by George Strongman
Human history, for the most part, is a chronicle of conflicts, struggles, and wars, some of which have been propelledby a single, universal human trait: greed. This insatiable desire for more—more power, more territory, more resources—has been a key driver of warfare throughout history, from the Crusades to the present-day conflicts that engulf various parts of the world. The inherent greed within us, stemming from the primitive fear center within our brains, has fueled an unending cycle of war and disparity, causing vast differences between the haves and have-nots of society. This essay will argue that this greed, rooted in our biological and evolutionary past, has not only driven us into constant warfare but also created an escalating social and economic divide, ultimately threatening our very existence.
Historical Context of Greed and Warfare
Greed, often fueled by fear and survival instincts, has been the underlying reason for countless wars throughout history. The Crusades, for instance, were framed as holy wars, but they were also driven by the Pope and Vatican’s desire for wealth and power. The relentless pursuit of resources, territories, and dominance has been a recurring theme in warfare, manifesting in different forms across centuries. This constant state of conflict has also shaped human culture significantly, with societies often structured around the need for defense and the conquest of resources.
The Evolutionary Perspective
From an evolutionary standpoint, greed can be traced back to our primitive ancestors. In the harsh and competitive environment of the African savannah, being greedy—or rather, being resourceful—was a survival mechanism. The individuals who could accumulate and hoard more resources were more likely to survive and pass on their genes to the next generation. However, as society has advanced, this basic survival instinct has morphed into something far more destructive.
The Impact of Technological and Scientific Advancement
Technological and scientific advancements have exacerbated the disparity between the haves and have-nots. In our ancestors’ time, the difference between the haves and have-nots was minor due to the lack of technology. However, with the advent of technology, these minor differences have been magnified to a staggering degree. Today, the world is split between billionaires who can afford luxuries such as personal dog psychologists and those who struggle to meet their basic needs, sometimes resorting to fighting dogs for scraps of food.
The Role of Government and Politics
The disparity in wealth and resources has severe implications for the functioning of governments and political systems. In the current socio-political landscape, the wealthy have a disproportionate influence on governance. They can afford to fund political campaigns, effectively buying influence over the political process. This further widens the wealth and income gap, creating a vicious cycle of increasing inequality and social instability. And when social upheaval threatens their wealth and position, the wealthy, who control the armies through political ownership, use force to suppress resistance, thereby perpetuating the state of constant warfare.
The Future: Greed, Artificial General Intelligence, and the Human Race
Looking towards the future, the power of greed appears to be pushing humanity towards potentially disastrous outcomes. The race towards Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), for instance, has become a reckless competition driven by the desire of the wealthy to increase their power and influence. This race, driven by the belief that the first to develop AGI will essentially control the world, risks the premature release of potentially unsafe technology, posing an existential threat to the human race.
Furthermore, if the AGI, built and programmed by humans, reflects our values, it could perpetuate and even exacerbate current social inequalities. Under the control of the wealthy, the AGI could either exterminate the have-nots or transform them into literal slaves, further amplifying the social and economic divide.
In conclusion, greed, an attribute that once helped our ancestors survive, has evolved into a destructive force that has driven us into constant warfare and created vast. Based on the recent developments, it can be asserted that our current situation reflects the profound impacts of greed, which is reflected in the ever-widening wealth gap, advancements in warfare, and the reckless pursuit of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).
We see the impacts of greed most starkly in the wealth disparity prevalent in today’s world. The World Inequality Report of 2022 states that the wealthiest 10% of the global population own 76% of the world’s wealth. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this wealth gap by reversing progress made on poverty eradication.
In terms of warfare, advancements in technology have led to the development of sophisticated weapons and war strategies. There’s an increased emphasis on robotics and artificial intelligence in military applications, with the market for military robots expected to reach $24.2 billion by 2025. Hypersonic missile systems, capable of flying at speeds five times the speed of sound and nearly impossible to track with current defense systems, are being tested and launched by nations like the US, Russia, and China. Cyber warfare also poses a growing threat, with military officials predicting that by 2025, cyber attackers will weaponize operational technology to harm or kill humans. In addition, the advent of 3D printing technology has introduced new opportunities for military applications. These developments reflect a dangerous escalation of warfare technologies, driven in large part by the desire to gain power and control.
The pursuit of AGI is another realm where the impacts of greed are evident. Despite the potential risks associated with AGI, there’s a reckless race towards its development, driven largely by private interests. The belief that the first to achieve AGI will effectively “own the world” has led to an environment where safety precautions may be overlooked in the pursuit of speed and profit.
In conclusion, greed, rooted in our primitive brain structures, has pushed us into a state of constant warfare and stark inequality. This greed-driven culture has been exacerbated by advancements in technology and the expansion of wealth disparity. Despite the immense progress we’ve made as a species, we find ourselves trapped in a cycle of escalating conflict and inequality. The question now is whether we can transcend this primitive impulse and leverage our technological progress for the betterment of all humanity, rather than the enrichment of a select few.