Rules Save Lives but do not Save Brains
- Every animal tries to create some order around its natural environment
- Likewise the history of human civilization is largely the attemp to control nature and structure life
- Human societies are environments in which the chaos of nature is greatly reduced
- This allows for humans to predict the future and therefore minimize threats to their survival
- One chaotic component of nature is humans themselves, the interaction among them.
- Societies invent rules and regulations to order and structure the interaction among humans. Therefore we have rules on how to dress, eat, drive, etc. There are rules on how to shop in a supermarket and how to eat in a restaurant.
- Language itself is based on rules
- The process of turning children into adults is largely a process of forcing them to obey rules, from "good manners" to language itself.
- We tend to call "civilized" a society that has many rules and "uncivilized" a society that has no rules.
- Rules have to be enforced by states and police officers. The more rules the more state we need in order to "protect" citizens from those who break the rules. States themselves are an outcome of this process towards structuring life.
- Humans raised in a society with many rules (a highly structured society) have trouble (and probably panic) when dropped in a society with fewer rules (an unstructured society)
- Rules help make society stable and predictable, i.e. safe and efficient. Each rule makes it easy for people to do what they do with their lives. For example, there are now so many rules about driving a car (and about building a car) that accidents have been greatly reduced.
- However, rules also restrict what people can think of doing. For example, people have become much less skilled at driving: they don't need to be skilled drivers.
- The more structured your society is, the less often you need to use your brain. When we install a traffic light in front of a school, we are creating a safer and more efficient environment for children. The price to pay is that those children won't need to use their brain to cross the street.
- The safest society is one in which what is not forbidden is mandatory. That society is the one that requires the least cognitive effort and provides the highest degree of safety.
- Ultimately, the most structured society will be a society in which every action has to comply with some rules, i.e. its citizens will de facto be robots with no brains.
- The choice is between living in a highly strucutred society in which life is safe and efficient but your brain is irrelevant (and actually dangerous) and an unstructered society in which life is unsafe and inefficient but your brain is very valuable (and actually indispensable to survive)
- Civilization seems a process to remove the brain from the decision process, to turn life into a simple sequence of rules that must be obeyed.
- Those rules are, of course, designed by brains. Therefore the ultimate function of brains within a society of brains seem to make sure that brains don't run the society, i.e. to commit a sort of suicide.
- There is one major exception to the trend towards more and more regulated social life: we deregulated sex that used to be highly regulated, in fact one of the most regulated human activities.