When hundreds of cats started to hang out in front of one man's apartment building in Aleppo, Syria, Mohammad Alaa Ajaleel decided it was his lot to take care of the cats of war. So the electrician-turned-ambulance driver built a cat sanctuary-slash-children's-playground amongst the rubble. “My role as a rescuer is not to differentiate between those who need help,” Aljaleel said. “To love the small, weak cats is to love everything.” Alaa's love is energetic: in the last months he's built a well to help his neighbors access clean water, saved a girl in his volunteer ambulance(content warning: graphic), and had multiple children's parties, inside when necessary, outside in the sanctuary when a cease-fire permitted it. [more inside]
Dictyostelium discoideum - dicty to its friends - has long been recognized as the world's most fascinating slime mold. A (previously) has a good introduction from a decade ago. You might be fascinated by their life cycle, which goes from individual cells, to animal-like slug, to plant-like fruiting body. You might be fascinated by their starvation-prompted altruism, in which most cells give up their lives so that a few can reproduce, and cheaters are punished. You might be fascinated by the way they farm and protect their crops. (Or maybe the farmed bacteria are farming them; it's hard to tell.) Or you might be fascinated by a brand new study about the DNA nets they use to trap and kill pathogens.
"Julia is a do-gooder – which is to say, a human character who arouses conflicting emotions. By 'do-gooder' here I do not mean a part-time, normal do-gooder – someone who has a worthy job, or volunteers at a charity, and returns to an ordinary family life in the evenings. I mean a person who sets out to live as ethical a life as possible. I mean a person who is drawn to moral goodness for its own sake. I mean someone who commits himself wholly, beyond what seems reasonable. I mean the kind of do-gooder who makes people uneasy."
Can evolution explain acts of kindness, and morality? [The Guardian]
We arranged a debate between a sceptical Tom Stoppard and the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. Stuart Jeffries acted as referee. We arranged for the two to meet recently in the grand boardroom of Wilson’s London publishers to discuss their differences, and reflect on two hard problems – what is the proper scope of science, and what is it to be human.
Some Paths to the True Knowledge[*] - "Attention conservation notice: A 5000+ word attempt to provide real ancestors and support for an imaginary ideology I don't actually accept, drawing on fields in which I am in no way an expert. Contains long quotations from even-longer-dead writers, reckless extrapolation from arcane scientific theories, and an unwarranted tone of patiently explaining harsh, basic truths. Altogether, academic in one of the worst senses. Also, spoilers for several of MacLeod's novels, notably but not just The Cassini Division. Written for, and cross-posted to, Crooked Timber's seminar on MacLeod, where I will not be reading the comments."
Entrepreneur sets $70,000 year minimum wage for all his employees Dan Price, the owner of a credit card processing company, came across an article showing that making much less than $75,000/yr. greatly diminished the emotional well-being of earners, and decided to do something about it. He's embarked on a three year plan to increase the salaries of all employees making under $70,000, which for some of them will be double their current wages.
Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? [Adam] Grant, 31, is the youngest-tenured and highest-rated professor at Wharton.... Grant might not seem so different from any number of accessible and devoted professors on any number of campuses, and yet when you witness over time the sheer volume of Grant’s commitments, and the way in which he is able to follow through on all of them, you start to sense that something profoundly different is at work. Helpfulness is Grant’s credo.... For Grant, helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity. In some sense, he has built a career in professional motivation by trying to unpack the puzzle of his own success. He has always helped; he has always been productive. How, he has wondered for most of his professional life, does the interplay of those two factors work for everyone else? [more inside]
Dr. Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist and expert in the psychology of superheroes, has conducted a new study showing that having people fly like Superman in a virtual-reality simulator makes them act more heroic in real life.
Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides from Radiolab's morality episode: "try to answer tough moral quandaries. The questions--which force you to decide between homicidal scenarios--are the same ones being asked by Dr. Joshua Greene. He'll tell us about using modern brain scanning techniques to take snapshots of the brain as it struggles to resolve these moral conflicts. And he'll describe what he sees in these images: quite literally, a battle taking place in the brain. It's 'inner chimp' versus a calculator-wielding rationale."
Start Your Own Currency - "In the Catalonia region of Spain, a restaurant and a community garden are part of an experiment in alternative cash--they are accepting a home-grown currency called the Eco as well as the Euro." [viz. gated article (Google link), cf. The Wörgl Experiment]
Steven Pinker on the "False Allure of Group Selection", with comments by Daniel Dannett, Stewart Brand, and others. Richard Dawkins's take on group selection. Jerry Coyne's take.
At Norma's cafe in Farmers Branch Texas the results of the Primetime show "What would you do?" brings tears to the eyes of its actors [more inside]
SciAm takes a look at the fine line between clinical pyschopaths and real-life superheroes. Related: Addicted to Being Good
The Price of Altruism - George Price, a (troubled) father of group selection thru his discovery of the eponymous Price Equation, has a rather interesting biography... [more inside]
The Birth of Sharing Law and the Rise of Co-ops - "A new sharing economy is emerging — but how does it fit within our legal system? Time for a whole new field of cooperation law." (via wc)
A New Career of Caring, Started in Death on 9/11. Brooke Jackman was a 23 year-old assistant bond trader who was one of 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees to die on the morning of 9/11/2001. In her memory, her family created a Foundation in her name, dedicated to promoting literacy, especially among elementary school children in New York City. Today, 'first responders' from New York's Police and Fire Departments "took some time off from their day jobs to read aloud to children at the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan, as part of the first ever Brooke Jackman Foundation read-a-thon." [more inside]
"Out of the blue, in the middle of a recession, the phone rang. What would it cost, the caller asked the founder of DonorsChoose.org, to fund every California teacher's wish list posted on the Web site? The founder, Charles Best, thought perhaps the female caller would hang up when he tossed out his best guess: "Something over $1 million," he told her. A day later, Hilda Yao, executive director of the Claire Giannini Fund mailed a check of more than $1.3 million to cover the entire California wish list, 2,233 projects in all, with an extra $100,000 tossed in to help pay for other teacher needs across the country. (DonorsChoose: previously on MeFi) [more inside]
"Sure, Bono and Richard Branson can change the world. But there are millions of individuals making a difference who are not rich or famous." The Christian Science Monitor's ongoing Making a Difference section focuses on "that unheralded community – 'to honor the decency and courage and selflessness that surround us.'” [more inside]
Giving away $10 every day to a different stranger for a year isn't as easy as it sounds, but Reed Sandridge is attempting to do just that, for a project he's calling "The Year of Giving." He then documents their stories and what they plan to do with the money on his blog. [more inside]
What if our economy was not built on competition? Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom talks about her work on cooperation in economics. [more inside]
Love Thy Neighbor: Why Have We Become So Suspicious Of Kindness? Most people, as they grow up now, secretly believe that kindness is a virtue of losers. But agreeing to talk about winners and losers is part and parcel of the phobic avoidance, the contemporary terror, of kindness. Because one of the things the enemies of kindness never ask themselves - and this is now an enemy within all of us - is why we feel it at all. Why are we ever, in any way, moved to be kind to other people, not to mention to ourselves? Why does kindness matter to us?
Why should you risk your own life to save another human being? Maybe altruism in innate, like a bird's pretty song, or is it something that must be learned?
"From a review of the anthropological and evolutionary literatures [Edge.org]... there were three best candidates for being additional psychological foundations of morality [embedded video], beyond harm/care and fairness/justice. These three we label as ingroup/loyalty (which may have evolved from the long history of cross-group or sub-group competition...); authority/respect (which may have evolved from the long history of primate hierarchy, modified by cultural limitations on power and bullying...), and purity/sanctity, which may be a much more recent system, growing out of the uniquely human emotion of disgust, which seems to give people feelings that some ways of living and acting are higher, more noble, and less carnal than others. [more inside]
You are most welcome. sigh. Bill Gates must feel like several billion dollars.
evolution of cooperation apparently the evolution of cooperative behavior has been something of a rough spot for evolution researchers. Some guys (Mikhail Burtsev & Peter Turchin) developed a computer simulation that helps to explain how the essential selfishness of survival is not mutually exclusive to altruism and cooperation as well as how these behaviors can arise naturally. (further reading from google: ###)
An evolutionary basis for altruism. These findings suggest that true altruism, far from being a maladaptation, may be the key to our species' success by providing the social glue that allowed our ancestors to form strong, resilient groups. Sharing isn't just caring, it's surviving.
The U.S should not help tsunami victims according to those ever-thoughtful fellows at the Ayn Rand Institute. Why not? Because, Objectively speaking, altruism is evil, especially collective altruism.
Anger plays a key role in human cooperation. And not only that, anger is altruistic! The link covers a behavioral experiment probing individual versus group benefits, freeloading, punishment and altruism.