Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies


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Hypothesis and Theory ARTICLE

The Modern Age marks the transformation of society and not always intentionally the transformation of the natural world as well. If we think of adaptation, what has the Modern Age adapted to? I agree with the general proposition that de-centralized decision making, such as we find in markets Hayek and democracy are usually the best ways of decision-making in complex societies.

However, if we understand power as the ability to make decisions and effect change through speech and not through force Arendt, Habermas , then too much fragmentation damages power in a society. With too much fragmentation, anarchy in the non-philosophical sense or political impotency become problems.

For instance, the U. Constitution came about as a result of the excessive fragmentation of power inherent in the Articles of Confederation.

Introduction

The Civil War came about from an attempt to fragment power the secession of the Confederate States. Indeed, much of post-Civil War U. Today, we see a strong fragmentation sentiment in the Tea Party and Radical Republicans Wills who want to strip the federal government of much of its power and role in American life. For the better? Whether we can model societies successfully seems to me crucial to gaining a sense of how we can successfully shape the future.

It will also help us understand how things might not go the way we want. Or is this wishful thinking?

Theories of the cycles of history have been around almost as long as history itself, yet societies seem to be immune to their insights—historians have just been so many Cassandras to the extent that they might have hoped to alter the course of events. Some nations get stuck in an unfavorable equilibrium and have a hard time getting out of it. Corruption, extreme poverty, poor infrastructure, political fragmentation in the negative sense : all of these factors make me much less optimistic that what I take Dr. Kemp to be from his discussion of India.

Having just spent a month in China, I was amazed at the overall level of development, but much of the cost has been externalized some horrible air pollution and apparently even greater problems of water quality and quantity.


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These facts serve to cancel much of my amazement at the terrific infrastructure improvements and astonishing commercial development. The prospects of democracy in China are uncertain at best, and the model of centralized power seems to growing in popularity for some. See M. How do societies avoid the collapses or declines described by Turchin, Tainter, Diamond, P.


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  • Kennedy, Homer-Dixon, Toynbee, et al.? This list could go on at some length. This, to my mind, is the ultimate adaptation that any society can aspire to, which assumes that the society has achieved a satisfactory level of equilibrium. Has any society ever achieved this?

    We need to address not only factors of collapse identified in past societies as controversial and elusive as these causes can be , but we also need to contemplate new threats to social survival. Local climate change has certainly altered and contributed to the collapse of many social orders. What will drive future adaptation?

    War, along with economic competition, drove much of the European change Ferguson, Civilization. What will drive change in the future? If war becomes the driver, it could destroy much of social development achieved to date. The physical survival of the U. Can we continue to compete in economics with the same system that we have now? See 9 below. The Medial PFC network. A Based on non-human primate research, the major connections of the medial PFC, include the amygdala, PAG, hypothalamus, ventromedial striatum, pallidum and mediodorsal MD thalamus.

    McNaughton and Corr's parallel neurocircuits of C defensive avoidance and D defensive approach. McNaughton and Corr have also proposed a set of neural circuits associated with defensive approach and defensive avoidance Figures 2C,D. These fear circuits have been further clarified by the mapping of parallel circuits via the hippocampus, septum, hypothalamus and PAG Gross and Canteras, Furthermore, distinct types of fear may have discrete pathways from the amygdala-hypothalamus and PAG Gross and Canteras, LeDoux has recently proposed that such circuits assist in the survival of the organism by organizing brain functions that are optimized for adapting to different ecological threats LeDoux, In humans, the existence of these networks has been supported by brain imaging research using functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI and employing an active avoidance paradigm where the goal was to actively evade an artificial predator with the capacity to chase, capture and shock the subject.

    Results showed that when the artificial predator is distant, increased activity is observed in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex vmPFC. However, as the artificial predator moves closer, a switch to enhanced activation in the midbrain PAG is observed Mobbs et al. The studies are supported by human diffusion tensor imaging showing white-matter connections between the midbrain and PFC Hadjipavlou et al. The long-term survival of the species depends on the ability to learn from, and optimally respond to, a potential or real threatening stimulus. We therefore propose five strategies that are central to survival: prediction; prevention; threat orienting; threat assessment; and rapid reaction to imminent danger at varying defensive distances Figure 3.

    Furthermore, we propose that these strategies are influenced by i modulatory systems that directly up or down regulate the five survival strategies by actively reconfiguring the threat circuits. Feeding into these strategies and modulatory systems are a set of ii learning systems that include the utilization of internal probabilistic models, and vicarious learning. These features distinguish the SOS from previous models c.

    McNaughton and Corr, ; Blanchard et al. These authors suggest that the security motivational model is switched on when a stimulus is judged a potential danger. This results in elevated anxiety where the organism appraises the situation, and results in a set of security behaviors motor and visceral.

    These behaviors are species specific.

    These features of the security motivational model clearly overlap with our model. However, there are several features that distinguish our model from others:. Figure 3.

    The Biology of Corporate Survival

    Each stage is modulated by several interacting systems including a cognitive system that selectively controls and regulates survival strategies along an abstract to concrete threat continuum. Internal probabilistic models subconsciously learn about, and facilitate responses to, threat. As one moves from predictive to defensive systems, innate and fixed systems are increasingly engaged. The conscious prediction and simulation of future threat occurs during preferred safety context and pre-encounter threat and allows animals to prepare for, and flexibly attend to, potential danger.

    Adaptation and Survival

    In humans, the highly developed ability to envisage, simulate and predict future scenarios allows us to modify our current behavior to prepare, escape, or even avoid possible future dangers Suddendorf and Corballis, The prediction of threat results in precautionary behaviors, such as increasing alertness, environmental surveillance and what we call pre-encounter avoidance i. Furthermore, the prediction system results in prevention strategies, such as niche construction Odling-Smee, , risk dilution through living in the safety of groups, building safe havens e.

    Therefore, a core goal of the prediction system is to avoid the encounter situation via prevention planning or avoidance Figure 1. While basic predictions occur through simple Pavlovian stimulus-response learned associations and instrumental actions, complex predictions involving imagination, simulation, and analogical reasoning, may, in terms of extent, be most enhanced in humans.

    Prediction formulations allow humans to use memories of past events to simulate or imagine the future and to consider what steps one might take in order to optimize escape from a threat Hassabis et al. Imagination potentially allows one to remotely simulate unpredictable predatory behavior while minimizing predatory contact and energy exertion, thereby increasing the likelihood of escape. Although rodents seem to show rudimentary forms of simulation e.

    One benefit of prospective systems is the ability to anticipate threat as well as highlighting escape strategies without experiencing actual danger. Simulation allows us to foresee and pre-live danger that is presently absent Suddendorf and Corballis, Episodic memory stores personal memories about everyday experiences and therefore is critical to simulation and higher forms of prediction Hassabis and Maguire, Episodic memory is not only crucial for remembering past events, but also supports so-called mental time travel, whereby humans both counterfactually remodel the past, and foresee, plan and change the future Suddendorf and Corballis, While not a universal ability, mental time travel has been demonstrated in Great Apes Mulcahy and Call, and Corvids Dally et al.

    Recent studies have shown that thinking about future consequences of one's decisions can influence current decision-making Peters and Buchel, and it is possible that future-oriented survival encoding produces superior memory retrieval for survival-relevant information Nairne et al. Predictive coding is the theoretical proposal that the brain actively infers sensory input. Consequently, humans can efficiently disambiguate present from future information, thus allowing faster and optimal responses to threat.

    Summerfield et al. These findings were interpreted as evidence that the medial PFC resolves perceptual ambiguity by matching what is expected or predicted to what is observed. Later research replicated these findings, further demonstrating that predictive coding is associated with activity within the medial PFC Summerfield and Koechlin, These findings suggest that the brain makes active inferences about the sensory experiences we are likely to encounter.

    The formulation of predictions by the brain may serve to make quicker and more accurate decisions about potential danger in the environment. During the preferred safety state and pre-encounter threat, the ability of an organism to make accurate predictions concerning potential threat is highly adaptive and enables it to flexibly change behaviors to protect itself from future predation. We propose that prevention takes two forms:. Humans, and many other animals, deploy various prevention strategies to reduce threats, including alteration of the environment.

    Put simply, if it is possible to predict a predatory attack, it is often possible to prepare for it in advance. This process, referred to as positive niche construction, Odling-Smee, involves active alteration of the environment to increase the likelihood of survival. Animals will alter their environment by building nests, burrows or tree holes to protect themselves and their offspring.

    Rodents also show an increased fear of open areas e. Humans utilize advanced technology and cooperation to optimize prevention strategies both in terms of scale and effectiveness by building large walls and fortresses, living inside safe homes and constructing prisons to contain the threat from dangerous criminals. Humans are more flexible and ingenious in the implementation of prevention strategies and may do so without any reason or in response to threats that may be encountered in the future. The knowledge that one is safe reduces the stress of predation, allows for delayed dispersion of the offspring and allows for activities that might otherwise be risky to survival.

    Evolutionary theorists have proposed that one key reason why animals live in groups is to protect themselves from predation. For example, Hamilton's Selfish-Herd hypothesis predicts that aggregations emerge from the organism's attempt to avoid predators resulting in a type of social gravity whereby individuals move toward other members Hamilton, This theoretical stance has been supported by studies showing risk dilution i. Therefore, group living is a key prevention strategy resulting in increased protection from threat.

    Detection of a potential threat initiates the post-encounter phase, which in turn instigates a set of predictable behavioral strategies. These strategies involve biological systems that have evolved to orient toward salient events Ohman et al.

    Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies
    Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies
    Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies
    Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies
    Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies
    Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies
    Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies
    Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies Choosing Survival: Creating Highly Adaptive Societies

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