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Complex Adaptive Strategy: The Process of Exploitation

My main goal for creating art is an attempt at addressing and altering the very nature of humanity through an auto-visual ethnographic lens. My psychogeographies reflect the barriers of industry, technology, and the modern age of commercialization created by our advancements. It is these very advancements, of course, which were created by our constraints and incentive to survive. However, this line of thinking is at least 60 million years old. It helped us survive famine, war, disease, and drought, but it brought with it so much worse with regards to the future of the human race and the Earth. In the year 2016, do we really have to keep this evolutionary trait as an adaptive strategy?

First things first: Is human nature inherently constrained? Our ancestors practiced cynegetics as a complex adaptive strategy. In fact, “…humans and their immediate ancestors have lived on the earth for more than 4 million years, and for more than 99% of that time, they grew no food” (Bates 2006,p.56) . Tactics such as: resource diversity, specialized tool technology, social reciprocity, violence, and a limited expenditure work ethic were all part of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. All these devices of evolution required incentive. These evolutionary maneuvers are constrained by their design and are the reason for the human revolution, a wide Rubicon.

But how is that different from any other species which technically forages to survive? First thing to remember is that “…the modern Hominids…developed a…sophistication in hunting and gathering” that involved cooperation, specialized tools, as well as social tradition and environmental knowledge”(Bates, 2006, p.56). As Homo Habilis struggled to adapt to their new environment of the shrinking jungles and expanding grasslands, the incentive grew stronger. Not only did this motivate our ancestors to survive, but it trained them to survive in a particular manner.

Most compelling is their “low energy budget” diet. This diet was based on the least amount of energy expended to attain subsistence (2005, p.61). From a biological standpoint, this is an adaptive strategy; that is to say, in order to survive, it was necessary to lose the least amount of energy while collecting foods which barely sustained the caloric needs of the individual. Only that which offered the highest rewards was worth effort: collecting foods, making tools to collect foods, and protecting oneself from predators and the elements alike. Under those circumstances, the need for an incentive to produce work was in direct proportion to their minimal subsistence need.

This low expenditure work ethic has been studied within modern communities which still practice a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. For instance, the modern society of the !Kung which support themselves in the area of Botswana in Southern Africa; for them, “…adaptability is the key to their success,”(Shostak, 1981, p. 7). They maintain themselves through relatively simple tools and a vast historical knowledge of their environment. Overall, they spend more time relaxing within the community than they do working. The incentive for them is survival, but through minimal effort. Therefore, this incentive is reflected more in their unwillingness to work harder than necessary in order to maintain a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Generally, the social patterns, as seen in modern foraging societies, are egalitarian. Reciprocity as a balanced exchange tends to create an idea of sharing for the sake of sharing, Through the constrained vision, this exchange is not more than a barter for survival. That is to day, in order to increase the amount of diversity of resources, exchange was necessary. Even though this system can be “ induced to produce benefits for others…[they are ]…for reasons ultimately reduced to self-interest”(Sowell, 1987, p. 14). The egalitarian system embraced this system of trade, allowing for simple need to be the incentive.

Even our dearest forefathers birthed this great nation under this very assumption. Science was getting to be pretty hip at the time, and people such as Thomas Hobbs, Charles Darwin, Mendel, Thomas Malthus, Marx, and Thomas Sowell came to affect such contracts as the Constitution of the United States. Adam Smith knew that human nature was constrained and required incentives; ones that would match the era. He believed that given certain institutions, we can some how achieve prosperity through capitalism or state socialism. in short, by offering our citizens,(well at least the white male Christians over 35) the incentive to make money,they would be delighted at being constrained by laws and rules and regulations.

Alas, in the year 2016, need we be constrained by our incentives alone? Also, can we, as conscious humans, change our adaptive strategy to fit that which we scientifically know we need to do opposed to our instinctual traditional system? Capitalism has constrained our incentives by this low energy budget, but in a commercial sense. Simple economics reflects how capitalists expect more resource aka product for as little expenditure as possible. This system is not based on balanced reciprocity but that of an imbalance, in favor of the driver.

In Summary, our ancestors practiced the complex adaptive strategy of foraging for nearly “90 percent of the one hundred thousand years of human existence”(Shostak, 1981, pg.3). Theses stratagems included resource diversity, balanced reciprocity, limited energy expenditure. These schemes are based on a system of trade-offs. As these behaviors were continually adapted to exploit the environment for survival, they allowed for the evolution of the human species. In short, due to our human nature being constrained by the need for incentives, humans as a species were able to evolve, but not without learning the process of exploitation.

Why are we still using this system? I do give the system props for getting us so far, but it has evolved into the incentivization of a commercial market hell bent on the exploitation of its consumers.

Bates,D. (2006). Foraging. In Human strategies:Ecology, culture, and politics. (pp.56-86). Boston, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon.

Shostak, M. (1981). Nisa, the life and words of a!Kung woman. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press

Sowell, T. (1987). A conflict of visions. New York: W. Morrow

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