What will happen?

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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28 August 2019 11:37
 

What will happen if researchers in a lab somewhere find themselves fully able to delete a tiny genetic corner of the human genome that will switch off the human tendency toward tribalism? Would turning off such a tendency eventually lead to everyone thinking the same things in the same ways? If so, nothing could be more hazardous to humanity’s future chances of survival than that, right?

Sorry—please take your choice among my silly questions.

 
 
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28 August 2019 11:52
 

The Law of Unintended Consequences would kick in and things would be even worse than they are now.  I suspect it might have some affect on our ability to cooperate and work together at all, which would be worse than tribalism.

 
Cheshire Cat
 
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Cheshire Cat
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28 August 2019 13:23
 

One effect that came to mind immediately, would be that people would probably lose any interest in team sports.

I think team sports are a benign way for tribalism to be expressed in human beings.

 
 
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28 August 2019 13:55
 
Cheshire Cat - 28 August 2019 01:23 PM

One effect that came to mind immediately, would be that people would probably lose any interest in team sports.

I think team sports are a benign way for tribalism to be expressed in human beings.

I had that thought, too. How can I hope that the Lions will beat the Tigers if I’m not tribal?

 
Jan_CAN
 
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Jan_CAN
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28 August 2019 14:16
 

Or there might be peace on earth, no borders, perfect harmony for all humankind.

Oh wait ... on second thought, I think we’d also have to get rid of the gene for greed/self-interest in addition to the one for tribalism.

And there’d no longer be the need for two TV’s – the second one so he can watch football ... and hockey ... and baseball ... and basketball ... and golf ... and boxing ... and soccer… and tennis ...

 
 
Skipshot
 
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01 September 2019 09:47
 
nonverbal - 28 August 2019 11:37 AM

What will happen if researchers in a lab somewhere find themselves fully able to delete a tiny genetic corner of the human genome that will switch off the human tendency toward tribalism?

There’s a problem with getting that gene switched off in everyone at nearly the same time, otherwise those without the change would have a competitive advantage.

 
Jefe
 
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01 September 2019 10:39
 
Skipshot - 01 September 2019 09:47 AM
nonverbal - 28 August 2019 11:37 AM

What will happen if researchers in a lab somewhere find themselves fully able to delete a tiny genetic corner of the human genome that will switch off the human tendency toward tribalism?

There’s a problem with getting that gene switched off in everyone at nearly the same time, otherwise those without the change would have a competitive advantage.

They already are at some disadvantage.  People with less competitiveness (maybe connected to tribalism) and more empathy (maybe not an informative feature of tribalism) tend to track differently than those with more competitiveness and less empathy.
The question then becomes, is there a related advantage to greater empathy and less competitiveness that provides greater fitness, or more selection opportunities?

 
 
Garret
 
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Garret
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02 September 2019 10:22
 
nonverbal - 28 August 2019 11:37 AM

What will happen if researchers in a lab somewhere find themselves fully able to delete a tiny genetic corner of the human genome that will switch off the human tendency toward tribalism? Would turning off such a tendency eventually lead to everyone thinking the same things in the same ways? If so, nothing could be more hazardous to humanity’s future chances of survival than that, right?

Sorry—please take your choice among my silly questions.

The first problem I have with this question is that it assumes that tribalism is an inherent component of humanity.  I don’t think humans are necessarily “tribal”, but rather that what we describe as tribalism is an emergent property when certain other human characteristics are expressed in specific ways.

The second problem I have with the question is that it feels like it assumes that tribalism is a constant.  That there is no variation in the amount of tribalism experienced/expressed by individuals, and that on the population level there have never been any changes to how tribalism is experienced/expressed.

The definitions of in and out groups is constantly changing.  An easy example is how the concept of being “American” emerged after the American Civil War.  Prior to the war people were more likely to identify as being a Pennsylvanian or Virginian.  After the war the broader concept of “American” started to emerge and 150 years later, with a couple of notable exceptions, has largely replaced state identity with a national American one.  Even where the state name is still prominent as an identifier, say Texan, the concept of being a Texan is predominantly stilled tied and closely associated with being American.

A similar identity shift has happened in Europe.  It’s not a straight line though, and while the concept of a European identity is gaining ground, there are those who are pushing to maintain national identities as well.  There are two possible outcomes: a European identity continues to emerge and replace national identities in the region, or national identities remain.  If the first comes true, then this time period is part of the working out how and what that identity will mean.  If it fails, then the narrative can easily be that national identities are too ingrained currently and a barrier to a broader identity that serves a utilitarian purpose.  Anyone who says they know how it will end though should be laughed out of the room IMO.

Going back to my first problem with the question, I think we can safely point to two things that are true of humans as a species: we have a sense of morality and our brain often relies on cognitive short cuts.

When I say “sense of morality,” I’m using it very similar to “sense of smell.”  Barring a some exceptions, all people have the ability to make moral judgments, but the exact nature of those judgments will vary.  Much like you and I can smell the same flower and have a similar experience with some variation, we can make moral judgments.  To date, scientific research into the behaviors of social mammals suggests that all social mammals have a sense of morality.  The depth, complexity, and typical judgments can vary wildly from species to species, but it is just as common as a sense of smell, vision, or hearing.  Morality is what allows for cooperation and community survival.  Without morality, cooperation and community survival are not possible.  The stronger the sense of morality, the more cooperation and community within the species.

Cognitive short cuts are ways of storing information, or arriving at conclusions with limited data that our brains have developed for survival.  We can see it in our ability to understand statistics intuitively (or not understand it rather), false conclusions about sounds and peripheral visual stimulus, and about how we make assumptions about other humans based on categories.  Categories are useful.  We don’t need to experiment with every kind of tree to understand that most of them make good fuels for fires.  Once we know that plants similar to trees make good fuel, we can just grab anything that fits our category.  The problem is when these categories lead to false assumptions, like the fruits of trees being edible.

I would argue that tribalism emerges from the combination of these two factors.  When we start categorizing people AND we make moral judgments about those categories, that is when tribalism emerges.  This does mean that tribalism is always specific to the context of the person and population who are engaging in such thought processes.

How do you remove problematic tribalism?
If tribalism is a product of moral judgments and categorization, then we need only look for errors within either of these processes to eliminate the tribalism behavior.

Thinking about a specific form of tribalism, racism, we can look at some psychological evidence to see what is effective at combating racist beliefs.  One method is using cognitive dissonance.  I’m using that term in the very technical psychological meaning.  When a person holds a belief, and they encounter evidence that contradicts that belief, they will experience mental discomfort.  When in this state, a person’s brain actually has a chance of changing the previously held belief.  It doesn’t always happen all at once.  Often it can still take years, and many, many exposures to evidence to the contrary to change a belief completely, but it can and does happen.

Imagine a person with deeply held racist beliefs about black people.  They’ve never had a black co-worker before, and one day they have to engage with a black co-worker, and this person’s behavior does not adhere to any of the racist beliefs, such as the belief that black people are lazy.  The black co-worker works hard.  The person who held the belief will know that that individual does not adhere to the previously held belief, and so will probably modify that belief to say that the vast majority of black people are lazy.  If they were to continue to meet new individuals who also confounded previously held beliefs, then our original individual would gradually shift their beliefs to match the evidence they are being bombarded with.

I don’t think this is the only way to combat this kind of tribalism.  I have no idea if it is the most effective way either.  I think that there probably exists ways at approaching how we construct our shared sense of morality that could short cut some of this work as well.  I do think that examining tribalism as it’s own phenomenon is ill conceived and unlikely to produce results, as it is a product of other behaviors and attributes of humanity, and not one on its own.

[ Edited: 02 September 2019 10:43 by Garret]
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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02 September 2019 14:08
 
Garret - 02 September 2019 10:22 AM
nonverbal - 28 August 2019 11:37 AM

What will happen if researchers in a lab somewhere find themselves fully able to delete a tiny genetic corner of the human genome that will switch off the human tendency toward tribalism? Would turning off such a tendency eventually lead to everyone thinking the same things in the same ways? If so, nothing could be more hazardous to humanity’s future chances of survival than that, right?

Sorry—please take your choice among my silly questions.

The first problem I have with this question is that it assumes that tribalism is an inherent component of humanity.  I don’t think humans are necessarily “tribal”, but rather that what we describe as tribalism is an emergent property when certain other human characteristics are expressed in specific ways.

. . .

. . . as with so many human ways. Humans are, after all, extreme devotees of emergent properties.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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Brick Bungalow
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03 September 2019 08:58
 

I think it’s already happening. We witness the liabilities of tribalism and put great emphasis on them, I think because of our field of view is narrow and our lifespans are short. But if we are really talking about a genetic disposition or biologically selected trait I think we have reasons to be optimistic and even proud.

Of course we have a large of array of systemic failures but as a species we are pretty darn cohesive. Quite cooperative I’d say. Someone mentioned sports. On the one hand sports are an expression of our tendency to splinter and polarize for arbitrary reasons. Fair. But look at how sports are organized. Top tier athletes participate in events that involve dozens or even hundreds of nations. Thats just one throwaway example. All sorts of human activities form the basis of platonic bonds that cross physical and political borders. We are extremely adept at diverting our expressions of tribalism into expressions of larger solidarity. And we do so with remarkable velocity. The world is smaller every day. The communities that bear no allegiance to historical divisions vastly outnumber the communities that do. Test me on that.

I won’t offer any specific predictions but I do believe we amply demonstrate the capacity to overcome this tendency. We can choose to do so whenever we want.