Re: followers/leaders (was You may not believe in God but She still believes ...

Date: Fri Jun 23 2000 - 19:15:15 MDT

In a message dated 6/19/00 10:19:26 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

> I would like to discuss the following three types of personalities:
> followers, leaders, and independent thinkers.
> At some point in the future, people will have the ability to engineer the
> personalities of members of the succeeding generations. If you were, say,
> creating the members of an expedition that would colonize a new planet, how
> would you handle the independent thinking vs. "true believer" trait?

I think you're pointing in an interesting question, but I don't think the
particular hypothetical situation is one we're likely to see. By the time we
have the technology to really colonize another planet, I think our abilities
will have flowered to the point that the idea of engineering otherwise
natural humans with just the changes you mention would be considered quaint;
sort of (but not exactly) like the people of early renaissance Europe
imagining that their feudal political structures would be transplanted in
toto to the New World. In particular, I think the technological capabilities
of individuals will be so great that the "hard work" of extraterrestrial
colonization won't require highly organized groups of people working under
tight discipline, which seems to be a premise of your question.

> What is the difference between a tribal leader and a political leader, with
> respect to personality? I'm assuming here that a tribal leader does not
> force to get people to follow her but is followed voluntarily, and only so
> long as her leadership is beneficialy to the other members of the tribe. A
> political leader, by definition, uses coercion.

Bonnie, with respect, this sounds like you're laboring under the yoke of the
Meadeian anthropology of "Coming of Age in Samoa" (which was just a
scientistic restatement of Rousseau's fantasy of the "noble savage"). I
don't know of any real empirical basis for this view of primitive social
organization and leadership. For instance, the Yanomamo of the Amazon
jungle, once thought to be the very epitome of the "noble savage", have been
found to have a fairly violent culture, full of bloody power struggles, war
and casual rape.
> Would it be better to have a group of independent thinkers (who could, for
> example, figure out how to best utilize the resources of the new planet),
> would it be better to have just one or two independent thinkers and the
> followers and leaders (presumably only a couple of leaders and the rest
> followers)? In nomadic tribal cultures leaders generally have the same
> material possessions as followers and do the same sorts of work as far as
> gathering and hunting food. Thus, there would be less reason for a
> to resent his or her role as follower than in a more complex culture where
> the leader has a better house, better clothes, etc.

I would be greatly surprised to find that the "alphas" in such cultures don't
have better mating opportunities arising from their higher status and that
mating competition doesn't give rise to stress and conflict. This should be
true regardless of the material wealth of the culture. It certainly seems to
be universal among primates. For instance, a recent study, described in
Science News within the last couple of months, of cortisol levels in male
baboons showed that this stress hormone was considerably higher in
lower-status males on a constant basis and shot up to truly
health-threatening levels during periods of status-conflict.

> In the hypothetical planet colonizing expedition, would the people
> engineered to be followers resent the sort of roles they'd been genetically
> assigned to?

Assuming a population of otherwise natural homo sapiens, in which the "betas"
KNEW they'd been engineered to be such, I'd assume there would be a serious
problem with this.
> In a civilization rich with the fruits of nanotechnology, would leaders
> enjoy any special privileges? If the option existed for a person who had
> been born and educated to be a follower to be re-engineered into a leader,
> would many followers choose this option? What of independent thinkers?
> Would they want to change? Would followers and/or leaders have any
> incentive to become independent thinkers?

These are going to be very interesting questions if we discover clear genetic
determinants for these character traits and a means to change them. Assuming
a long enough "transition time" in which a genetic technology that can
deliver these results exists, but before a universal economy of
superabundance, these questions could cause a lot of social stress.
> To what extent do people living at this very moment have the ability to
> change from followers to independent thinkers? How about the other way
> around? From independent thinkers to followers? What incentives are there
> to change from one to the other?

Observing people with these character traits in the business world, I see
"alphas" now investing a lot of time in trying to understand and adopt the
habits of more creative type individuals - usually without much success. But
I also see them coming up with the workable solution of simply buying the
talent of creative people.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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