Ideal altruism 

Most of my blogs have focused on reciprocal altruism, which seems to me to be an unenlightened form of altruism. For all the reasons henceforth postulated such as cheating, ledging, trading and general bookkeeping. 

In the walking dead – the most fascinating psychological study of a tv show that I’ve ever watched – the group led by Rick are forced into a very strict reciprocal altruism system in order to survive. 

In fact, there is one point where it becomes clear that reciprocating altruist behaviour (putting ones life on the line to try to save another) is the only way to build trust when it’s every man for himself. There’s not much space for ideal altruism in the show. 

Although they do give one character the trait (photo context). That guy believes in idealistic altruism, and he finds conflict with the others. He believes they should do good without looking for the reciprocal return. It’s quite fascinating. 

According to our history, as we evolved, we moved from small bands of brothers like Rick and the team, to bigger groups of tribes. The tribes were held by reciprocal altruism AND some type of common fear glue (shame, guilt, anger, pride). The additional fear glue in the tribe was imparted by ghosts or ancestors or religion. 

Basically, to move to a tribe sized community, the altruism ledger needs to be kept in check by some mysterious omnipotent thing that keeps you honest. Like your dead grandmothers ghost watching over you. 

It could be this is also the role of the nanny state. Always watching and making sure everyone is playing by the rules. 

Anyway, socialism is in our genes. But no one said it had to be unenlightened. I’m aiming for a ideal altruistic behaviour. Unpicking social conditioning. Tough gig. 


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