Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Anti-Social Age

            There are so many ways to stay entertained in the modern world. If you like food, you can eat whatever you want. If you want attention, there are near limitless forms of social media to express yourself and pass your days getting validation. If you have a proclivity for promiscuity, you can hop on an app, go on a college town bar, or find a hooker online within minutes of searching, not to mention self-stimulation via pornography. Life is not a struggle for people who crave these sorts of experiences, but rather a never-ending carnival of delights. This may sound like a good thing, but because moderation is something that is both needed and uncommon, it is a nightmare for the majority of people. Whatever vices you have -- whether food, drugs, or sex -- those vices are always a few clicks away.

            Because base gratification is near-instant for the majority of neurotypicals, genuine introspection has suffered. If you have the normal urges and proclivities that caused the previous generations to work steady jobs and go out into the world to make something of themselves, you are now at a serious disadvantage. The barrier or rather friction between humans and pleasure that used to exist has been eroded at an increasingly exponential rate, turning motivations into perverse mechanisms that remove the need to be productive in order to be content in the short-term. This can easily be observed by looking around at the average individual in most modernized countries, a slovenly, lazy, unaware, and quite frankly stupid creature who is not able to comprehend cause and effect on a time-frame longer than a few days or months.

            Even though the majority of people have suffered because of this environment, there are those who have actually benefited: the genuinely anti-social. Imagine not having the same compulsions as most of the people around you, responding in a more muted manner to what brings the majority positive feelings. In the past, this sort of person would generally underperform as they were not responding properly (in the context of their environment) to incentives that drove those around them into working hard and achieving a good start to life and then a white picket fence, a beautiful wife, and happy, healthy kids. Now, these people are the ones who are doing well.

            The anti-social are those who are increasingly benefiting from social media and technology in general, because they are the ones who are not as caught up in the skinner box of dopamine flooding and social accolades. Their internal disconnect from communities, a disconnect that was once a severe disadvantage, has now become an advantage, because they are not as distracted by the insane amount of noise and toys that normal people are self-harming with. While others are taking cues from what they see as general consensus that are really just distorted and dishonest echo chambers, the anti-social with personal motivations are more easily able to discern truth from fiction and be less swayed by the number of shares or retweets generated by some opinion piece or news story.

           This is not to say that the anti-social are the Übermensch, but rather that the technologically integrated system that we find ourselves in is increasingly being optimized into a cage that preys upon the majority of people, the pro-social.

Because this system is not designed to take advantage of psychological flaws of the anti-social, but still accessible to the anti-social, this system is now functionally a lever for the anti-social to manipulate the pro-social in ways and at scales that weren’t possible in the past. The people who used to be outcasts, because of their lack of natural motivation rather than some personality flaw or physical deformity, are now the people who increasingly wield social and monetary influence. You can see this in effect especially well with regards to most successful tech CEOs, people who generally have some sort of abnormal wiring in the brain. They understand how normal people act even though they don’t act that way themselves, and are now enabled to interact with and take advantage of hundreds of thousands or millions of normal people with normal internal motivations.

            Where is all this headed? In the short-term (the next few generations), those who are anti-social are – and will continue to be -- experiencing a gold-rush of sorts. Because the anti-social used to be much less successful than the pro-social, there are very few anti-social individuals as compared to pro-social individuals. In the past, the pro-social individuals were those who would have good careers and get social accolades for “following the rules” and “fitting in”, and thus they were the ones more likely to breed and pass their internal dispositions onto offspring. For every anti-social individual who succeeded evolutionary and passed on their genes, there were many more pro-social individuals who succeeded and passed on their genes. Up until recently, the anti-social was a maladaption for first world environments where cooperation and group loyalty were highly beneficial. The incentive structure to life has changed dramatically and thus winners and losers have essentially been inverted from the “ideal” (what was conducive to success in the past) to the looked down upon (what is now conducive to success.)

            Eventually, some form of equilibrium to our reshuffled value system will be found. Much like over-fishing causes problems for fishers, the new predatory capabilities of the anti-social will eventually be nerfed in the form of the anti-social winners making up the majority of the population while the new pro-social losers make up a smaller, lower caste group of victims that are still taken advantage of, but not in the all-you-can eat buffet style that will be the norm for the foreseeable future. At that point, the anti-social individuals who make up the upper half (or more) of society will be forced to start designing systems and tools to take advantage of each other. A small taste of this in action can be observed with regards to “Social Media Experts” selling PDFs, seminars, and courses to other would-be “Social Media Experts”, which is generally (but not always) a tacit admission that the “Social Media Expert” in question is not actually good at social media, but rather taking advantage of would be predators who are also anti-social in nature. The parallel to this in the pro-social domain would be motivational speakers who do nothing but sell motivational speeches and don’t have anything to show for their motivational speeches except for getting people to pay for motivational speeches and fall under the category of a pro-social (usually) predator preying on pro-social individuals, knowingly or not.

            While we are now in the anti-social age, not all anti-social individuals will end up “winning” at life. As alluded to earlier, anti-social people are not perfect. In fact, because being anti-social was a losing strategy for most environments up until the very recent past, anti-social people generally have more self-destructive and mentally ill problems than those who are pro-social. As a result, you can see how there are many anti-social people who seem to do really well in the short term under our new reality, then implode due to some sort of fatal character flaw that makes them expend their energy in fatal manners. What is going to happen is that the anti-social people who are not deranged will succeed long term, while the anti-social people who have serious problems will succumb to those problems and remain losers like their ancestors, and most likely die out or end up only slightly better than their fathers and grandfathers did, despite the new opportunity for success.

            An important distinction that must be made is the reality of pro-social people who may seem anti-social at first. These are the people who are clinical narcissists, sociopaths, and those with bipolar disorder. While they struggle to be pro-social, they are ultimately not anti-social. They just tend to suck at what they want to do, and live a life full of misery and disappointment, no matter their material victories. Truly anti-social people do not have the urges that these people have, and though they may behave in a similar manner at times (distant, aloof, uncaring, unempathetic, shallow, and manipulative), the internal motivations of the genuinely anti-social are different (and lacking in that form of distress) than the internal motivations of the mentally ill pro-social. Where this group of mentally ill pro-social people will end up remains to be seen, but it will most likely be above the mentally healthy pro-social but well below the genuinely anti-social who do not suffer from self-destructive environmental maladaptation. This won’t matter much though, because these individuals will exist in a form of neurotic misery much like the current pro-social upper middle-class does, where they are constantly striving to be like their betters, and unable to do so, being that they are not wired in the same manner and do not truly understand the game that is being played or the internal motivations of those playing the game better than them.

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