human action deimos one futurist cyborg

Human Action, Alien Evolution, & Predictive Irrationality

Human action/behavior is equal parts fascinating, complex, and puzzling.

But, perhaps even more complex and puzzling, is the concept of self-awareness and introspection — as the very premise itself hinges on a logical contradiction.

The human brain, which powers the human earth-suit, is a complex system comprised of billions of interactions which shape our thoughts, feelings, dreams, memories, and ultimately make us who we are.

It is, quite arguably, the most advanced piece of hardware/software ever made.

But despite being very powerful, it’s also a very limited machine, and its limitations (e.g., computational power, multi-tasking, reasoning, attentional, etc.) can distort analysis, and inhibit reasoning and logic.

To make things worse, this buggy supercomputer did not come with an instruction manual.

So, to figure out how the human brain works, we’ve had to spend the past 1,000 years trying to reverse engineer our core programming, with limited success.

That said, we arrive back at the concept of (1) the human ability to perform accurate introspective analysis; and (2) possess advanced sentient awareness at an acceptable level of inference.

To that end, one can only reasonably assume that the idea humans are (1) an intelligent enough species to conduct such introspective analysis without error; and (2) perform the analysis with no instruction manual considering the complexities of the human brain and difficulties that may arise performing “self-diagnostics” on one’s own brain, most likely pushes the upper limits of theoretical delusion.

Also, taking into account the natural and biological level of ego and bias that would seemingly block true introspective analysis, plus the fact that it seems scientifically implausible that the average human can reverse engineer themselves to a level where they would have the ability to “look inside” themselves from the perspective of a fourth dimensional being seems to be a low probability event.

Regardless, to get to the answer, one must analyze themselves, introspectively, from the perspective of the self, or such as a computer performing a self-diagnostic or the debugging of a script.

But the problems in conducting such an analysis will be many.

There are no true baseline variables of measurement, and the conclusions, or lack thereof, can be assumed to be made up in the brain of the brain performing analysis on itself.

Thus, providing the self with the answers it wants, but not necessarily the answers that are correct.

And, of course, there will be variance from brain to brain, from analysis to analysis, as the standard deviations may vary greatly depending on the level of sophistication a particular brain may have over another, as not every brain will be created equal, further distorting the confidence interval.

So, from the perspective of a human, performing self-analysis, with no true baseline variables of measurement, or known variables at all for that matter; and without a true measurement of confidence in generating quantifiable, unbiased results, the concept of human action can be a very confusing concept to fully grasp and understand for the common brain at first.

But here is the general hypothesis: humans are inherently selfish creatures.

And this feature, this biological rule, if you will, is the primary driving force behind every human action — as every action a human takes is intended, seemingly, at its core, to benefit the human taking such action, regardless if they are aware of it or not.

Many such actions can often be perceived as kind or altruistic, but the underlying motivations behind this behavior is usually always driven by some form of self-interest.

Therefore, human kindness, in all its manifestations (e.g., altruism, care, compassion, etc.) is, at its core, selfish.

At first glance, one could make the argument that this very statement itself is a contradiction, because how could a kindness also be an act of selfishness?

Let us expand on the notion that altruism is a contradiction.

Is every human action inherently selfish?

We must delve deeper into a more nuanced understanding of the motivations behind human actions and the interplay between self-interest and altruistic behavior.

As such, the philosophical inquiry into the nature of altruism and self-interest (particularly their purported dichotomy and potential for equilibrium) warrants a comprehensive examination across several important variables: evolutionary, psychological, economic, and societal.

Especially if one seeks to arrive at a true answer.

Firstly, one must understand, that the conventional understanding of altruism involves actions intended to benefit others, often at a cost to oneself.

This conventional view holds that these sorts of actions are fundamentally selfless — but the contradiction arises when we consider the underlying motivations for these actions.

From an evolutionary perspective, altruistic behavior was an important survival trait, and it is often understood by modern scientists as a “strategy for the survival of one’s genes”.

The theory of inclusive fitness, for example, suggests that altruistic actions within a community (e.g., helping others or sharing resources) can improve the group’s overall probability of survival, and by extension, the individual’s generic propagation.

This notion implies that seemingly altruistic behavior may be a sophisticated form of self-preservation at the genetic level.

At the same time, too much altruism may also expose your group to threats, as kindness can often be perceived as weakness, especially in ancient times where warlike cultures ruled the day.

The evolutionary sweet spot, then, may be a toggle between micro-kindness and macro-ruthlessness.

Note: Evolutionary biology suggests that behaviors perceived as altruistic (e.g., kin altruism or reciprocal altruism) have evolved not as manifestations of genuine selflessness but as strategies to enhance individual genetic survival and propagation.

From a psychological perspective, for example, even the most altruistic deeds could be motivated by an intrinsic desire to fulfill personal emotional, psychological, or social needs.

This notion stems from the theory of psychological egoism, which suggests that all human actions are ultimately driven by self-interest, regardless of their outward altruism.

Grounded in ancient Epicureanism, this theory argues that (1) humans live to maximize pleasure; and (2) humans commit altruistic, honorable, and virtuous acts to increase the well-being of the self and not truly for the sake of another or any sort of moral code.

Note: Psychological egoism is the thesis that all human action is ultimately self-interested, regardless of the underlying motivations. This is contrasted with psychological altruism which suggests sometimes people behave altruistically, without self-interest, and with certain actions being motivated purely by the desire for the well-being of others.

This theory (psychological egoism) contends that actions such as charity, or even the actions of a soldier who sacrifices his life by jumping on a grenade in order to save his comrades, while ostensibly altruistic, serve the actor’s personal needs or desires, because you get a certain level of social recognition or emotional satisfaction from it.

Thus, the notion of pure altruism — an action devoid of any self-benefit — is challenged, as every human action is seemingly driven by some form of self-interest, whether the human does it consciously or subconsciously.

Now, let us analyze the framework from an economics perspective.

Here, we can assume, that human actions, these economic interactions, especially when analyzed through a game theoretical framework, will further demonstrate that humans tend to make decisions that will maximize their own utility, even in scenarios where cooperation would seemingly yield a collective benefit.

If we were to sprinkle in a bit of Nash equilibrium, one could assume that individuals, within their economic or social milieu, will reach a balance in their strategies such that no one has an incentive to deviate, given others’ strategies remain constant.

That said, in a societal dynamics context, this equilibrium might manifest where an individual engages in just enough altruism to gain social capital without compromising his personal gains.

As such, in the context of market dynamics, and considering altruism and self-interest, an equilibrium between self-interest and fairness could, seemingly, lead to sustainable economic interactions.

This may be especially true if one were to contend that self-interest is a fundamental aspect of human nature, and that it drives behaviors that, while sometimes beneficial to others, may, at their core, ultimately fulfill personal needs, desires, and genetic imperatives.

Cultural and societal norms may further influence this equilibrium.

For example, in societies where communal well-being is a matter of great importance, altruistic behaviors may be more prevalent, whereas in individualistic societies, there may be more emphasis placed on personal achievement and self.

As such, if we were to build a model, a significant weight may need to be placed on the cultural context, as this shapes the perceived benefits of altruistic versus self-interested behaviors and, consequently, the point of equilibrium.

So, is altruism truly a contradiction?

Is every human action inherently selfish?

From a philosophical standpoint, you can make the argument (through the lens of psychological egoism) that all human actions are driven by self-interest.

This idea also hinges on the argument that every action, even if seemingly altruistic, ultimately serves the self-interest of the actor, and posits that actions commonly perceived as altruistic, such as charity or self-sacrifice, are undertaken because they fulfill some personal need or desire, like emotional satisfaction, social recognition, or psychological well-being.

human action deimos one futurist cyborg

A futuristic cyborg performs a self-diagnostic evaluation (Credit: D1L/Deimos-One)

This theory is also given somewhat of a boost by evolutionary biology, where behaviors that may appear altruistic may actually be strategies that have evolved over long timescales to improve individual or kin survival and reproductive probabilities, suggesting there may be a genetic basis for self-interested behavior.

Furthermore, if we were to apply an economic framework (because why not, right?), particularly those involving game theory and/or Nash equilibrium, we find there is a tendency for humans to make decisions that maximize their personal utility — and even though many of these decisions are made under the guise of altruism — one cannot underestimate the inherent self-interest that is baked into human nature at its core.

Therefore, one can reasonably assume, that true altruism, defined as a selfless concern for the well-being of others without any underlying self-benefit, is impossible, at least in a practical context, because every human action, seemingly, is driven by some form of self-interest, and that this inclination is inherent.

This would suggest that self-interest is a human feature, not a bug, and that it is a fundamental aspect of human nature.

And this feature drives behaviors that, while sometimes beneficial to others, at their core, are designed to fulfill personal needs, wants, and genetic successes; but also may serve to yield a collective benefit as well, most notably downstream.

A rational non-linearity?

But despite the logical and rational aspects that this theory presents, it may overlook the complexities of human motivations and the multifaceted nature of self-interest itself.

Humans are complex creatures, and their actions may encompass emotional, relational, and ideational desires that go far beyond mere personal gain.

The rationality behind the theory is complicated even further due to evolutionary biology’s notion of inclusive fitness, which according to theorists, is a method of measuring evolutionary success that depends, in part, on altruistic behavior and cooperation.

This directly challenges the straightforward dichotomy of selfishness versus altruism.

That said, one must also not discount the human capacity for moral reasoning and ethical action, which may be driven by higher principles or powers.

These sorts of actions may be able to transcend simple self-interest, suggesting a non-linearity in the original thesis.

And this non-linearity implies that human actions and reactions cannot be reasonably predicted simply by measuring straightforward or logical cause-and-effect relationships.

There is complexity and unpredictability, where small changes in input can lead to disproportionately large and unexpected outcomes.

There is also a reasonable level of stochasticity and variability within human cohorts — which can become amplified even further when one factors in the human brain and individual choice — where behaviors or processes can be influenced by multiple factors that interact in complex ways we do not yet fully understand.

Within this framework, humans exist and interplay.

And humans are very interesting creatures to say the least.

Their behaviors aren’t random.

They’re systematic and predictable — making the species predictably irrational.

This may destabilize the system away from its Nash equilibrium.

Within this cluster, not all actors are rational, and every actor must deal with a certain amount of obscurationism, even within their own mind, so it can be difficult to perform introspection and arrive at a conclusion that is supported by quantifiable empirical evidence and consistent with the observations gathered during the study.

That said, one must acknowledge the dynamic interplay of variables that contribute to the outcomes, which will make simple predictions or linear models inadequate for fully understanding or explaining the phenomenon at hand.

Which leads us right back to the contradiction we faced earlier in this paper, which is introspection.

The very concept of self-awareness and introspection, as noted above, hinges on a logical contradiction.

Sure, one could argue that humans do have the capacity to reach a certain level of self-awareness and introspection — and that they possess the capacity for moral reasoning and self-reflection — and that this capacity allows humans to act against immediate self-interest in favor of higher ethical principles or communal benefits.

Such actions, of course, directly challenge the linear interpretation discussed earlier in this paper by demonstrating, ostensibly, that human behavior may be guided by a more complex moral framework, or possibly by a genuine concern for the welfare of your fellow man, independent of direct personal benefit.

This may be all true, but achieving deep-level self-reflection for the human is quite difficult due to biases and the limitations of the human brain (e.g., computational power, multi-tasking, reasoning, attentional, etc.) which can cloud judgment and inhibit decision making ability.

The top biases that immediately come to mind that would distort true analysis are: confirmation bias, self-serving bias, and cognitive dissonance, but there are many others.

The human brain is a powerful computer that’s capable of incredible things, but it’s also full of bugs and extremely prone to error.

Our psychological and cognitive frameworks, which stem from pesky evolutionary adaptations that were originally programmed into our brains to help us conserve energy and navigate complex social environments — but that also predispose us to countless biases — greatly affect our ability to “self-reflect” and perform a systems evaluation that is able to return accurate results.

As such, one can reasonably assume that completely unbiased self-reflection is impossible for the human due to the fundamental nature of human cognitive processing, and that the probability of returning accurate results from introspection will be severely limited due to the human brain’s processing, multi-tasking, reasoning, attentional, and biological limitations.

This will lead to subpar analysis and suboptimal outcomes.

Therefore, it may be impossible to counter-argue the original postulate that humans are inherently selfish, because one can conclude with reasonable certainty that humans are incapable of true introspection.

This must be studied further.