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In the Company of Bears by Benjamin Kilham

In the Company of Bears by Benjamin Kilham

Author:Benjamin Kilham
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 978-1-60358-600-9
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Published: 2013-10-20T16:00:00+00:00


In our world things are much more complicated, and perceptions of fairness are a lot less exact. Today, when people think about a contract, we think about a legal document that holds two individuals or entities to an agreement that has been negotiated with the use of language. These contracts are rigid and precise and allow for intervention by a third party, a judge, if one of the parties fails to live up to the terms. While our judicial system and advanced means of accounting allow us to trade goods and services without stirring our moral compass, we still make and resolve social contracts based on unwritten or spoken expectations. Actions still dictate compliance. When one person’s actions defy another’s expectations, raw emotional outbursts still define the terms of unwritten or spoken social contracts or agreements.

On a daily and often an hourly basis, we calculate the terms of the social contracts of those we interact with. From cradle to grave, we negotiate our position in life. Often, we don’t do this with intent; we just do it. Despite our refinements, there is a quite a lot of the behavior that drives Squirty in all of us.

Human success, I believe, like bear social behavior, grew out of our ability to access and share surplus resources in times of need outside conventional home ranges. This ability is still the basis of our success as we trade for goods from all over the world. It seems logical that as tool use increased, the quality of our foods improved, and our populations grew, so did the number of individuals that each human cooperated with. As a result, social complexity and need for social control would have grown as well. With this came the need for and ease of forming coalitions. Coalitions form easily among cooperators as they all benefit from sharing, and they can and have formed among family and friends without the benefit of formal language.

It also seems logical that the cost of an increase in cooperators was an equivalent increase in individuals who perceived inequities and acted upon their perceptions. This increasing social complexity would have been adequate evolutionary pressure for better communication, social order, and a corresponding increase in brain size.

Consider for a moment that it took five hundred million years to develop the kind of social behavior found in our pre-hominin relatives before increasing technology allowed us to develop sustained surpluses. The density of their populations was limited by their access to resources; social behavior developed to maintain control and access to a limited amount of food. Each additional individual, at this early time, made a dramatic increase to the social complexity and created an evolutionary pressure for change. With better means to communicate, we would have been able to form larger and larger coalitions. Unfortunately, regardless of size, coalitions wield much more power than individuals, but, like an individual, they have the ability to perceive, judge, and take action. Within these coalitions there can be as many opinions as



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