless of gender, origin or financial position. Human Nature includes both positive and negative aspects. Examples are benevolence, selfishness, energy, laziness, social consciousness, power-seeking and so on. Think of an adjective and it’s probably part of the human species. The title of this piece is actually redundant because profit-seeking is part of being human.
I have said that humanity has a no better than 5% chance of surviving this century. I have been accused of being pessimistic to which I point out that I’m a realist and actually optimistic in giving humanity a 5% chance of survival. Odds are it’s lower.
Why do I give humanity a no better than 5% chance of surviving this century? The answer goes back to the train analogy in the opening paragraphs of this piece.
Let’s consider an example of the scientist or technician who comes up with a new widget. S/he doesn’t do this out of the goodness of her/his heart. S/he gets paid a salary. In some cases, the inventor files a patent or sets up an organization to exploit that invention and make a profit. There’s that word again…profit.
Profit is entirely normal and part of human nature. How then does making a profit lead to extinction? Look at human nature and what it means. Humans want their efforts, their investments, to be successful. They want their businesses to grow. They want their profits to grow. They look for ways to assure that growth. Enter politics, greed and more, parts of human nature.
The world is built on a capitalistic framework. Every person, every company, every nation works to assure that their system succeeds, that their system becomes dominant. Human nature assures that whatever is needed, whether fair or foul, will be used to guarantee that their system wins. For them to win means others must lose. It’s a zero-sum world. Game Theory.
As long as there is a profit motive, there is the effort to outcompete the other guy. As long as there are winners and losers, the road leads only toward extinction. Why so?
Human nature again. It’s a big world in which the governing rule is survive or die. Since humans don’t want to die—although we all tend to forget that The Grim Reaper awaits us all—it is necessary to beat the other person regardless of what it takes.
Is extinction the end station on humanity’s trip? Try as I might, I can think of no alternative. Am I overlooking something?
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