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Heinz von Foerster 100
Organizing Institutions:
Heinz von Foerster Gesellschaft / Wien
ASC – American Society for Cybernetics
WISDOM – Wiener Institut für
  sozialwissenschaftliche Dokumentation und Methodik

Institut für Zeitgeschichte | Universität Wien
AINS – Austrian Institute for Nonlinear Studies
Didier Sornette (with M. Favre)

What percentage of our ancestors were men? The most underappreciated fact about men! Implications for risk taking, happiness and the global financial meltdown

ETH Zürich

At the time in the past (roughly about 100 thousands years ago) when the most recent common male ancestor (TMRCA) is found, as many as thousands of contemporary women have been able to transmit their genes to the present generation (compared to just one man, this “most recent common ancestor”). While there were roughly the same numbers of males as females at any time, the success of females compared to males measured according to genetic transmission success (aka “eternity”) is thousands times larger. This insight comes from agent-based models and theoretical calculations, combined with genetic evidence, that we present to model female-male populations over thousands of generations. We show in particular that the biology of female reproduction, including a long gestation period, and more generally the large asymmetry between reproduction costs between females and males, trigger a cascade of behavioral and sociological effects that account well for the genetic evidence. The implications for understanding cultural evolution and social norms are extraordinary rich. In the same way that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (Theodosius Dobzhanski, 1973), we contend that “Nothing in human cultural evolution makes sense except in the light of this most underappreciated and extraordinary fact about female-male evolutionary success toward eternity”. We will relate this fact to the risk-taking behavior of modern men and the consequences for society, illustrated by the financial and economic crises that unfold since 2007.
We will present a global scenario for the origin of the crisis, finding its roots in at least 5 major bubbles that developed over the last 20 years, which are associated with risk taking and the illusion of a perpetual money machine. Diagnostic methods and discussion of future scenarios will be presented.
Disclosure: The title uses that of a recent book of Roy F. Baumeister, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University.