To overcome its physical vulnerability ants developed a unique way to navigate in uncertainty. The chemical trace allows to an ant and all his bodies to find a way from food to home (it is very close to how people use market prices to send information. A pencil example by Friedman). Spiders have developed the web to catch insects the same size as spiders themselves (morality is an evolved part of human nature, much like a tendency to weave nets is an evolved part of spiders’ nature. See figures with “gossiping” here). What’s so special about humans? There no better way to demonstrate than with a movie Allied. What do you choose an allegiance to your family or your country? The choice evokes a range of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and intuitions about what to do, what is the right thing to do, what one ought to do—what is the moral thing to do. Nobody except humans possesses morality, but why over million years of evolution nature decided to develop such a peculiar attribute? Morality is what makes people come together and play non-zero-sum games, it was evolutionary necessitated device that ensured the survival. The feeling of “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad” is nothing but your brain figuring out how to act in groups and use groups to its advantage. (Next time when you go to the park and see many groups of people keep in mind that this is happening because an action of cooperating is remunerated with oxytocin (brain uses hormones like carrot and stick to incentive a particular form of behaviour, the one that proved to increase the chances of survival))
What are these moral thoughts and feelings, where do they come from, how do they work, and what are they for? There is a scientific answer to these questions. It is possible to use the mathematical theory of cooperation—the theory of nonzero-sum games—to transform this commonplace observation into a precise and comprehensive theory, capable of making specific testable predictions about the nature of morality. (Curry 2016)
A little experiment called Public Good Game (aka n-player prisoners dilemma; Imagine you have a baby and you and your partner have to do something very important for themselves so that each would like the other one to sit with the baby. But if both bail on sitting with baby… then we both suffer because the little one might fall, choke or something. It is individually rational to defect in providing the public good and “free-ride”. If there are many players – it makes it a Public Good Game) captured a feature that is unique to the animal world – “reciprocal altruism”. People trust to the strangers if they see that they are eager to cooperate. Only humans possess this.
This feature manifests itself in technologies of trust (exchange and reciprocity) such as money, written contracts, ‘mechanical cheater detectors’ such as ‘[c]ash register tapes, punch clocks, train tickets, receipts, accounting ledgers’, handcuffs, prisons, electric chairs, CCTV, branding of criminals, and criminal records. And this very feature allows humans to create social structures such as markets, political elections and …states. People had money, laws and elections way before political science and economics had anything to say about it. All these social structures, markets, elections and states themselves allow strangers – not genetically related species – to beneficially coexist.
Ok, but what is has to do with the key difference between developed and underdeveloped countries? Well, everything.
The developing countries are simply unable to form social structures effectively. They can not fairly elect political leaders, they can not maintain market economy without terrible abuses that potentially come with market economies. If people generally do not follow laws, a country practically does not have any laws. Financial technologies are a pure manifestation of “reciprocal altruism”, where the complexity and richness of financial instruments are based on nothing but a piece of paper that has power only if people trust it. The problem of developed countries is that people in these countries are unable to cooperate effectively. They are unable to play a zero-sum game. In the US strangers came together and created iPhone, in Russia, people fail to organise themselves into homeowner associations (another interesting example is how Russians treat national currency, everybody ditches it whenever the opportunity arises, that leads to volatility and self-fulfilled prophecy that currency had to be ditched). In general, the breakdown of cooperation in such games as Public Good Game or Minimum Effort Game are called coordination failure.
What is curious is that playing non-zero-sum games is a natural evolutionary developed tendency in any human. In the absence of interference, people will eventually form an effective cooperation. They will come up with the sets of rules and believes that will allow for an effective non-zero-sum game. My favourite example is a lovely place called Russia, where the government does practically everything possible to break down the effective cooperation by systematically taking actions that induce the negative beliefs.
Hm… I have started the post with morality. Morality is what makes you feel like punishing defectors in Public Good Game (you say “this is wrong”) and makes you contribute if everyone else contributes (you say “I feel bad by not doing the right thing”) or makes you feel offended if you contribute but most did not (You say “I feel like an idiot by doing this”). All people say these things in their head and that what makes them come together and do a great thing. Or, if you leave in some underdeveloped country, never do anything great.
P.S. Check this awesome quotation from here:
Cooperation depends on trust, which in turn requires evaluating individuals and groups as potential cooperation partners. Oxytocin, a neuropeptide known for its role in social attachment and affiliation in mammals appears to be important for both kinds of decisions. Intranasal administration of oxytocin increases investment in a “trust game”, but also biases judgment and behavior toward ingroup members and against outgroup members. Likewise, genetic variants associated with oxytocin are associated with increased prosocial behavior, particularly when the world is seen as threatening. From an evolutionary perspective, the double-edged sword of human morality comes as no surprise. Morality evolved, not as device for universal cooperation, but as a competitive weapon, as a system for turning Me into Us, which in turn enables Us to outcompete Them. Morality’s dark, tribalistic side is powerful, but there’s no reason why it must prevail. The flexible thinking enabled by our enlarged prefrontal cortices may enable us to retain the best of our moral impulses while transcending their inherent limitations.