Thursday, February 15, 2007

Jumping Right Into the Project: people first?

Where to start, where to start...? People make societies, and societies make people. Let's start with the very first two people (and then go back to why we shouldn't, but might be okay to do so). Adam and Eve. Imagine their appearance, simultaneous and spontaneous (now I imagine you can guess what's wrong with this presumption: evolutionary theory, even my vague understanding of it, postulates the emergence of humanity as it slowly differentiates itself. Honestly, I'll get there.)

My question is what do they notice about each other. Do they focus on their similarities, which are numerous? Do they focus on their differences, which are similarly vast? There are an infinite number of characteristics upon which they can base their relationship with each other: personality, treatment of animals, hair color, skin tone, height, bodily differences, sound of voice, body odor, leaping ability...

My answer to the first question is that they should notice all of it. That at some level it's both necessary and proper for us to be aware of everything we have in common and everything that differentiates us from each other. Basically, this is because I believe that knowledge is good. In a catalog of assumptions, that would probably be my first. I'm thinking that I should be careful with this, because I don't want to imply that the acquisition of knowledge is necessarily the trumping activity in life and should occupy every waking moment and every dream-filled night. But observing things and storing those observations is, at the very least, not inherently bad.

My next question is how they should use what they know. I think this is closely related to the question of how they should behave, although it has a different emphasis. I'm going to impose some more assumptions, because this is not a discussion in a vacuum, it's a thought exercise on how to get to a 'more ideal' world where I define ideal. I want these two people to be 'good' to each other. I don't want one to subjugate the other. I don't want the two to wander off and live separately. I want productive coexistence. My instinct says the response should be rational: what do we need to live -- food, shelter, babies. What do we want to have: better food, nicer shelter, toys, maybe pets. Well what's the best way to get them: you jump higher, you build better, you have a fabulous aesthetic sense, you have an amazing rapport with the wolves in the hills.

There are probably innumerable flaws in the model, some of which I've assumed away. But it's predicated on a cooperative rational model, where anger and frustration will eventually yield to compromise and progress. Even if the compromised solution is not the best solution if only it were considered, both people recognize that a compromise solution is better than no solution. And there's no forced integration -- if Adam and Eve want their privacy because that's what they like, then maybe the make each other separate houses, or separate rooms. What if one wants privacy and the other doesn't? Well there must be some other area where there interests diverge, and a compromise can be reached.

So I paint a happy picture of two people who don't notice their similarities or differences outside the context of those traits affect the ways in which they can productively cooperate. I like this.

I also think I'm pretty far gone from recreating what actually happened in the past (and that's why I think of this as normative, not descriptive). Humans evolved. And some humans were probably more animal like than others. And there was never a case of just being two people, completely rational and able to make decisions and express complex compromises. And all sorts of other things.

But I'm a dreamer.

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