Saturday, January 23, 2016

Silent Trade And Universal Ethics

The silent trade: universal objective ethics in action | Armed and Dangerous: "The rules of the silent trade embody at least two important ethical principles; nonaggression and voluntary reciprocal exchange. If we are asking whether these principles are universal and objective, what better evidence could we ask for than to have seen them mutually agreed on by different groups of humans without the ability to even speak to each other (let alone shared cultural assumptions) and then sustained down the generations for over a thousand years?

The silent trade gives us grounds for a very strong claim: there is a universal objective ethics, and its building blocks include (a) nonaggression, (b) Schelling points, (c) honesty, and (d) voluntary reciprocal exchange. Or to put it more simply, “Do as you would be done by.” – the Golden Rule.

I have no doubt that the behavior of everyone in the Gold Coast story I told above seems natural to the reader. This is because we are actually neurologically wired to participate in universal ethics. Some equivalent of the Golden Rule is live in every human culture, and one of the first results to emerge from evolutionary psychology in the 1990s is that humans seem to come equipped with a cheater-detection module – our performance on logic problems improves when they are framed as questions about whether someone is violating reciprocity.

It would not be not stretching a point very far to say that the silent trade is in our DNA; its building blocks, such as the ability to recognize Schelling points and uncompleted aggression, certainly are. Through the lens of the silent trade, we can begin to see universal ethics as a culture-independent evolved behavior that solves a universal problem – how to achieve and maintain positive-sum cooperation."
Another RTWT from Eric.