The Mathematical Case for Optimism

Evolution favors trusting societies. People who trust each other spend less time and fewer resources making sure no one cheats. People who don’t trust each other spend time and resources to prevent cheating. People who trust each other are therefore able to make better use of limited resources and outperform people who spend more time and resources testing trust.

Evolution favors honest societies. Building complex technology requires a true understanding of the world, and a true understanding of the world requires a true assessment of reality. A society lead by a man who doesn’t understand technology will hamper itself by pretending he does. 

A society which trusts blindly will have all of its resources taken by a dishonest neighbor. A society with trust based upon reputation systems will outperform a blindly trusting one. Strong reputation systems require complex mathematics – and learning these mathematics requires a stronger commitment to truth any other leader or cause could ask.

Violence is bad for business. Incompetence is bad for business. Distrust is bad for business. All of those things produce local benefits for people who engage in them, at the cost of bringing down the whole.  If you feel like the world is run by greedy, selfish people, just try to see them as the adult equivalent of the teenager who hangs out and smokes instead of doing algebra.  Yes, the world isn’t a high school, but an inter-planetary civilization would look at ours and think “hah, i remember those days. thank god we out grew that.”

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