Re: How rational is nonconformity?
Sun, 30 Mar 1997 22:50:40 -0500 (EST) (Carl Feynman) writes:

>Under the hunter-gatherer conditions in which our ancestors lived for the
>past seven million years, a typical person only knew a hundred or so other
>people. Half of those were kids, and half the adults were stupider than
>average. The chance of coming up with a good idea that nobody else had
>thought of was much higher than it is today. Thus, the likely reward of
>doing something most people thought was a bad idea was bigger than it is

But all the adults were citing the accumulated knowledge of centuries or even
millenia. The Australian aborigines' Dreamtime techniques have apparently
preserved knowledge of geographical features from the last Ice Age. So
you're not competing just with the few dozen currently living adults, but
also the thousands of dead ones whose ideas and experiences are preserved in
oral tradition.

The punishment for a wrong idea was much more likely to be death. In our
benign society you can make a lot of boo-boos and come out OK. Without
savings, medical care, charity, etc., and in an environment with many more
hositles, even minor mistakes could be fatal. So the cost was very much
higher and cost-benefit, on the whole, was worse.

In point of fact, "primitive" cultures are typically very conservative, and
their members are typically very conservative as well. This is part of the
reason they have such trouble when pitched into contact with developed