From metawiki
Do you know what's in this can? There's no label.

Evolutionary psychology has demonstrated the enormous survival value of altruism.

Study after study shows that our brains are wired to be happy when we are helping.

See Altruism

Is Greed Good?

Advocates for capitalism, particularly Libertarians and Objectivists, tend to advocate the Gordon Gekko motto that "Greed is Good". And when it comes to profit maximization, this is largely true. Capitalism harnesses the human tendency to desire wealth to create new technologies and improve the quality of life dramatically for billions of people. That's very good, isn't it?

The problem comes when one confuses the means with the ends. We are harnessing natural greed to improve our lives. We do not need to enhance our selfish tendencies artificially in order to make capitalism somehow work better. This only leads to grift, not innovation.

Culture does not need to celebrate greed--it celebrates itself just fine. Excessive greed that leads to grift should be strictly taboo whenever the legal system cannot intervene. Greed should not be considered good but a necessary evil that can be put to productive use with the right incentives. But our ethics should always focus on altruism and the ultimate goal of improving lives as the source for good, never greed itself.

Is Good Greed?

Conversely, acts of selflessness and kindness have an emotional impact that is extremely beneficial. The whole point of acquiring money is so that you can do things that bring you these kinds of emotions! So is it ultimately greedy to be good?

When we consider directly the utilitarian goal of improving happiness and well-being for the greatest number of people, rather than proxy goals like wealth, and GDP, it brings our emotional goals in line with our political and economic goals. This could be considered a great act of selfishness, even though it would lead to significantly less materialism.

Material Means and Emotional Ends

Selfishness that brings happiness should be celebrated. Selfishness that is focused on money, power, sex, and other addictions should be taboo.

It is absolutely good to be emotionally selfish when you understand that the best emotions come from acts of altruism, kindness, fun, humor, and generally being a good person.

We all have plenty of innate drive to earn money, just like we desire sex, food, and other pleasures. But we pity those who become addicted to anything except money. Billionaires and other victims of hustle culture are like any addict who has confused one way to find pleasure with the only way, and miss out on so much else as a result. They deserve our pity and the most expensive addiction recovery programs that money can buy.

Another way to look at it is that much of our psychological discontent comes when we confuse the material means with an emotional ends, and addiction is when we fixate on a particular means to the exclusion of others.

Altruism, Selfishness, and the Fractal

The counterintuitive relationship between human happiness, selfishness, and altruism is a perfect example of the fractal nature of truth, where two sides of a dichotomy form a mobius-like feedback loop that defies Euclidean categorization. This relationship is also depicted by the Yin and Yang, though the fractal does a better job of conveying the idea that the closer you look at the dichotomy, the more detail it reveals, and a clean delineation can never truly be found.

  • We are naturally selfish due to our survival instinct.
  • We are naturally altruistic due to our social evolution.
  • Capitalism harnesses selfishness to create more wealth than we could ever create without the incentives it provides.
  • But money is not what we are truly selfish for, it is a proxy for happiness.
  • So if we are truly selfish, we must acknowledge that happiness comes from making others happy.
  • And to be truly altruistic, we must ensure our own needs are met and our efforts are sustainable.
  • And so on down the rabbit hole.

This is why balance of power is such an important concept, because we must create systems that incentivize the forces on both sides of these dichotomies to work together in a give-and-take relationship that brings out the best qualities of each. This is the true wisdom of the crowd. There is no Yin without Yang.

Give The Worlds Richest People a Few More Pennies

The infinite greed of the crypto-bros brings you an abundance of great video content on altruism.

Evolution Explains Kindness--Even When It Kills Us


Sapolsky's Theory of Evolutionary Psychology

Oh Oh What I Want to Know Is... Are You Kind?