Friday, October 26, 2007

Crazy Sexy Cancer...that's the name of a show.

So the old ball and chain made me sit through the tail-end of this lifetime wanna be show about some ladies and their dealings with breast cancer. It caught my attention because one of the closing arguments of the show was that 'cancer can be a catalyst for something wonderful' or some such hokitude.

In typical Seth fashion I remarked 'It's not the cancer, its the fear of death that motivates people to change' and of course Jonesy told me that one of the girls had already said so.

Boo hoo on that. Fear is a powerful motivator, it certainly starts a lot of people on a path towards jogging. However it is amazing to me how complex fear reactions can become when people and culture mix and mingle at certain densities.

Consider the following problem: Billy gets three dollars a week for allowance. He wants to save up for a bike that costs fifty dollars. however Billy also spends 1 dollar a week buying candy. If he starts with ten dollars how many weeks will go by before he can get the bike? How much faster could he get the bike if he stopped buying candy every week?

Now I didn't bother to actually answer that problem. For one thing word problems always struck me as stupidly simplistic. There are ALWAYS outside variables to consider. Billy might find some cash lying around or pilfer the loose change from his dad's change dish. He could steal some dough or loan out his ten bucks to a weaker kid and charge interest. Maybe he gives up on candy for a few weeks but snaps one day and spends five dollars on candy instead of one. Hell its more likely he'd give up after a while and just buy a shit load of candy to forget about the bike.

All that's just silliness of course. However its interesting to look at a simple money problem and expand it just a little bit. Doing simple dollars and cents arithmetic is a good learning tool for kids but trying to extrapolate some of the more arcane financial complexities? That takes genius, or evil, or probably both.

Fear strikes me as a similar feature of human life. Consider the effects of fear as a survival tool. You see something that can eat you, you run away. Case closed. Well not so fast, there are other things to fear. Hunger, thirst, cold, heat, disease, boredom and [lump of social fears] are all pretty terrifying to most humans.

But like money, fear can become very interesting if we manipulate it just a little. Back to the original example. Maybe you are afraid of something that can eat you. Maybe you're so afraid you just crap yourself and freeze up (thus you get eaten.) Consider still that you are afraid enough to run away and save yourself but the fear remains with you. That eater is still out there somewhere. I must kill it to truly be safe, one might think. Now if you were an ancient human who managed to kill something that could eat you there is also a BONUS!!! Odds are good that the eater was an animal. And animals are made of meat. Meat is food. Food is good.

Now man has the option to gamble with his fear. If he wins, he kills a predator thus protecting himself and getting some nasty carnivore meat. If he loses, the carnivore gets some tasty human meat. So it all balances out.

However the more people that are killing dangerous animals the few animals there are to kill. SO the prey becomes stronger and can multiply more freely. But that means that people need more food. People are afraid to run out of food so they more actively hunt but this still only leaves enough food for a small number of people.

Enter agriculture. Hey guys, some one says. Lets stop chasing these stupid animals around for food. We can just plant this stuff, stay here and keep an eye on it, and we'll have ten times the food we could get otherwise. No doubt some laughed at the early attempts at agriculture. It was probably a gradual enterprise but for this case we'll pretend a group of people tried it and another very similar group did not.

It is tough work growing food. I couldn't do it without hating a good part of my life and something tells me most people couldn't either. But Group A grows their grain and Group B does not. One hundred years later Group A's descendants have become twenty times more numerous that the descendants of group B.

[Human history up to this point]

So that turned out really choppy and I don't even feel like going back to edit it into some semblance of coherent thought. It all made sense in my head but oh well. Next post I will just tell another swimming story.

No comments: