Tuesday, 20 September 2016


As I have tried to show in an earlier post (1), liberal progressivism, the dominant paradigm of social organization today, is in demographic, military (note that the USA has not won a protracted land war since the Korean conflict in the 1950s) and possibly civilizational decline owing to excessive indulgence of its core mantra which can be summarized as “the underdog is always right”.

I have proposed an alternative called Tark Marg (2) (“Path of Reason” in Sanskrit). The basic idea is that all individual instincts and social norms can be traced back to an impulse for individual and collective self-perpetuation. While traditional norms also point towards self-perpetuation, their dogmatic nature means that they often become obsolete or counter-productive due to a rapidly changing social context (analogous to the current spikes in obesity/allergy). Thus there is a need for an explicit statement enshrining self-perpetuation as the primary parameter when judging right from wrong. Application of this parameter to recent socio-political developments suggests that many are erroneous (2). In this post I attempt to further develop a systematic Tark Marg frame of reference. The process yields interesting results, such as a derivation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs using the Tark Marg framework.

This post is divided into 3 sections:

1) Laying out a framework to organize the world around us

2) Deriving general rules and features of the framework, and

3) Applying these to selected questions, such as who is or isn’t part of society, conditions for cooperation (e.g. society formation, trade etc) or coercion such as wars, revolutions, colonization, genocide etc.

In section 3 particularly I shall look askance at some holy cows (literal and metaphorical). These are loaded topics around which there are numerous taboos and absolutist “end-of-history” opinions. Yet taboos and “eternally-settled” norms change with surprising regularity. All societies program their citizens to react with automatic vitriol to certain ideas. Yet I beg readers to objectively consider whether it is the programming, not the ideas to follow, which is erroneous.

Lastly, I freely admit that this is an evolving framework and could be greatly improved. I hope readers will point out how.


1.1 Y AXIS:

Let’s develop a Cartesian frame of reference to start with. As self-perpetuation is the sole parameter of importance (2), underlying individual instincts, social norms etc, self-perpetuation is our dependent variable, on the Y axis. The question of what exactly the “self” to be perpetuated is, whether it’s genetic, cultural, linguistic, religious etc or a composite thereof is a matter for a later post; for now let’s assume that the term means the same thing to everyone in practical terms. How may self-perpetuation, the Y axis parameter be measured and quantified? Again, for simplicity, I shall use a subjective Y axis, divided into self-perpetuation gains (depicted as positive) and losses (negative) with 3 degrees of intensity, mild, moderate and major. Thus the Y axis looks somewhat as below:

Figure 1, Y or “Effect” Axis:

Figure 1 Legend: The Y axis depicts possible self-perpetuation outcomes of any given event or action.
The sole method available to oneself to influence this outcome is one’s efforts, which will be represented on the X axis.

1.2 X AXIS:

The X axis parameter “effort” can be represented in “absolute” terms of one’s time, or currency etc. However, as for the Y axis, I shall use subjective terms like mild, moderate and major effort for the moment. These efforts can be in support or opposition to the entity/object being considered. Thus, I have numbered them from -3 (major effort against a given entity), -2 (moderate effort against), -1 (mild effort against), 0 (ignore, be unconcerned about??), 1 (mild effort in favor), 2 (moderate effort in favor) and 3 (major effort in favor).

Figure 2, X (effort) axis:

Figure 2 Legend: A classification of all possible efforts towards other entities/objects. Numbers indicates pro (+) or con (-) inclination and the magnitude (1-3) of that effort towards a given entity.

Putting the X and Y axes together, we get a framework with which we can represent the self-perpetuation outcome of any given action.

Figure 3, Effect and Effort Axes:

Figure 3 Legend: The amount of effort involved in a given interaction with any entity will be plotted on the X axis while the corresponding self-perpetuation effect will be plotted on the Y axis.

We can use the above frame of reference to empirically chart the self-perpetuation benefit (Y axis value) associated with a given amount of effort (X axis value) towards a given entity. I’ll somewhat immodestly name such charts as “Tark Charts”. A couple of examples are shown below.


1.3.1 Tark Chart for major pathogens:

Let's look at something unambiguous to start with, like polio virus or the malaria parasite, from the perspective of an average society. While the exact numerical values are my subjective guesstimates, the overall trend should be generally similar. Let’s say an approximately -1.5 effort on the X axis (e.g. vaccination, sanitation etc), should lead to an almost complete eradication of these well-studied pathogens, corresponding to, say, about a +2.5 on the Y axis, beyond which the benefit will plateau out. A passive approach (0) will lead to significant mortality (let’s say about -1 or -2 on the Y axis), while having a positive attitude towards these deadly pathogens is unthinkable, because it is virtually calling for extinction (highly negative Y axis value). The resulting graph should look something like this:

FIGURE 4, Tark Chart for major pathogens:

Figure 4 Legend: For deadly pathogens like the malaria parasite or polio virus, the application of substantial efforts required for eradication yields major self-perpetuation (Purpose) benefits (point -2, 2.5). An ignorant or agnostic attitude with cause significant perpetuation loss (0, -1.5), while a favorable attitude is so harmful for perpetuation as to be unthinkable. Note that the exact values are speculative, and will vary, but the general trend is illustrative.

1.3.2 Tark Chart for Fellow Citizens:

In contrast to the above parasites, the curve is totally different for fellow citizens from an individual’s perspective. A hostile approach towards fellow citizens (say about -2 on the effort axis), whose average capacity is likely similar to one’s own and who will be much more numerous, is certain to invite severe retaliation which will lead to a very low Y (~ -2.5) for oneself. Neglect of basic duties like paying taxes or participating in social life (0 on the X axis) will also be associated with a negative outcome on the Y axis. On the other hand, cooperation with one’s fellow citizens is essential to obtaining the basic necessities of life as well as other benefits like mutual protection, help during times of need, collaborative scientific advancement etc. Thus the slope of a Tark Chart for an individual’s interaction with fellow citizens in a society is decidedly upwards. I’ve depicted this scenario below. As before, while the exact values are guesses, the general trend should be similar.

Figure 5, Tark Chart for Fellow Citizens.

Figure 5 Legend: The slope of cooperation with fellow citizens is unambiguously upward trending.

These charts demonstrate that different entities give sharply different self-perpetuation outcomes in return for similar efforts. With this point in mind, what general principles may be derived? I present some views below. Note that these are rules of thumb based on my subjective observation, and are not infallible.


2.1: Capacity for effort is limited and must be expended carefully.

Obviously, the total amount of effort that any entity can apply is finite. Let’s denote the total capacity of entity E as CE. At the same time, as discussed before, the goal of all entities (implicitly promoted by instincts and social norms) is to maximize the self-perpetuation (Y axis) value. Thus, the issue before any entity, particularly a rational one as Tark Marg assumes, is to expend its effort capacity CE in a manner which maximizes its self-perpetuation.

In other words, the entity must choose a series of efforts (i.e. expenditures of its total Capacity CE)  (X1, X2, X3…) towards entity/object 1, 2, 3 and so on, such that |X1| + |X2| + |X3|…. <=CE, so as to maximize the cumulative outcome of their corresponding self-perpetuation (Y axis) values (Y1*Y2*Y3…). Note that we’re using |X|, the absolute value of X, as effort expended is subtracted from CE, irrespective of whether that effort was used cooperatively or coercively.

However, in order to accurately represent this situation, we have to first modify the current Y axis, which currently represents relative change rather than absolute self-perpetuation outcomes. For instance, according to the above formulation using the current Y axis (-3 to +3), two major loss events (both with negative Y) multiplied together give a high positive value (major gain), which is absurd in real life. For this reason, we must set the lower bound of the Y axis to zero, by adding 3 to the Y axis value.

The cumulative outcome then becomes (Y1 + 3)*(Y2 + 3)*(Y3 + 3)… and so on. Thus a Y = -3 event (e.g. extinction) on the old Y axis (Figure 1) will yield a zero term (-3 + 3 = 0), multiplication by which will results in a zero cumulative product irrespective of the Y values of other actions, reflecting the fact that extinction cannot be compensated for.

Another problem remains in this formulation; a no loss/no gain situation (old Y axis value = 0 in Figure 1) gives a value of 3. However this implies that a no loss/no gain event also produces an increase in the cumulative product, which is not reasonable. To address this issue, let’s divide the above by 3. The parameter then becomes:

(Yi + 3)    Let this parameter be denoted as (1).   

So the product then becomes
(Y1 + 3)   *  (Y2 + 3)  *   (Y3 + 3)  * …… and so on
      3                 3                  3

This equation seems to accurately reflect the situation we face.

So, in formal terms, the task of any entity E is to

Maximize the cumulative product Π (Yi + 3) 

subject to  Σ |Xi| <= CE. Let the above conditions be referred to as (2).
where i refers to any of all the possible entities/objects in the subject entity E’s environment, including itself.

This is an optimization problem similar to the “Knapsack Problem” (3), where one has to fit in objects of various values and weights in a knapsack of fixed weight capacity so as to maximize the total value of the objects in the knapsack, although in the knapsack problem it is the sum of the values, not the product which is to be maximized. In our case the problem is more complicated as the CE may itself be varied by the entity’s efforts or external factors, the various efforts may interact with each other instead of being passive objects in a knapsack and so on. Nonetheless, the essential problem is similar.

A quick approximate solution to this kind of problem is to obtain for all entities and objects a ratio of value to weight, or in our case, self-perpetuation outcomes and the corresponding effort relative to the default case of 0 effort (X axis value = 0). In other words obtain the ratio:

Self-perpetuation outcome of given action – self-perpetuation outcome of zero action.
                       Effort involved in given action – zero action.

Y(x) – Y(0)  .
        |x| - 0

=   Y(x) – Y(0)  . Let this be denoted as ratio (3). We shall be referring to this in later sections.

for all possible efforts “X” applied to all entities/objects, where Y(0) is the perpetuation benefit of zero action and |X| is the absolute effort value (i.e. disregarding the positive/negative sign; considering only the magnitude of the effort). On the Tark Chart this is the slope of a line drawn from the Y intercept of the entity curve to any given point with effort value X, reflecting the self-perpetuation yield per unit effort.

Then starting with the entity/object with the highest ratio, we progressively add actions with a decreasing ratio to the list until the sum of the corresponding efforts is <= CE. For a given entity, the extent of the absolute effort (|x|) is limited to the level where it starts to hit diminishing returns and drops to a level just below the next best entity. Subsequent effort must then be spent on the next entity, until that starts to yield diminishing returns, and so on, thus maximizing self-perpetuation (condition (2) above).

For example, the benefit-effort ratio of obtaining basic necessities like food and water is very high as Y(0) for these is a highly negative -3 (i.e. spending zero effort on them will lead to death (-3 on Y axis)), while Y(x) plateaus at a small positive value (let’s say about 0.5 on Y axis) and the corresponding effort required, X, is a small fraction of CE (let’s say ~0.25 on X axis) for an average middle class citizen. Thus the value of basic necessities according to the formula (3) above is [0.5 – (-3)]/0.25 = 14. Of course expending effort beyond a certain point on food/water will lead to diminishing or even negative self-perpetuation returns (due to ill-effects on health), so the amount of effort to be expended on these must be carefully calibrated.

In comparison, a discretionary activity like, for example, learning to play a musical instrument with moderate proficiency, (say an effort of ~ 0.25 on the X axis, similar to the effort needed to obtain basic necessities) will usually lead to minimal self-perpetuation benefit for an average person (let’s say, generously including hypothetical benefits like increased concentration/relaxation etc, about 0.5), while the Y(0) (the consequence of doing nothing) is close to nil. The self-perpetuation yield per unit effort according to formula (3) of learning a musical instrument is then [0.5 – 0]/0.25 = 2, much less the 14 we obtained for basic necessities above.

Comparing the above cases, it is obvious that for optimal self-perpetuation, effort must be expended on basic needs like food/water before music etc. While this may seem obvious, one hopes that a systematic method like this will also be useful in less apparent cases. In general the subsequent highest benefit-effort ratios will belong to other slightly less crucial but still important things like reproduction (essential for self-perpetuation), shelter, personal safety, medical care etc. If CE is not exhausted, it’s worthwhile to add things like higher education, philanthropic activities, blue-sky scientific research and investing remaining effort in further increasing CE itself.

Readers will realize that we have broadly arrived at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here (4); starting with the items which yield the most self-perpetuation per unit effort like food and water (Maslow’s lowest “physiological needs” stage), we move progressively through optimal choices for equation (2) roughly corresponding to Maslow’s hierarchy, until, if sufficient capacity remains, we reach a stage where effort is available to invest in higher education, technology development, philanthropy etc (Maslow’s “self-actualization” stage).

This alignment between Maslow’s observation and the derivations of Tark Marg is, in my view, an illustration of how over the long term, instincts, norms and laws tend towards the self-perpetuation imperative posited by Tark Marg.

2.2: Tark Charts will plateau at some point for both positive and negative effort:

It seems reasonable to assume that beyond a certain threshold, application of effort (both positive and negative) to any given entity will plateau out. In other words further application of effort will not lead to any change in self-perpetuation outcome. As I see it, the Y-axis limit (i.e. maximum available self-perpetuation benefit) for negative X against a given entity would be equal to the resources possessed by that entity, while the Y axis limit of positive X (cooperative action) is the maximum productive potential of that entity. Let these be referred to as YCOER and YCO-OP respectively, and the corresponding X axis values be denoted as XCOER and XCO-OP. Between these limits, the curve must be determined empirically; in general one would expect that for sentient entities that the curve should be upward sloping (i.e. cooperation begets positive Y while coercion begets negative Y due to retaliation from that entity) between these two extremes. This is shown in Figure 6 below.

In situations where the marginal capacity ΔCE (i.e. capacity left after higher value efforts have been undertaken) greatly exceeds the XCOER and XCO-OP, then the decision to cooperate or coerce comes down to whether YCOER is greater or lesser than YCO-OP. Where ΔCE is in the same range or lesser than XCOER and/or XCO-OP, the question must be decided empirically.

Figure 6, Limits of a given entity’s Tark Chart:

Figure 6 Legend: The maximum Y axis values for both positive and negative effort towards a given entity are depicted.

2.3: Transportation and communication costs:

Another relevant point is that distance, accessibility, language barriers etc will impose a cost on interaction with some entities. For entities which are distant, remote or otherwise present communication barriers, an effort cost factor exists. Let us denote this as Ec. Ec has been dropping for a long time now owing to improvements in transportation and telecommunication technology, as well as openness to global trade. Nonetheless, the factor remains non-trivial in many cases. For instance, the cost of travel from London to San Francisco is in the order of a few hundred dollars, compared to a few dollars within those cities.


3.1: Occurrence of anti-monarchical Revolutions:

An interesting situation that can be modelled using the above terms is the occurrence of revolutions within society. Let’s consider a simplified case of two classes within society, the rulers and the ruled. A hypothetical Tark Chart of the ruling class vis-a-vis the ruled class is shown in Figure 7 below. Note that it is assumed that the ruling class extracts net value from the ruled class; i.e. the YCOER is assumed to be greater than YCO-OP. Thus if ruled class ΔCE >> XCOER and XCO-OP, more self-perpetuation benefit is available from coercion than cooperation.

When the ruled have a low collective ΔCE (owing to weak cooperation between them, for instance), the optimal path is a positive X value (i.e. acquiescence with the ruled), as shown in Figure 7. But when the ΔCE of the ruled class increases to such an extent as to significantly exceed ruling class XCOER, for instance owing to better literacy or organization, it becomes more beneficial for the ruled class to switch to a negative (i.e. coercive) effort towards the ruling class. In turn, the ruling class can try to retain a positive X from the ruled class, for instance by lowering their YCOER (such as ceding some power or expanding the franchise) or increasing their YCO-OP.

The noteworthy point is that this switch can only occur IF and WHEN the ruled class ΔCE >> ruling class XCOER. This may occur for example when increasing literacy brings about an increase in ruled class per capita productivity (and therefore ΔCE) as well as better awareness and coordination between members of the ruled class. This reasoning yields the prediction that anti-monarchial revolutions/reforms will occur AFTER literacy levels (a proxy for ruled class ΔCE) have exceeded a certain threshold.  


Figure 7 Legend: When ruled class ΔCE is low (Green double headed arrow), the maximum Y axis value is obtained for a positive X (acquiescence) vis-à-vis the ruling class (indicated by red dot). When the ruled class ΔCE increases for some reason (indicated by yellow double headed arrow), such as increased literacy or awareness, the maximum Y axis value is obtained for a negative X (reform/revolution etc). 

While a detailed attempt to test the above prediction  is out of the scope of this post, a cursory look at some publicly available data (5) shows that indicators of ruled class ΔCE such as literacy rates rose to a specific threshold (see Figure 8 below) before well-known anti-monarchical events like the  English Civil War and the Bill of Rights in the 17th century (in which distinctly leftist/redistributionist factions such as the levelers and diggers (6, 7) fought on the Parliamentary side, although later suppressed, foreshadowing later movements), the French and  Russian revolutions (1787 and 1917 respectively) or the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty (1911) in China.

Intriguingly, in all these countries we find literacy rates at 30-40% on the eve of these revolutions, suggesting that this point roughly indicates the threshold at which ΔCE of the ruled starts to exceed XCOER of the ruling class. The chronological order of these events is also well explained; the threshold is reached first in England (this may also explain why the Industrial Revolution started there, a point made in ref 1), then in France and later in Russia/China. I would appreciate readers checking whether this trend also holds in other countries.

Of course, none of the participants in these events espoused the Tark Marg reasoning described above, instead proclaiming various grievances/motivations/ideologies. However, it seems likely to me that increased ruled class ΔCE allowed re-distributionist ideologies favoring the ruled class to become dominant rather than the other way round.  

Figure 8, Connection between literacy (proxy for ΔCE) and revolution:

Figure 8 Legend: Literacy rates vs date plotted for various countries (data from ref 5). The occurrence of well-known anti-monarchical revolutions in these countries is indicated by red arrows. In the case of Western Europe (purple curve), the curve is linearly extrapolated back in time (dotted blue line) to estimate the literacy rate around the time of the Revolutions of 1848. The literacy data for East Asia is used as a rough proxy for China.


Let us consider the question of with whom one should form a cooperative arrangement (i.e. society). As described in 2.1 above, the optimal route is to arrange the order of cooperation according to ratio (3). For a simple illustration, Let us consider 3 candidates, one’s family, nearby neighbors and distant people, (let us assume for simplicity that all of these persons are more or less identical in terms of innate capacity/CE).

3.2.1: Family:

Regarding family, it is apparent that applying a negative effort to one’s kin is practically guaranteeing an end to self-perpetuation, so for negative X, Y is close to -3, more so than unrelated persons like fellow citizens or neighbors. Even a totally unconcerned attitude (x = 0) is likely to greatly reduce self-perpetuation as raising a family is a very intensive process, so Y(0) is also strongly negative. Positive X values on the other hand will result in a sharp rise in Y as investing effort in one’s family is directly beneficial to self-perpetuation. I’ve tried to depict the general trend of this curve in Figure 9 below. Of course, as described in 2.2, a point will arrive when further effort invested in family will start to produce diminishing returns, at which point it may be worthwhile to look at next-best candidates to expend cooperative effort on, like near neighbors.

3.2.2: Near neighbors:

The curve for near neighbors, in my estimation, is similar to that for family, but less steep. Coercive behavior towards neighbors/fellow citizens will elicit corresponding retaliation from a numerically superior group and gives a negative y value. An agnostic attitude (X = 0; e.g. not being helpful, refusing to undertake the common obligations of citizenship) will also invite retaliation or at least withdrawal of help, leading to a y value which is negative (but less so than for direct family), while cooperation will generally lead to better synergies and mutual benefit. This results in a (somewhat subjective) curve as shown in Figure 9 below. As an aside, it is interesting to consider whether social concepts like “rights” or “duties” and other codes of behavior are memes which have evolved to direct individual behavior towards the goal of collective self-perpetuation; in which case they may also be vulnerable to being rendered obsolete by rapidly changing context (see “Empathobesity” in ref 1).

3.2.3: Distant persons:

As mentioned in 2.3, distance introduces a cost in terms of effort spent overcoming the distance in order to apply the intended effort (negative or positive). In other words, a part of the marginal available capacity, ΔCE must be spent on transportation/communication before acting on the intended entity, irrespective of whether the effort is cooperative (i.e. positive) or coercive (i.e. negative). In other words, |XDISTANT| = |XPROXIMATE| - Ec; where Ec is a positive number representing the cost of overcoming physical/linguistic etc barriers.

What this means is that the curve for distant entities is more flat than for otherwise equal nearer entities for both positive and negative X values; more effort is required to produce the same Y axis value. This situation is depicted in Figure 9.

Interestingly, the above equation also implies that as technology lowers the cost of transport and communication, the circle of people considered “near neighbors” will broaden and vice versa. It may also explain why national boundaries often seem to coincide with sharp rises in Ec (corresponding to geographical, linguistic, religious etc boundaries). However detailed consideration of these issues is best left for a later post.

Figure 9: Tark charts for entities of varying proximity:

Figure 9 Legend: Different proximity and relatedness factors cause the Tark curves for family, neighbors and distant entities to vary in steepness. While the exact numerical values are guesses, one expects the general trend to be the same.      

Thus we see that, while real life introduces numerous variations/complexities, in general a hierarchy exists regarding which entities should come first when expending cooperative effort. We have assumed above that the CE or YCOER/YCO-OP are identical for the entities considered above, which is not always the case. Variations in these parameters may give rise to exceptions to the trend mentioned above; for instance it is likely more beneficial to cooperate with distant trade partners than with proximate criminals or mentally retarded persons, especially given decreasing Ec. Nonetheless, in general, the ratio (3) value, will vary inversely with distance, especially as proximity may also align with some potential indicators of “self” like genetic/linguistic or other factors of identity. A certain cut-off may be drawn above which entities may be considered part of society, while those below that threshold would be outside, but still worthwhile cooperating with if capacity remains. 

Similarly, there will be a gradation of the self-perpetuation benefit per unit effort between entities depending on their ΔCE, keeping Ec constant.  Thus, more benefit may be derived from entities willing and able to cooperate than those less willing or less able. As with the above example, a certain threshold can be established to differentiate between entities with a high enough mutually beneficial Y axis value to justify inclusion in society and vice versa.


Let us now consider some examples of entities with whom a negative X (i.e. coercive effort) may be advisable to meet the maximal self-perpetuation condition described in section 2.1. I’m well aware that in these empathobese times (see ref 1), such opinions are heresy. Nonetheless, I shall proceed with what seems to be unambiguously true to me and request a dispassionate and objective attitude from the reader. If and when these reasoning or the assumptions underlying these conclusions are proven flawed, I remain open to revising them. One hopes readers will reciprocate this stance.  

3.3.1: Animals:

Let us consider domestic animals such as a cow past milk production, chickens, goats etc. Their bodies convert inedible materials like straw, grass, marine plankton etc into dense protein, fat and micronutrients. These are particularly scarce in developing countries like India, where anemia or malnourishment rates are catastrophically high. It is obvious that slaughtering and consuming (say about a -1.5 effort) such an animal will lead to self-perpetuation benefits; especially so in the case of poorer persons/countries where other options are scarce or not as nutrient-dense. So the self-perpetuation benefit of a -1.5 attitude is say, about +2. On the other end of the scale, zero or positive X axis value (as Hinduism recommends for cows, or veganism for all animals), leads to foregone nutrition, which can be very difficult to replace, especially for poorer persons. Thus the chart for such animal is roughly as below.


Figure 10 Legend: Tark Chart for animals. -1.5 effort leads to meat availability, effectively converting otherwise inedible materials like straw or grass into edible and concentrated meat, yielding a moderate benefit. A positive attitude is harmful to self-perpetuation in that it consumes resources without a useful outcome. The exact shape is a guesstimate, but the general trend is downward from left to right.

It is common to experience and apply empathy to animals, yet we see clearly that this empathy has a negative self-perpetuation outcome in terms of diminished resource availability, and is thus harmful. In my view, the reflex of extending empathy to animals is a misapplication of the beneficial instinct of empathy towards fellow citizens, a situation which I’ve termed “empathobesity” owing to its similarity to the food consumption and storage instinct, excess indulgence of which also leads harmful effects like obesity (1).


Similar reasoning applies in the context of colonization of new territories. To take a recent and famous example, the Tark Chart of Native Americans seen from the perspective of European settlers is strongly downward trending; negative (i.e. coercive/colonizing) effort gives Europeans, given their far greater technological capacity, the immense resources of an entire continent, while the technological backwardness of native Americans means that a positive X axis value brings little of value (see Figure 11 below). It is thus obvious, and indeed moral from a Tark Marg perspective for Europeans to colonize the American continent.

FIGURE 11: Tark Chart for Native Americans vis-à-vis European Settlers:

Figure 11 Legend: YCOER of Native Americans as seen by European settlers is very high (due to the possibility of obtaining immense resources), while the YCO-OP is quite low due to their technological backwardness.

It has not escaped my notice that this is an unfashionable, indeed heretical position. It is not taken out of antipathy or disdain, but is merely a direct conclusion from fundamental facts. Indeed this is a constantly repeating theme in human history. Homo sapiens (including the ancestors of Native Americans themselves) burst forth from Africa and colonized Europe and Asia by displacing the Neanderthals, Homo Floresiensis, Denisovans etc (8) who occupied these lands theretofore. Anglo-Saxons have pushed Celts to the North-western periphery of the British Isles (9), the Turks have displaced the Greeks from Anatolia (10), Bantu speaking Africans have displaced Mbuti Pygmies and the Khoi-San (11) and so on, not to mention the huge numbers and types of flora and fauna like the Dodo, woolly mammoths, the Elephant bird of Madagascar, Australian megafauna, which humans have displaced in our occupation of the planet and conversion of land to agricultural purposes. Thus every person alive today owes his existence to multiple acts of displacement or extermination.

This is not to suggest that a war of all against all is or should be the norm; far from it. Cooperation is by far the most beneficial attitude to take towards most humans. Yet some cases may arise, as they have throughout history, when the curve is steeply and long term downward trending, when a negative X axis value including an all-out war of elimination may be the self-perpetuation maximizing, i.e. moral path to take vis-à-vis some groups. Detailed consideration of such cases however is for another time.


In this post I’ve tried to devise a systematic method to avoid the pitfalls associated with dogmatic adherence to obsolescence-prone traditional norms. Although many lacunae remain, I hope this approach can be the foundation of a new and improved approach to determining the moral path. I welcome suggestions/criticisms, and would like to request readers who find this blog interesting to help publicize it.  Lastly, I’d like to mention some caveats which I believe should be kept in mind when applying these concepts to real-life.

1)      The world is a complicated place, and secondary reactions to one’s effort should be taken into account.

2)      Perpetuation implies long term oriented efforts, not short term gratification.

3)      Lack of quantification should induce a sense of caution.

4)      CE is not fixed and can be increased or decreased by expending effort.

5)      Self-perpetuation often overlaps, but is far from synonymous with lifespan or personal comfort. Indeed in many situations, self-perpetuation may be diametrically opposite mere lifespan or comfort.

REFERENCES: (Although the use of Wiki as a reference is frowned upon, I have cited Wiki articles below due to their great accessibility, broad range and simplicity. I hope readers will not mind).

Saturday, 16 April 2016

How to tell you’re a zombie.

We’ve all seen the movie. An intrepid band desperately holds out against a world gone zombie due to a mind controlling virus (I am Legend, World War Z) or evil mastermind (The Mummy). Zombies behave in scary and illogical and (self) destructive ways, all in an unrelenting effort to convert the uninfected into them.

But all of these movies one-sidedly show the perspective of the “normal” people. If anybody asked the zombies, they would be the normal ones, doing what is but the natural, the just, thing to do. The hold-outs would be the evil, weird ones, denying the blinding truth that every sane zombie agrees is obvious and just… right. The zombies are as sure of their stance as their opponents. If the zombies out-number the normal, as in many a movie, a free and fair democratic vote would settle the issue in favor of the zombies once and for all.

Thus we see that for everyone, he himself is utterly normal and others are the zombies. So who is the real zombie? Maybe we are the zombies right now?

Similarly, in history we have many examples of mass hysterias. For instance, the dancing plague of 1518 involved hundreds of people dancing unstoppably, for days on end, often to the death (1). Mass faintings are a dime a dozen (2, 3). Heaven's Gate members committed mass suicide in the belief that comet Hale-Bopp hid a spaceship which would take them to the "Next level" (4). But all of these examples are mass hysterias from the outside. For those inside, they are totally authentic.

"People present at the event were adamant that the symptoms were real and not the result of imagination or hysteria”.. Holinwell incident (3)"

We can only say these are false because we are outside and unaffected by them.

But what if there truly were mass hysteria, unlike most hysterias that affect large numbers but small percentages of the population? What if most of society were to fall into a spell of mass hysteria/zombiehood? How would we know then that our behavior was “abnormal”? What if we’re in such a spell right now? How could we possibly know?

These are not just quixotic, humorous questions. Right now we have left-wing and right-wing camps in society which vehemently accuse their opponents of evil and obscene behavior induced by malice and social conditioning. Both proponents and opponents of mass-migration, high taxation, affirmative action, gay marriage etc., accuse the other camp of evil, misguided, brain-washed behavior. So which of these are the zombies/hysterics and which are the heroic defenders of truth and justice? Or are both merely different zombie factions? What we need, then, is an asker- and context-independent method of judgement.

I attempt to develop one below.

What is the universal feature of zombies, from whichever movie? What is the common element in mass faintings, the dancing plague or the mewing or biting nuns (5)?

It is that they cannot self-perpetuate, reproduce, survive independently and sustainably. They know not Tark Marg (see previous post, 6).

Thus, zombies can only survive on a regular supply of fresh uninfected blood. If they harvested zombie crops, treated zombie disease, vaccinated their zombie babies and conducted zombie civil discourse, as is necessary for self-perpetuation, they would cease to be zombies. Similarly, mass hysterics, whether fainters, dancers, mewers, cannot form a sustainable society.  If they were not fainting or mewing but self-perpetuating by educating their children, doing regular jobs etc, they would simply become normal people. Thus the critical feature of zombies/mass hysterics is 1) the ability to infect others and 2) the inability to survive independently.

Put another way, bad (i.e. zombie or mass hysteric) behavior is that which impedes self-perpetuation, and conversely, moral behavior is defined by its ability to promote self-perpetuation (6). As a corollary, when comparing two or more options, the more moral option is that which better promotes the self-perpetuation of its followers.

Now we are in a position to judge which faction in real society is the zombie. Let’s focus on a particularly contentious issue.

We see today a movement, especially in the West, whereby the immigration of large numbers of people is encouraged and celebrated, as in the recent case of Germany and Angela Merkel's decision to allow in over a million Muslim migrants in 2015. Proponents of this choice seek to convert (or at least compel) others to their line of thinking by vociferously condemning opponents. Opponents push back. So who of the pro- and anti- migration faction is the zombie?

Let us apply the self-perpetuation test. It is evident that by allowing in large numbers of migrants who typically have high fertility and cultural conditioning diametrically opposite to that of their hosts, the proponents of mass migration have imperiled their own physical and philosophical selves. We saw an example of this in the mass sexual assault perpetrated in Cologne on New Year's Eve by crowds comprising a cross-section of the migrants. This point should have been obvious to German mass-migration supporters given the example of similar situations in the UK and France and elsewhere. Yet, the mental virus of empathobesity (a harmful excess of an otherwise useful instinct of empathy, analogous to obesity; see December 2015 post) compels proponents of mass migration of pursue this path despite the immense harm it will inflict on them.

We can thus conclude that in the case of mass migration, the proponents are zombies, enslaved by their own runaway sense of empathy to act against their self-perpetuation interests.

Much the same can be said about many other leftist fashions like gay marriage, which also arise from an empathobese tendency. Without going into detail, some right wing policies (especially in the USA) such as climate change denial, opposition to abortion, or (in India) blind subservience to scientifically untenable traditions  like banning beef or fantastical claims about the technological abilities of one's ancestors, also fall into this category.

In conclusion, I hope this post will enable the reader to rise above the zombie viruses of obsolete instincts, herd mentality and tendentious assumptions.  Please inform others if you found this post interesting.


1)       Viegas, Jennifer (1 August 2008). "'Dancing Plague' and Other Odd Afflictions Explained". Discovery News. Discovery Communications. Via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_hysteria
2)      Moss, P. D. and C. P. McEvedy. “An epidemic of overbreathing among schoolgirls.” British Medical Journal 2(5525) (1966):1295–1300. Web. 17 Dec. 2009.
3)      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollinwell_incident
4)   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven%27s_Gate_(religious_group)
5) http://www.csicop.org/si/show/mass_delusions_and_hysterias_highlights_from_the_past_millennium/ Via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_hysteria

6)      http://tarkmarg.blogspot.com/2016/04/tark-marg-pole-star-of-moral-behavior.html

Sunday, 3 April 2016



Most of the vociferous disputes in society hinge on the question, “what is the moral/right thing to do?” For instance, the entry of large numbers of Middle Eastern migrants into Germany at the behest of Chancellor Merkel is either a fine example of European values in action, or a disastrous decision which could destroy European values, depending on whom you ask (1,2). Gay marriage, transgender rights etc are either self-evident justice or gross deviancy. A similar divergence of views exists regarding everything from taxation and redistribution to housing policy and affirmative action. Throughout history, most intra-society conflict has hinged on disagreement over what constitutes the right thing to do. A clear answer to this question will go a long way to addressing these conflicts.


These disputes exist because moral behavior has no unambiguous, commonly agreed upon definition, unlike say, questions from mathematics or physics. Instead, most people’s conception of morality is heavily colored by subjective, circumstantial and selfish interest factors.

Thus, unlike the objective theorems of Euclidean geometry or arithmetic, what is considered morally acceptable behavior in 2016 in the Western world, such as gay marriage, would be considered ludicrously libertine by the standards of the West in 1916. 1916 itself, being on the cusp of female suffrage etc, would’ve been disapproved of in 1816 and so on. Extrapolating this trend into the future, perhaps the world of 2116 will look upon in horror at the cruelty and callousness of 2016, at the absence of cetacean or chimpanzee personhood (3, 4), or at “animal slavery” or factory farming (5, 6) etc. Or, if the trend towards greater liberalism has gone into reverse by 2116, 2016 may be seen as the high water mark of libertinism and decadence after which sense was restored; there is absolutely no way to say.

One only has to recall that people once were exactly as secure in their beliefs about witchcraft or Geocentrism as we are in our beliefs today. For instance, the English Parliament passed a Witchcraft Act in 1604 supported by the great and the good of the land, under which convicted witches could be hanged and King James I even apparently published a book on Demonology (7, 8). Famously, people once believed with utter confidence that the sun revolved around the earth, and Galileo’s attempt to refute this notion by evidence and reasoning only earned him house arrest (9).

Just as the sense of morality varies with time, it also varies over space, with perfectly acceptable behavior in the liberal West like homosexuality or public nudity being considered depravity punishable by death in some cases, as in Islamic countries. Similar variation occurs with other parameters like age, sex, income, religion, family background etc. Moreover, as popular fashions change, people’s conception of morality changes with the herd. For example, Hillary Clinton or President Obama have totally inverted their earlier stances on issues like gay marriage and immigration just as the popular mood shifted (10, 11, 12).

Thus we see that in general, people’s sense of morality is not an autonomous, logical stance taken after careful observation and consideration, but is mostly a function of A) their individual instincts and B) social milieu.


How can one break through the mist and fog and determine the actual truth? Would physics or mathematics have gotten anywhere if it was simply a product of collective gut feeling rather than logical observation and hypothesis formation? Should we be content to be driftwood pushed back and forth by the tides and currents of popular passions and fashions?
This is not an idle theoretical question either; the fate of whole societies may hinge on being able to carefully ascertain what constitutes optimal behavior, as for instance in the case of the recent migrant crisis in Europe.

I shall therefore ambitiously attempt in this post to derive an objective, explicit guiding principle for moral behavior which holds true always and everywhere, like the Pole Star, which unerringly points due North from wherever and by whoever observed.

As with other fields of rational enquiry, I shall start by establishing a basic axiom. An axiom is a starting point known to be true based on everyday observation, using which further principles may be derived. Some common examples from geometry and mathematics are “it is possible to draw a straight line between any two points”, or that “if A = C, and B = C, then A = B”. Based on these empirically validated starting points, further principles can be derived.

What axiom can we deduce from an examination of human behavior? Let us consider the two major drivers of human behavior, hardwired individual instincts and social norms.


Let us look at a few well known, universal, culturally invariant human instincts. As I see it, these can be divided into two categories; 1) those that urge repetition of certain situations and 2) those seeking to avoid certain circumstances. Examples of the first category are love of rich foods, peer approval, wealth, sex etc, while examples of the latter are avoidance of physical injury, deprivation, social isolation, etc. What pattern can one spot here? Are these universal instincts mere random whims or is there an underlying logic?

It is apparent that the former are situations that enhance one’s chances of survival and reproduction, while the latter diminish these chances. Thus calories, peer approval, wealth, sex etc improve one’s likelihood of survival and reproduction, while the converse is true of injury, poverty or peer rejection. 

We can thus assume that instincts have evolved to bring about the self-perpetuation of the individual whose behavior they shape. Instincts that did otherwise would have driven the person they influenced and thereby themselves, extinct over the generations.

The same can be deduced from an examination of universal social norms. Practically all societies promote, at least internally, behaviors like honesty, altruism, hard work and prohibit behaviors like dishonesty, theft, gratuitous violence etc. It is particularly noteworthy that societies as widely separated by distinct as the European, Islamic and Australian Aboriginal all subscribe to a similar set of basic social norms. In my view, this is an example of an evolutionary biology concept called convergent evolution (13). The gist of convergent evolution is that widely differing species that face similar situations will likely evolve similar responses. A famous example is that of sharks (cold blooded fish) and dolphins (warm blooded mammals), which have independently evolved similar streamlined shapes despite being from very different parts of the evolutionary tree because this is the most efficient shape for their common problem, cutting through water.

Similarly, conservation of social norms like avoidance of gratuitous violence or theft or promotion of altruism, is a good sign that there is an underlying logic behind these norms. They can only be sensibly explained, in my view, in the context of social survival and propagation. Thus, it is evident that a society whose members are honest, eschew gratuitous violence towards each other, help each other in times of need will be more competitive in the long run. 

A particularly illustrative norm is the almost universal prohibition of incest. Incest does not necessarily involve force or fraud typical of other prohibited behaviors like murder or theft, yet practically all societies all over the world consider it taboo. Even societies where cousin marriage is acceptable, as in the Middle East, prohibit marriage between direct siblings. This prohibition is not explained logically but is instead articulated as a kind of disgust into which people are indoctrinated. 

Why should this be? The answer has become apparent with the advent of modern genetics. Offspring of closely related persons are at much greater risk of contracting homozygous recessive diseases and susceptibility to infectious disease (14), and by outlawing incest society avoids the burden of having a large number of its citizens debilitated by avoidable diseases, thus increasing its potential for self-perpetuation. Thus we see that social norms have evolved solely to ensure the collective survival of its members. 

Based on the above reasoning, we can conclude that the underlying basis for both individual instincts as well as collective norms is an impulse for self-perpetuation. This, of course, is a direct corollary of the theory of evolution.

Extrapolating from this, an eternally valid, context independent morality statement can be formulated as follows:

That is moral which leads to maximal long term individual and collective self-perpetuation.

For any given set of possible actions, the one whose pros regarding self-perpetuation most outweigh the cons is the most moral choice; i.e. maximizes P(act) - C(act),  where P(act) is the self-perpetuation benefit (pro) of a given action while C(act) is the con. I shall refer to this perspective as Tark Marg.

It is of course, often difficult to quantitatively gauge this, and a large degree of subjectivity is unavoidable. Nonetheless, I believe that this line of thought will help society avoid many pitfalls, as shown later.


It’ll be apparent to the reader that a conflict can arise between individual and collective self-perpetuation. Individual self-perpetuation may be enhanced by theft, whereas collective self-perpetuation will be hurt by such actions. This is a classic case of the tragedy of the commons, a personally useful act can lead to collective loss. The solution is to realize that individual survival is impossible without collective strength. Thus, actions like theft or dishonesty, while beneficial in the short term to an individual, can and will hurt his progeny, and thus his personal self-perpetuation, by creating an unhealthy culture in society and making that society weak and dysfunctional compared to competitors. It is no coincidence that societies with high levels of transparency and low levels of corruption, like the Scandinavian countries or Singapore, are also the ones with the highest and most secure standards of living.


Although individual instincts and collective norms have evolved to ensure individual and collective survival, these can easily become obsolete in the face of rapid social change. As external circumstances can change abruptly, while changing hardwired instincts or deeply inculcated social norms often requires generations, instincts and norms can become obsolete or even counter-productive.

We see a stark example of this in the wave of obesity sweeping many parts of the world. For pretty much all of history, humankind has been short of calories. Hence our bodies/brains have evolved an attraction towards calorie rich (sweet/fatty) foods and a mechanism for storing these as fat. This helped to buffer against times of scarcity. However, with the advent of industrial agriculture, food is plentiful, while the need for hard manual labor which would burn up those calories has declined sharply. However, because the instinctive love of calories is hardwired, many people persist in consuming and storing excess calories, leading to a sharp spike in the obesity rate, with grievous health consequences and unfitness which are the precise opposite of what the calorie-loving instinct evolved for.

To avoid pitfalls like this, it is best to keep in mind the explicit underlying rationale behind instincts and norms, rather than merely following them blindly. I shall refer to this manner of thinking as Tark Marg (reason-path in Sanskrit).


Let us apply Tark Marg to some current topics:


Animal rights (and associated phenomena like vegetarianism, veganism, anti-cruelty laws etc) is a well-established and growing movement in various parts of the world. Indian civilization in particular has developed a very prominent vegetarian strand, possibly catalyzed by Buddhism and Jainism. In the West, as far my admittedly limited knowledge goes, there’ve been movements as far back as the 19th century (anti-vivisection society, 15) and more recently Peter Singer’s book “Animal Liberation” has become the bible of animal rights movement (16). Yet when seen from a Tark Marg perspective, conferring rights on animals is an unambiguous case of a negative P(act) – C(act).

Without belaboring the point, in my view rights are reciprocal concessions (such as freedom from unprovoked violence or theft) given by parties to each other for mutual self-perpetuation benefit. This requires that for all concerned parties, the P(act) – C(act) be greater in the case of a cooperative arrangement rather than a coercive one. In other words,

P(co-op) – C(co-op) –P(coer) + C(coer) > 0, where P and C stand for benefit (pro) and cost (con), and co-op and coer stand for cooperation and coercion respectively.

By and large the benefit of co-operation (P(co-op)) with humans is high and so is the cost of conflict (C(coer)) as humans can retaliate. Moreover humans can decrease the P(coer) term by destroying the resources for which coercion might be applied, so it makes sense for people to be cooperative, i.e. confer rights on each other.

As animals are unable to comprehend, let alone participate in this arrangement, concessions (i.e. rights) conferred on animals are nonsensical, and are an example of empathobesity in my view.
To elaborate briefly, much of the calorie product present in the natural environment, such as grass, straw, decaying or waste matter, marine plankton etc are indigestible by humans, but not to animals like ruminants, pigs, chickens or fish. Even in agriculturally intensive environments, a majority of the biomass of crop plants is in the form of straw, leaves etc and only a minority in grains. Thus the only way to access these calories is the consumption of animal products like meat, milk and eggs, and so the P(coer) term is very high for animals. Similarly, the C(coer) and P(co-op) terms are low for animals, rendering the above equation negative.  

Thus, a society that practices vegetarianism, let alone dogmatic veganism, will have fewer calories available form an otherwise equal environment than an omnivorous competitor society. This will result, other things being equal, in a smaller and weaker population, a recipe for extinction. This is without taking into account other animal products like leather and wool, as well as other benefits like serving as model systems for the study of human diseases etc. 

Thus it is indisputable that Tark Marg is highly in favor of animal usage and against the animal rights/vegetarianism meme.

As mentioned in Peter Singer’s book, the origin of the animal rights movement is an extension of the instinct of empathy, historically restricted to members of one’s society, to animals. But should instincts be extended ad infinitum? As we have seen with the example of obesity, instincts make sense only to a certain extent and in a certain context. What is this context when it comes to empathy?

As with other instincts, empathy can only be logically explained from a self-perpetuation rationale. In my view, empathy is useful in that in compels the subject to extend help to fellow citizens in distress, who may then reciprocate later, thus enhancing collective self-perpetuation.

The implication is that empathy is only relevant when applied to those willing and able to reciprocate for mutual benefit, thus ruling out its application to animals, who are incapable of understanding, let alone reciprocating the contract implicit in empathy.



Until recently, marriage was by default a prelude to reproduction, and as married couples are more likely than other parenting models like single mothers to give rise to productive citizens, (17), it made sense to confer special status/financial benefits on married couples. In other words, the most parsimonious explanation is that from a self-perpetuation perspective, society gains a net self-perpetuation benefit (P(act) > C(act)) in conferring special privileges on those who would privately bear burdens (i.e. Childbearing and rearing) which have public positive externalities (future taxpayers, workers etc).
In recent years the extension of marriage rights to homosexual couples has become a popular political trend in Western countries, and as such is likely to spread to others which are culturally downstream from the West (18, 19). This is in line with a centuries long trend of increasing empowerment, which was responsible for the rise of the West historically but has now run into negative returns, in my view (see December 2015 post). Marriage confers privileges like exemption from inheritance and gift taxes and others, so extension of this to homosexual couples imposes a cost (C(act)) to society in terms of foregone revenue. Yet I cannot see a clear countervailing P(act), given that homosexual couples are unable to produce future citizens. Thus, in my opinion, C(act) is greater than P(act) in the case of homosexual couples and gay marriage is therefore a unfavorable policy.    
In fact, in contrast to the trend of expanding marriage rights, the self-perpetuation rationale seems to me to require a contraction of marriage privileges. As the widespread availability of contraception means that many heterosexual couples are also childless, these too no longer produce the P(act) to justify being given subsidies/privilege historically associated with marriage.

Thus, the rational path, Tark Marg would be to modify the current arrangement and provide tax rebates/subsidies/exemptions etc to parents or guardians, including homosexual and single parents etc, whose children meet a minimum threshold of likelihood to be good taxpayers. As a rough example, all children scoring above, say, the 20th percentile in basic criteria like literacy and numeracy could qualify their parents/legal guardians for certain subsidies. These incentives could be formulated to achieve optimal outcomes in terms of number of children etc.

The availability of decades of data on individual citizens should enable estimation of what early childhood parameters are predictors of future potential as good citizens, and these could then be subsidized; however this should not be overdone as there are likely important parameters that are difficult to measure.
The details of this modified incentive structure are beyond the scope of this blog post, and will vary based on numerous variables. Suffice it to say that Tark Marg leads us to quite a different and, in my view, more sensible and sustainable direction than the default empathobese path which society is on now.   


I hope I have been able to convey the empirically and logically compelling, and rather beautiful reasoning that unifies disparate facts and observation into a coherent structure centered on the most basic impulse of all living creatures, self-perpetuation. Not only is it intellectually satisfying, it is an indispensable guide, like the Pole Star, in an otherwise complex and ever-changing world. I hope you’ll agree, dear reader.

It has not escaped my notice that some of the thoughts expressed here can cause disquiet or outrage. Yet outrage can also be a consequence of a creeping realization of the fragility of one's position. After all if I said something obviously false like 2 + 2 = 5000, this wouldn't likely cause outrage. I'd appreciate an attempt to examine one's own position from scratch and I promise to hear logical or factual rebuttals of my position with all the objectivity I can muster.

In the coming days I’ll try to discuss this in greater depth. Please spread the word if you found this post interesting and leave a comment if you have criticism or feedback.