Do read this post that I have in Google+. It’s about humanity and how peaceful it is now compared to other times in our history. Concretely it’s about the declining rate of casualties of war and armed conflict over time since WWII. The rate of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants has been falling drastically. Then rejoice. Then read the comments and see the widespread skepticism about this good news. People just can’t believe that we are now living in remarkably peaceful times compared to what we have gone through. That the probability of a random human being of dying in war is lower than ever.
Still I believe in this news. I am happy that my children do not go through what my grandparents went through living in the time of WWII. I guess that one of the characteristics that distinguishes entrepreneurs who do well, myself included, and the general population is that we are more prone to believe in good news. We love good news. We celebrate good news. Most people seem programmed to like and believe in bad news. I guess a headline that read “Most of humanity woke up today, had a normal day and went to sleep” would not get a lot of attention. But it makes me happy.
Yoko Ono was at DLD Conference in Munich last Sunday and I made room on my agenda to see her. I had heard about Yoko all of my life. Well as it happens it would have been better that I had not gone to see her as I now have a really negative impression of her. I will summarize it in three comments she made:
The first one was that babies born through C-section suffer trauma because they were never hugged and said goodbye to their mother.
Another one was that babies conceived via IVF can never get to love their father and mother. No comment was made about the ones that are both conceived via IVF and born via C section but you can only guess how sorry she feels for them.
So by then she had hurt without reason maybe around 20% of all babies in the planet but that was not enough. She went on to insulting the rest of the planet by saying that we don’t need to wait for nuclear war so only the cockroaches survive because us, humans are the cockroaches. And she went on to explain her point.
In the end she changed her tone and said a lot of positive things about humanity, she even said, “all you need is love“. But I guess if you are an IVF conceived baby love is not enough, as you will not love your parents.
I was thinking about people who have made significant amounts of money and their success strategies. I was then comparing those strategies to animals and their offspring and their success strategies. And this is what I found.
If you go through the list of the richest people in the world and take out the heirs focusing on self made (mostly) men, you would see that you can divide wealthy individuals into two main strategies of money making. One is the entrepreneur who has built one or very few businesses, as for example, Michael Dell or Bill Gates. The other one is the trader, who has not managed large organizations and has made thousands of investments in which good ones exceed bad ones, example: George Soros. These individuals have very different strategies and yet when measured by money achieved they have similar results: they are all among the richest people in the world.
Now let´s shift to the animal kingdom. In the animal kingdom the same two strategies appear. Mammals have very few offspring in their lifetime, even the most prolific mammals cannot be compared to any insect, for example, in the amounts of offspring that they have during a lifetime. In my analogy, the entrepreneurs are the mammals and the traders are the insects. Mammals as we know, care for their newborn, feed them, protect them and stay with them for a significant part of their life. Mammals cannot afford many mistakes (dead offspring) as their genes would not prevail in future generations if they did. Insects however frequently accept failure, they play a game of chance, lay thousands of eggs and leave hoping that at least more than a few survive. Interestingly both strategies work and yet in terms of personality they make very different type of animals…traders and entrepreneurs I mean.
When I look around at the people I know I see this division. There´s the traders, and there´s the entrepreneurs. Both can be as successful, but their lifestyles and personalities are completely different. Traders tolerate failure as part of their daily routine. Traders base their success in the frequency of transactions. Very successful traders make an incredible amount of trading decisions. Entrepreneurs on the other side make very few decisions, but they spend much more time thinking, studying, comparing, contrasting, analyzing. Entrepreneurs can´t be as frequently wrong. They don´t have too many chances to pass on their genes.
We have all heard about plate tectonics, the theory that explains how the crust of the earth is divided into moving parts that crash causing earthquakes along its edges. What this theory says is that the earth is made of seven large plates and many small plates that move in different directions in three different ways: they converge, diverge, or transform (as they crash). While this may be purely a coincidence, it appears to me that human beings, in their evolution, have also developed cultural tectonic plates. If we divided the world in “cultural tectonic plates” meaning groups of people linked by language, religion, politics, history or what we define as culture, we would also have seven major cultural plates and some smaller ones. These seven plates would be:
I read in Bill Bryson´s book that our brains makes only 2% of our body mass but demands 20% of the energy we consume. And not only that. Since the brain manages how energy is distributed around our body, when there´s an energy shortage the brain makes sure that other organs suffer first. Not unlike elaborate computer chips, our brain seems to have tremendous energy requirements to function properly. If this is so, here is an idea for a new diet….think more and less of your food will become fat.
Two years ago I wrote an article called “Programming Human Beings during Vacations” in which I argued that the deciphering of the human genome was the very beginning of an arduous process in truly understanding genetics. I said that while some people feared that tinkering with genes was only a few years away, my belief is that we are probably still at least a century away from changing the genetic programs of living individuals with the first objective most likely being to reverse the program that makes us age. So while I had been aware for a while that we and all other animals and plants are genetically programmed to age and die, I had a wrong understanding of how this was the case, and Bill Bryson´s book clarified it. I knew that we are born with a fixed number of neurons and that we lose them as we go through our lives. But what I did not know is that there´s “not as much as a stray molecule” in a 90 year old person that was there when this person was 80. This means that a person of 90 is a complete new person from a person of 80, yet old. In other words, not only are we programmed to age but we are constantly “renewing” ourselves, as older people.
“Human beings are the only animals that can harm at a distance.” This is a phrase out of the book. I complement it with one of my own. Human beings are the only animals whose greatest possibility of harm comes from members of their own species. Even the most dangerous animals need not fear their kind. Lions don´t fear lions; sharks don´t fear sharks; yet, even having swam this morning among sting rays I know that if any other animal ever harms me (bacteria aside) it will be another human being.
Interestingly, I learned that Tikehau is a case in point. Until 100 years ago cannibalism was practiced here. Cannibalism was an ancient practice in Polynesia only recently banned by Europeans. It seems that Polynesia had many kings, or a king per island or group of islands, and there´s over 100 islands in this vicinity. These kings, or A´ri as they were called when they wanted to rule another island, would first propose to the fellow king some kind of deal of submission. Now, more often than not, it turns out that the fellow king would not agree to it and he and his subjects would fight for their independence…and lose. And losing meant becoming the conquering king´s lunch! As crazy as this seems, somehow being here on such a tiny island, cannibalism makes a little more sense to me. When a population invaded an island and ate their people first, as disgusting as it sounds, they got fed. But secondly and most importantly, they eliminated a rival population from competing for the same basic resources…food and fresh water. Still, animals as far as I know, have not arrived at his “realization.”
We are genetically programmed to grow, we are also genetically programmed to age… and die. Why is this the case? As much as I hate knowing that I am programmed to age and die (I´ve grown already) I can see how death is essential for evolution. Death, whether we like it or not, is the measure of our evolutionary success. If evolution is the survival of the fittest, timing of death is the metrics of survival or non survival. If a specie was evolved in a way that it´s individuals lived forever, then how could we know who the fittest individual is?
I was thinking about the animal world the other day and there are many different ways that animals attack each other.