Citizen Action Monitor

We routinely seek experiences that trigger the same feelings our successful ancestors had – Nate Hagens (9)

There are proximate or ‘surface’ explanations for our behavior, but there are also ‘ultimate’ explanations based on our ancestral past.

No 2292 Posted by fw, June 7, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin. 

“[The video game] Fortnite hijacks our evolutionary impulses amazingly. You start with 100 people and you fight and shoot down to one. And then you win. And you get all these accolades. So the person playing that game is getting the proximate feeling of relaxation and entertainment. But their brain doesn’t think that. Their brain thinks they are actually competing in a real live war against another tribe. Then, if they win, they’re going to get higher status, higher rewards within the tribe. So there is a proximate and an ultimate story for much of our modern behavior.”Nate Hagens

In yesterday’s post, Pt 8, Hagens presented continuum 7, “Human versus Animal” to launch the second category of his talk — HUMAN BEHAVIOR.

His continuum was short indeed, lasting just 25 seconds. My title and sub-title capture the essence of his message:

Humans are part of the animal kingdom, of the mammal and ape lineage : Our behavioral repertoire is amazing, yet still constrained and informed by our animal heritage.

In today’s post, Pt 9, Hagens’ explains the difference between Proximate versus Ultimate explanations of human behavior, introducing a level of complexity in human self-awareness.

At this point, it may not be clear where Hagens is going with his first two posts in this category; but he did tell us in Pt 1 that his story “will be presented in 40 key continuums that will have bearing on our collective future.”

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 9, continuum 8, runs from 16:57 to 18:10.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by Resilience.org, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.

NOTE — Selected parts of the Resilience.org essay are included in my transcripts, bracketed as [Resilience.org Supplement].

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Where are we going? by Nate Hagens, Resilience.org, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 16:57 to 18:10)

[HUMAN BEHAVIOR]

16:57 – [Continuum 8: Proximate vs Ultimate] — So, proximate versus ultimate. Why do you want that job? Why does Facebook feel really good? Why do feel jealous when your friend is flirting with your boyfriend? Why do you really want to buy that pair of shoes or that new car. There are surface, or proximate answers to these questions, and there are ultimate, or evolutionary answers to these questions.

17:27 – This is a screenshot from a very popular game called Fortnite. Which of you have played Fortnite? Any of you – OK, a couple of you in the back. Fortnite hijacks our evolutionary impulses amazingly. You start with 100 people and you fight and shoot down to one. And then you win. And you get all these accolades. So the person playing that game is getting the proximate feeling of relaxation and entertainment. But their brain doesn’t think that. Their brain thinks they are actually competing in a real live war against another tribe. Then, if they win, they’re going to get higher status, higher rewards within the tribe. So there is a proximate and an ultimate story for much of our modern behavior.

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[Resilience.org Supplement] Proximate vs Ultimate – Why do we want that job? Why do we waste time on Facebook? Why do we love stock market returns? Why do we dislike that person? Why do we want to play with puppies? Why do we go to war? There are proximate – or ‘surface’ explanations for all these behaviors, but there are also ‘ultimate’ explanations based on our ancestral past. These “ultimate” explanations can predict and make sense of much of modern human behavior.  Ultimately, we go through our daily lives seeking ‘brain services’- activities, experiences and behaviors in the modern world that provide the same ‘feelings’ that our successful ancestors got in a different environment.

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About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

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