Pinker (notes on TED talk on violence)
20th c: hitler, pol pot, stalin, darfur etc.
common understanding - modenity brought violence
native community harmony.
ancetory were more violent
today we live in most peacful point in our existence.
decline in violence is fractal - seen at all time scales
tipping point is age of reason in 16th century, it is evident wordlwide though not to same extent everywhere, is particularly evident in west beginning in england and holland at time of enlightenment.
till 10,000 years ago we lived as hunter gatherers - lived in a state of what we like to think of as primordial harmony.
Archeologist Lawrence Kealy (sic?) looking at conflct rates in contemporary hunter gatherers: looked at percentage of male war deaths in variety of hunter gatherer societies vary between 60% and 15%. US and Europe in the 20th century far less as percentage, including world wars. If we had been as violent, 2 billion would have died in ww1 and ww2 not 100 million.
then look at early societies
description of what was expected from warfar in bible, numbers 31: slew all the males then moses told them to kill the women and children apart from virgins, who they could rape
also in bible, death penalty was punishment for crimes such as: homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy, idolatry, talking back to parents, picking up sticks on the sabath
you can see that several centuries ago, torture was routine and that death penalty was common for non-violent crimes, slavery prevalent and cruelty as entertainment (cat burning).
Manuel Eisner: murder rates from middle ages to present, from parish and later government staistics, plotted on log scale from 100 deaths per 100,000 people eper year in middle ages, to 1 per 100,000 in 7 or 8 european countries, slight uptick in 1960’s
deaths per coflict per year steadily declining
pinkers reasons for false perception of increase:
better reporting of wars: AP is better than 16th century monks
cognitive illusion: the easier it is to recall specific intsances of something, the higher the probability that you asign to it, things we read about in paper with gory footage burn into mind more than people dying of old age in bed.
the solicitation effect - easier to get donors etc. if you say things are getting worse
guilt about way we treated native cultres and unwillingness to attribute anything good to western culture.
changes in standard can outpace changes in behaviour
reasons for actual decline:
1. pre-soietal anarchy leads to pre-emtive violence. hobbes leviathan - decline ion violence co-incided with rise in centralized states (more deterence, less pre-emptive violence), today we see violence eruopting in areas of anarchy, failed states etc.
2. life is cheap perception, if you suffer, less compunction about inflicting suffering on others
3. non zero sum game robert wright - trade etc. positive sum games. technology has increased number of positive sum games through trade etc. creating
‘we shouldn’t bomb the japanese, because they bu’lt my minivan.
4. Expanding cirlce - Peter Singer - empathy is evolved but we apply to narrow circle of friends
what has powered this expansion:
increasing circles of reciprocity (i.e. trade = reciprocity which is basis for empathy)
Would be very good to study why this is non- linear.
I.E. there is a sweet spot for conflict which sits between very different and very similar.