One way of imagining the future is that you and I, the so-called current generation, will selfishly party until we die, leaving to our children nothing but crushing debt, a boiling turd of a planet, and various Apple products. The problem with this analysis is that young adults have most of the guns and muscles. So isn’t the younger generation complicit in stealing from itself?
Imagine a 20-something, muscular thug on the street, with a loaded gun in his waistband. A 60-year old banker with a bad back waddles up to him and says, “Give me your wallet!” The thug reaches past his gun and hands over his wallet. That’s how our society is organized. I’m not complaining, since I have more in common with the banker than the thug.
In theory, the young soldiers in any country could collectively decide that they deserve most of the national wealth and then simply take it. If you think that sounds like a crime, assume that the first thing the soldiers could do is force lawmakers to rewrite the laws. If you think that sounds unethical, I would argue that the people who take the most physical and mental risks for the benefit of society should get the most pay. That seems perfectly reasonable and moral to me. And let’s assume the soldiers are smart enough to leave enough money in the capitalist system that it still works. Perhaps the CEO of a major corporation would only earn $250K per year. If he wants more, he can join the Navy.
I only bring this up because I’m fascinated by the degree to which brains have evolved to become more powerful than guns. Society’s founding geniuses engineered a social system that encourages the young people who have guns to shoot at each other instead of robbing old people. Forgive me for calling that awesome.
Arguably, the most important function of human language is to protect the smart from the strong. Humans use words to create sentences, and sentences to create concepts, such as our notions of duty and honor. Powerful concepts control behavior.
Without our language and concepts, the strong would kill the smart, and humans wouldn’t evolve to be any smarter. I think you could say that human evolution is being guided at least partly by the power of ideas.
I can’t remember if I had a point.