virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Prisoner's Dillema

Reed Konsler (
Sat, 19 Apr 1997 13:41:00 -0400 (EDT)

>From: Martz <>
>Date: Sat, 19 Apr 1997 09:40:05 +0100
>On Fri, 18 Apr 1997, Reed Konsler <> wrote:
>>Are we really going to get into an argument over definitions again?
>If we're each using a word in fundamentally different ways then it
>becomes difficult to communicate with each other without first finding
>out what those differences are. A dictionary seems as good a place as
>any to start.

I have to admit that question was asked a little ambivalently. I hearby append
the wry ;-) to the end of it. Of course this is an appropriate place to begin.

>>I believe any thinking person acknowledges the idea of pure communism as
>>the most attractive, most altruistc, and most desireable system from an
>>intellectual perspective.
>Sorry. Most altruistic? Maybe. Attractive? Desirable? Not to me it ain't
>and I like to think of myself as a thinking person. See the
>'Sociological change' thread for a fuller discussion.

Too strong on my part. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word "communism".
I'm speaking more of "flower power","lets all be on one mind
and soul" sort of bright shiny commune-ism. Not the grey, drab kind I think
I was evoking with the word.

>>We are the sense that we can engage in trade, that we can
>>delay gratification, that we are willing to "invest" effort today on the
>>assumption that there will be return with interest at a later date, and
>>that the extrapolation of these abilities allows us to create and test new
>>and more mutually benificial mechanisms of group/self-interest.
>You have departed so far from any accepted definition of altruism that
>I've ever come across (they all include selflessness) that I can't help
>wondering if you're using the right word. Are you sure you're not just
>trying to lever the word into an inappropriate use?

Absolutely! What a great analysis. I don't know if this is a morally
appropriate thing to do. What do you think?


Reed Konsler