Survival Of The Fittest
Once upon a time there was no life on Earth. Then something happened (aliens, meteor, lightning, hand of God, etc.) and there was a life form. Maybe a bunch. But they were very simple. They needed to eat, or get some kind of energy from their environment. And for some weird reason, they made copies of themselves.
The ones that made the most copies made the most copies. This sounds redundant, I know. But one thing you need to do to make a lot of copies of yourself is that all the copies need to eat as well. And if you have some another type of entity making copies, it’s going to get crowded.
Competition For Resources
Pretty soon some of these living entities were doing pretty well, and others weren’t doing well. The ones that did well ended up running the joint. The ones that didn’t do well just kind of vanished. Ever since living entities existed, and they had to compete for scarce resources, the game was on. Whoever was best at getting those resources won, whoever sucked at getting those resources lost.
Biological Fight For Survival
On a biological level, this idea of survival of the fittest makes sense. We can define this in a very basic way as “might makes right.” Both those terms, “might” and “right” are pretty vague, and can be used to describe a lot. What would they mean to a couple of groups of animals fighting for survival?
Might Equals Survival Ability
Say you’ve got a couple of groups of predators living in the same area. A couple of street gangs trying to control the territory. Whoever controls the territory gets to eat all the smaller animals in the territory. How do they “fight” for survival?
They can’t really meet up downtown and have a rumble. If they spend too much time fighting each other, they won’t have any energy left to hunt and eat and live and reproduce. So they fight another way. They evolve to become much more resourceful. They hunt more effectively. They reproduce a little bit more quickly. A couple thousand years go by, and only one of them is left.
So in this case, “might” equals survival ability, which boils down to being more efficient at hunting prey and protecting their turf than the other clowns who weren’t so efficient.
Right Equals Existence
In this crude and oversimplified example, if might means survival ability, the right means they exist, while those who aren’t strong enough (aren’t mighty enough) don’t survive. How “might” is exerted can take on many shapes and forms. But if we look closely enough, we’ll see this ancient idea, of might making right, rear its head over and over and over again.
The most famous group (or the most extensively studied) of people that still live like neolithic hunter-gatherers are the Yanomami of the Brazilian rainforest. For these guys, might most definitely makes right. Being passive is not a survival skill. There is a strong correlation between kills and kids.
Whenever these guys meet another tribe, they either trade, or they fight. Sometimes they sneak in to the other guys’ camp and steal their stuff, and their women. Those who are the most vicious have more kids. There is a strong correlation between any given members kill rate (of another tribe’s members) and the number of kids or even wives he has.
It’s pretty easy to see how the old might makes right rule works in companies. In a purely free market, a company’s might would equate to it’s ability to create products that are in demand. Their ability to quickly and effectively respond to evolving customer needs. To advertise effectively and maintain a strong ROI in the face of ever-changing competition.
In a very real way, two companies competing for the same customers in a free market is very much like two groups of predators competing for food in the same area. Whoever does it most effectively, most efficiently will survive, and thrive. Those who don’t will eventually vanish. This isn’t to say that free market companies are predatory, not in the least. The only way a company can survive on the free market is through the continued, and most importantly, voluntary purchases by consumers.
Industrial Complex Related Companies
We can define Industrial Complexes as companies who leverage their connections to the government. Once a company gets big enough, it’s got some options. It can spend a few million on advertising, or R&D (to create more products) or it can spend that same few million lobbying congress. It’s only concern is positive ROI. If it can get more bang for its buck in lobbying congress, that’s what it’ll do.
In the realm of businesses that are capable of doing so, survival of the fittest (might makes right) means being the most effective lobbyist of those who make our laws (including laws that require us to buy certain products).
This one is easy. The strongest win the game, the weakest don’t. But this isn’t only a factor of athletic skill and intelligence.This is also an aspect of team building and long term planning. Even at the high school level, the team is dependent on many factors besides just the players. Coaches, budgets, local support, all play a factor of who is the mightiest.
Being mighty in politics is a very subtle business. Often it equates to being the most elegant with your promises. Or being the best at tapping into the angst of the people. But being passive and weak never won anybody any elections. Even honest politicians need to be able to look the enemy squarely in the eye and effectively muster the support of the people to defeat them.
Mighty Vs Honesty
What about telling soft truth vs. telling bold lies? We can imagine two people in a debate. One who is soft spoken, yet tells the truth. Another who cleverly twists the truth but delivers these with elegance and persuasion. One only has to watch videos of Hitler to see this in action. Even with the sound turned down we can see how craftily he whipped the Germans into a frenzy.
What about us as people? Can we hope to escape the might makes right trap? Let’s look over a few examples. We all start out in school. Who gets the most recognition in school? The kid with the best grades. Or the best attendance. Or who raises her hand the most when teacher asks a question. It’s pretty plain to see that “might” in a classroom setting means having a keen memory and being punctual. Whoever does it the best, gets the most rewards.
Humans are very hierarchical. The more you are up the food chain, the better results you get. In chimps, there is a strong positive correlation between social status and food, as well as between social status and sex.
When it comes to romance, it’s easy to see how the higher one is up the food chain (the mightier one is) the more of the rewards one gets. Taking a cursory look at our long evolution (we split from chimps about six million years ago) we can see how having high social status is an asset in almost every conceivable area.
What is work but a competition? Whoever makes the biggest impact on the bottom line. Whoever can be the most productive. Whoever can learn the newest equipment or software the fastest. This does make sense. We work for businesses that (hopefully) earn a profit. Whoever makes the biggest contribution to the company’s bottom line will get the most rewards.
Want to escape the rat race and teach for a living? The law of might makes right will be happy to accompany you. If you’re working at a high school, you’ll eventually get tenure just like anybody else. But if you want to work at a really good high school, where the students get good grades, mostly have two parents at home, and don’t try to kill you while you teach, you’d better have a pretty good (well above average) resume!
If you teach at the college level, and you hope to get tenure, you’ll need to demonstrate some serious academic ladder climbing skills. And if you do ever manage to get tenure, you’ll need to keep researching and keep publishing. And in case you’ve never been an editor, getting published at the top academic journals ain’t easy! There’s a lot of competition! (And we know what that means!)
Getting Grant Money
Suppose you wanted to get a couple mil from the government (maybe to prove all this might makes right stuff is BS!) you’d have to compete with all the other academic goofs asking for free government money. And once you get that grant money, you’d better come up with some theory or idea that will help (and not hurt) your government overlords!
There are many ways to respond to both the idea itself as well as the manifestation of might makes right. We’ll go over a few common ones and make some recommendations. We all have more or less the same overall game plan. Get in the game, get as much as we can for as little effort as possible, and have as much fun doing so in the process.
Ignorance Is Bliss
One way is to simply ignore any might makes right behaviors from others or from society itself. Many people can arguably say that it doesn’t apply to them. They just want to show up, do their job, get paid and be left alone. That is a perfectly legitimate and rational response. So long as you get your needs met and you are enjoying life, no need to mess with what isn’t broken.
Another common tactic is to address competition when it arises, but only do as little as possible. There are plenty of conflicts, legal and illegal, moral and immoral, major and micro. Many people might not feel comfortable explaining to a hiring manager why they are better for the job than everybody else. Many don’t even like getting into a full elevator and are content to wait patiently for the next one.
Don’t Become A Mark
One thing to be careful of is being transparent with your lack of boundaries. Once people realize you don’t put up much of a fight, they can interpret that as an invitation to walk all over you whenever possible. This is not a happy situation if you are in a personal, romantic, or work relationship with folks who don’t respect your boundaries.
Embrace The Competition
One way to respond is to simply accept that life is all about competition. We all have unlimited desires, yet we are surrounded by limited resources. Even our ancient hunter-gatherer egalitarian ancestors had to go out and kill animals every day that most certainly did not want to be killed.
(And if we’re being honest, most plants would probably rather just sit there soaking up sunshine that getting chewed up and passed through our digestive system. Imagine one day you’re vegetable, happy as a punch, looking forward to falling into the soil and making another plant, when next think you know you’ve been transformed into human poop that is being flushed down the toilet!)
Every time you walk into a supermarket with a specific amount of cash to spend, all the items for sale are, in a sense, competing for you money. If you are a regular at any local shop, the shop owners no doubt would very much like you to spend more money, while you would rather get more for less money.
One way accept the never ending competition is to equally embrace never ending growth. Never ending improvement in your skills. In many work environments, this is absolutely necessary. New technology is always being invented, and just like the Red Queen, you’ve got to keep running just to stay in place.
Fighting as a team is preferable to going it alone. Having friends to share the fight with makes it much easier, and with the economies of scale, you can keep adding people to your team and become a formidable fighting force in whatever competition you find yourselves in.
In another post (here) we illustrated the absolute necessity for trial and error learning. In an ever evolving world filled with might makes right competitors, consistent learning is critical. One way to learn is to retreat and lick your wounds after every battle, but to also study what went wrong.
Every defeat can offer deep insights, should you be willing to accept them. In that regard, every battle, be it small and inconsequential, or the sales presentation of a lifetime, can provide incredibly valuable information, but only to those willing to actively seek it.
Increase Your Failure Rate
The founding president of Sony was asked how small companies can increase their success rate, and he answered that it was simple. All you need to do is double your failure rate. If you gain valuable information with every failure, then the more small and measured failures you make (which necessarily require a small amount of risk) the faster you will eventually succeed. The more you play the game, the better you’ll play.
Study The Competition
Much of today’s competition leaves everything out in the open for all to see. Ever since one caveman saw another caveman make a spear, that spear was copied and improved upon. You might want to steer clear of any overt copyright violations, but if you can copy it, copy it. This goes individually, socially, and in business.
All’s Fair In Love And War
While you don’t want to make any overt enemies, you don’t need to be overly polite if it ends up being an invitation for the enemy to walk all over you. Play the game to win, and use any strategic asset you can get your hands on, physically and metaphorically.
Enjoy The Battle
Once you get over your pre game jitters and get out there and get some, the game itself is pretty enjoyable. Whether you are playing online video games, trying to get a promotion at work, or fighting for the heart of your girl, the game is where it’s at. Gorillas can afford to lounge around all day and eat grass. Humans are hunters.
Always Be Hunting
One way to keep your instincts sharp is to always have something in your future you are closing in on. For our ancient ancestors, this was those wooly mammoths that kept running away. For you this can be anything from a weight loss goal to an educational goal to a new piece of property you’ve got your eye on.
If you are always chasing something that is just out of reach, you will always be living up to your full potential. And as long as you are chasing something, somebody else is as well. Choose your prey carefully, always embrace the competition, and get in there and get some.
Mind Persuasion has plenty of books and courses all designed to help you get much more out of life with much less effort.