Monday, December 26, 2016

Trying to find ways to live and live longer

There are many ways to look at human life.  One that I more or less dismissed as silly was comparison with the life of apes.  The genetics of the apes is closest to that of humans in the case of chimpanzees and bonobos, I have read.  I suspect there are other intelligent and useful books on the comparison but the one I have read is "Our Inner Ape" by Frans De Waal.  

As some time has passed, I find myself using the concepts of the book and the comparison between us and them more and more often.  The other day, I had a small period of time on my hands and watched a couple of TED talks.  One was by Prof. David Autor of MIT called "Why are there so many jobs?"  The other was by Prof. Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore College called "Why Do We Work?" The two talks together got me thinking about the work life of the modern person.  Schwartz's question and his talk asked Why do we put up with jobs that are boring, or dangerous, or worse?  

His question reminded me of the steady ongoing discussion of what goes on in school classrooms and what should go on. If we say that the main purpose in life for female primates, including us, is bearing and raising children, we may, of course, offend and alienate many people today.  Let's grant that humankind can almost certainly benefit from getting the contribution of both sexes in work and play, in arts and sciences and politics and everything.  We may also offend and alienate many people if we say that the main purposes in life for male primates, including us, is mating and fighting.  

We can say that the purposes in life of adult men are wealth and leisure.  To have a life, both sexes need food, clothing, some shelter or good shelter, depending on where they live.  In modern society, food, shelter and clothing come from income and money.  

In 2015, 49.55% of the global population were women. 81 countries had a majority of women, 36 countries had a majority of men, 75 were within 0.5% of gender parity.

[It is estimated that males have a natural death rate higher than females and that natural processes produce 105 boys to every 100 girls.  Further skewing the sex ratio among humans is the traditional preference for boys, especially in the large Chinese and Indian populations]

In comparison to the 7,400,000,000 humans now living, the chimps are estimated to number between 170,000 and 300,000.  These numbers, our intuition and our experience support that idea that finding ways to cooperate and benefit from each others' existence and skills is a far more successful way to promote both comfort and longevity that the chimp way of merely expanding territory by means of warfare and murder.  As a point of interest, our other cousins, the bonobos, are famous for their use of sex and genital stimulation to create pleasure, relaxation and good feelings maybe a bit comparable to the way we use recreational sex and alcohol but they currently only number about 40,000.  

So our growing tendency to restrain ourselves and find better ways to disagree is valuable and is paying off.  Not only that but peaceable disagreement and discussion is increasingly useful for finding new and better views and methods.

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