A Contrarian Perspective on Altruism

David Brin

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI:
A Contrarian Perspective on Altruism

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Modern Western society disavows the notion that many ideas are inherently dangerous or toxic, that people are easily misled, and that an elite should protect or guide gullible masses toward correct thinking. However, virtually every other culture held the older, prevalent belief in “toxic memes.” As yet, there is no decisive proof supporting one side over the other. Occasionally, altruism among or between species that share only remote genetics seems to arise, unleashed by full bellies and sympathy, along (sometimes) with brains that are capable of seeing enlightened self-interest in the long-term survival of an entire world. Western assumptions color the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI), just as previous “first contact” events were driven by the cultural assumptions of past eras. Especially pervasive—and unwarranted—is the belief that all advanced civilizations will automatically be altruistic.

Keywords: extraterrestrial; SETI; pathological altruism; cooperation; satiation; toxic meme

Chapter.  5579 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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