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July 29, 2013


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Robin Datta

Cooperation is mandatory for group success. For collective fitness of the group, the ability to identify and shake off freeloaders and shirkers may also be adaptive, just like apoptosis in Metazoans. What is difficult in a societal (hierarchical) context is achieving a balance between the two. The responsibility for cooperation is foisted off on the "group" while entitlement is retained: horizontal interactions of community are minimised. Community and society do not mix.

Tony Noerpel

There is already a Chirstian dating service. I suspect there may be other similar dating services. So why not a sapient dating service? I don't know if that would work, though, because we all think we are sapient. :+)


@George - I am sickened (although on reflection not surprised) that you've had hate email. You belong to that small band of messengers who have been shot at over the centuries for daring to express ideas that rock people's boats moored in safe still waters. That such cerebrally challenged humans would go to the trouble of actually pressing SEND says everything we need to know about the variant of Homo best left behind.

Tony N makes an amusing point about the difficulties of getting the Eusocial Dating Service off to a good start. Apologies to anyone who has joined MENSA, but in my experience the types of people in my acquaintance who signed up made me want to run for the hills. Even without my boots.

The criteria for promoting and selecting for this service will need to be very carefully considered. But someone should have a go, hate mail be damned.

George Mobus


Though, if the bulk of the individuals in a society were much more sapient than the current species, might not they mix better? Especially if communities are relatively small.

@ Tony,

Well we all are at least minimally sapient. Its just that we want to link up those on the high end of the sapience scale.

There are psychological tests that seek to measure judgement vs. intelligence. Most of these have been devised for older people to see if they are growing wise. But a few might be adapted to younger folk as a start. Perhaps some form of on-line questionnaire that would sort out the regulars from the highers and then present the highers to each other selectively. Just spit ballin'


Fortunately those e-mails are more of the berating kind than threatening. I had one once from a fellow who demanded to know my lifestyle, to which I demurred. I don't share such information with strangers. He then responded that unless I was doing the following (with a list of all that HE was doing) and would renounce my suggestions for eugenic practices I could no more claim to be sapient and he was finished reading the blog.

RE: MENSA, remember that is about intellect, not wisdom! In my profession I meet some technically really-smart people who wouldn't know how to be gracious at a party.

Have a go at it, huh? Let me think about it. A complex web site like that needs a lot of talent and work. Where is that billionaire when you need her?



@George - Aha, emails from rigid intellectual fascists, I get the drift. :-)

For my sins, I write marketing copy in return for crumbs off the rich guys' table (oh, the horror...) so should you come up with a test or questionnaire that sifts the highers from the lowers, I'd be delighted to donate my time to promote the concept.

The Grand Search for the Elusive Sapient Billionaire continues on the other channel.

George Mobus


I'm taking a week off and I will be thinking about this more seriously. I've actually gotten several e-mail offers to help! Maybe there is something to it!!!


Joe Clarkson

Why would anyone think that sapience, much less eusapience will be adaptive in the "harsh" world to come? The fact that in all the billions of years of evolution only a few species of Homo have developed sapience is evidence that it is only very rarely, if ever, a successful trait. While the verdict is still not quite in, I'd place my bet on the supposition that it is never adaptive; too much chance of mucking up the niches upon which a species is dependent.

It is thus more likely that future hominids, if any, will experience evolutionary "reversion to the mean" and become much dumber, thus freeing up metabolic resources for other more adaptive characteristics.


@Joe C - re: Why would anyone think that sapience, much less eusapience will be adaptive in the "harsh" world to come?

Have you considered the possibility that sapient cooperation, as opposed to 'dumb' competition, might prove to be a successful adaptation when resources are low and the environment is harsh? Just a thought...

Joe Clarkson

Dumb competition between living beings has carried on for billions of years. Sapient cooperation got us where we are today, the Anthropocene. While there are many that make the case that humanity is more important than the rest of the biosphere, I am not one of them; I think the aesthetics are lousy.

Even so, I will continue to struggle to survive. This in spite of the fact that I know I'm probably doing the world more harm than good. I guess it's just a case of the triumph of hope over sapience.


@Joe C - I'm not an expert here, George Mobus is the man with the science, but I think you've got the wrong end of the stick if you believe this blog is touting an anthropocentric view. If you read more of the vast output here, you will see that in George's view, sapience has barely got started. What you call sapient cooperation is better described as dumb competition IMO, reaching its zenith with corrupt capitalism US-style.

I share your distaste for what's going on, and my life is an epic struggle too. But personally I have discarded 'hope'. To me, it's a failed emotion. Instead, I like to think and understand and accept that whatever I have no power to change, will just be.


Sorry to hear about the hate email. Population control of any kind is a very sensitive topic and to suggest there is even a problem is a sure way to get in the firing line.

I did actually bring up the issue of overpopulation and possible ways of mitigating it in the future but then got accused of trying to promote eugenics even though my suggestions did not involve any coercive gene selection for any particular traits. It would be a fair test applied to everyone.

I think the first point that needs to be established is that we are in a state of population overshoot. Most people don't recognise that and I feel because of this they feel any means of population control is unneeded and thus cruel. It will be difficult to overrule this desire for reproduction and what is more it is stated in the UN that the right to reproduction is deemed a basic human right. Anything that challenges this human right will be challenged vigorously by not just individuals but many groups. Life must change pretty dramatically for these entrenched beliefs to change but with great change in environment it is likely that behaviour will have to alter markedly also. A number of widely held beliefs will not only be challenged but will actually change. This period of rapid behavioural change should provide an opportunity for evolution in sapience.

St. Roy


I suspect that you are right that the sympatric speciation of homo sapiens is already underway. A possible outcome might be a subspecies of humans the size of ants that might still socially dominate the planet but have a far less deleterious impact on the ecology.


George: thanks again for elucidating your position that eusapience may lead humanity to a "next" iteration.

In your last response to me you suggested that maybe I've "made up my mind" already about our survival, let alone evolution. It's not my mind i'm concerned about, it's the ruined environment and sudden climb to inadaptable temperatures for most vegetation and species.

I wish I were 100% wrong and looked foolish, but all signs point to a dead ocean pluming huge amounts of methane and hydrogen sulfide, too erratic weather to grow (enough) food and the decimation of most, if not all, species due to nuclear radiation from all the (>400) power plants and "spent" fuel pools on top of the above.

We're at about 16 (or maybe 18 by now) self-reinforcing feedback loops that have already been triggered by our (on-going) CO2 pollution - any one of which will cause the extinction of life on the planet, so I just don't see how you discount this or "get around" it using the "it's always been okay before" reason, when this time is DEFINITELY different on so many levels.

Some of these are the aforementioned nuke radiation (imagine Fukushima and Chernobyl, neither of which is "contained" at this point, happening all around the globe), the rapidity of the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere, the clathrate "gun" has been triggered, and the fact that we aren't doing a damn thing to ameliorate our dilemma, despite the continuing evidence that it isn't going to be a pleasant, gentle ride down the Hubbard slope.

I just don't get it, but I hope you're correct and i'm all wrong on this. It just doesn't look it from my perspective.

Sorry to take up your time, and you really don't need to respond because it's just my opinion or viewpoint and nothing more.

Keep up the good work.


Evolution is an effective "linear process" only because of the nature of our perception - in the problem of the chicken and the egg we find that there simply was a bigger, broader frame of reference in play than "which one of the two came first in a never-ending sequence?"

As for humans, the techno-utopian dream had us evolving slowly into machines.

More broadly yet than evolution, we might ask then, if such ends are met (Borg existence?) then what is the point of life once "it's all physically conquered"? Which is a whole different kettle of fish:

We could analyze it by the scope and context of a species, by our own intent ("culture"), or by its systemic, operational, intelligent role ..

There isn't even any reason to cling onto such things as your species' "natural form", like the fundamentalist Christians of today don't hold back from using the latest technology despite having as much to do with science as the Amish. Why cling to tradition? There is no rationale in that -- just ask the neanderthals. Except they aren't here. Because these things, these matters are far too massive in swing/force [interesting note: the verbs come from physical forces like waves crashing .. the emotionless sea ..] for a system as simple as human meaning.

Everything we do and are is first physically grounded. We are a system emergent of the physical world, the universe and then the planet and then the climate and the environment and the food ..

This finds a strong conflict with human meaning and human emotion, which attempts to find order and personal [narrative-] ascriptions in it all.

George Mobus

@Joe C.

What Oliver said!

I suspect you have not read the working papers on sapience and so are commenting using your own definition. I have nothing against people supporting alternate definitions, but that should be made clear to all. If you want to follow Oliver's advice please consider reading: Sapience Working Papers and then we can all discuss the same concepts.


The knee-jerk reaction of screaming 'eugenics' is, to me, just another piece of evidence supporting the "lack of sapience" hypothesis.

@St. Roy,

Aside from the fact that an ant-sized human would probably have to give up its huge brain, I just don't think the process of sympatric speciation could run long enough. The bottleneck event will finish the job and then we're back to regular old allopatric/adaptive radiation!


...I just don't see how you discount this or "get around" it using the "it's always been okay before" reason, when this time is DEFINITELY different on so many levels. [emphasis mine]

I think it is more nuanced than what is in bold. I readily state, unequivocally, that we do not know what is going to happen. The previous mass die-offs were always basically "different" insofar as the milieu and the triggers. In that regard I fail to see how what we are doing is so fundamentally different that it guarantees not only mass die-off but complete annihilation of life on the planet. Short of being struck by an asteroid several miles in diameter, I don't see what kind of catastrophe could accomplish that end.

That certainly isn't to say that there might not be truly radical dying. Nor is there any guarantee that humans in any form might survive. I do not claim such. But short of such an event, as I look at the after effects of prior die-offs and think about the incredible resilience of life itself, I remain hopeful that some particularly sapient (eusocial en extremis) and adaptive humans will find ways to get through it.


I will probably need to digest your comment more. However, I am puzzled by, "More broadly yet than evolution..." What is broader than evolution?


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