eduardo_punset's picture
Scientist; Spanish Television Presenter; Author, The Happiness Trip
What is the pertinent question?


Surely, the right question it is not what was wrong before Sept.11th. The question mark to be unravelled is why on earth the western productive system has become all-dominant in the general pool of genes, or memes.

The unsolved question is what makes that system so efficient, so all-embracing that no other system or ideology can compete in this planet's race for improving the economic well being per capita. It must be infuriating for beleivers of so called alternative ways, to deal with poverty and collective happiness — in this end of live, I mean, am not talking about afterwards or beyond.

We know a bit about the actual mechanisms of the system — or rather, what economists call aggregate demand. We also infere some of the things which may influence the end product. But no attention is paid to the type of intelligence which is at the roots of the system's survival.

The answer might be that it is a self organizing system based on swarm intelligence. The nearest thing to that are construction setups and organization schemes by social insects like ants, bees and termites: A few, very simple rules, instead of preprogramming and centralized control; the right mixture of robustness and flexibility — just like DNA — hardly any supervising body at all.

Termites of the genus Macrotermes have the added advantage of responding, with due lags, to indirect stimulation from the environment, and not only from other workers. This kind of termites would quickly reduce by half the number of road accidents — the opposite practice of hominids — by diverting traffic towards the railways, just by looking at the death figures.

All this has to do with genetic knowledge. As to non-genetic factors, two are of paramount importance: the separation of State from Religion — it was tantamount to a free entry ticket for everybody in the decision making process — and the neat distinction between Theology and Philosophy (we call it now science); it opened the door to the technological revolution.