• This is an idea suggested in the past in the series of papers on Meta-Humans and related papers (circa 1981, 33 years ago). It extends or expands the conventional concept of altruism. Normally altruism is defined as doing something for others beyond the self or in a single word, selflessness. Auto-altruism suggests that when someone does this, it may appear to be totally for others but it often has rebound or long-term effects that also benefit the conditions or niche of the self. That is what the prefix “auto” refers to; since everything is so highly connected, improving the other often has the side effects of improving the situation of the  self. [151Sm’14]
  • The secret strategy (purpose) for suggesting the concept of auto-altruism was to make selflessness appealing to people who were not religious. If people who were prone to acting selfishly recognized that part of helping yourself is actually helping others, that part of thriving was not to be purely selfish, that acting selfishly was archaic lack of intelligence, that doing so actually hurt yourself, that preserving your “nest” was equivalent to preserving yourself, then there was a chance that this new teaching or insight would bring more folks into appropriate behaviors who were unresponsive to religion or one of the central values of the Sacred. One of my close relatives once said that if there was no reward of heaven, neither he nor many others would feel motivated to moral action and I countered why restrict oneself restrict oneself to selfish behaviors if there is no reward. I recognize that this is the position of many people. But my partner in this Socratic dialogue raises a point that I did not consider at the time. Does this eliminate the “unselfish” aspect of love by making attention to our many connections an extended self just self interest? [157 Sm’14]
  • It is clear that evolutionists and geneticists have been debating about altruism for many decades, perhaps for centuries. They are generally negative about altruism even existing beyond human conceptions of it, especially in the cases when such behavior endangers oneself or the perpetrator dies in the effort. Recall that according to the genetics foundation for the mechanism of evolution, the key sign of success is passing on or actually increasing the frequency of genes you inherited. When altruism lowers this  probability, it ultimately leads to lack of success in evolution. For this group, evolution occurs only on the individual level because only individuals represent a dose of genes. Most biologists subscribe to this formulation. But there are a small number who think that evolution can occur on the “group” level (there being several hierarchically larger grouping levels and proposed mechanisms, to wit: kin selection, group selection, reciprocity, vested interest of family or tribe, and more). Altruism fits better with this latter concept because then altruistic behaviors (of individuals) can endow a group with better chances of survival. Auto-altruism just extends this concept to the value systems of the Sacred.  [152 Sm’14]
  • Auto-altruism was conceived as a Secular way to describe, support, and disseminate the attitude of selflessness which is a core value of many Sacred and philosophical teachings. One could argue even with those who are oriented to selfishness, or ‘winner takes all’ thoughts that these actually led to less personal stability and gains in the long run. But the gain to self is not primarily on the individual personal level as much as on various higher grouping levels. If so, it would not be selflessness. This makes it different from the arguments that state that altruism itself is not possible because the altruistic one benefits from it. [153Sm’14]
  • Although I quote Buddhism, and it is related to those early insights, the concept of auto-altruism originally occurred to me from a knowledge of ecology and an extension of the systems concept of “entitation.” Both of these were early recognitions of the importance of extensive and unending connections between all entities. I suggested the term long before network theory became popular, but these three bodies of knowledge collaborate and support the results of some recent network research which also highlights the importance of extensive connectivity. Thus if the self is truly so connected to many other entities, then acting selflessly in a way that supports the entitation, network, ecology of self, is also helping the self and acting selfishly contrarily is restricting benefit only to the isolated self which is far less advantageous. [154Sm’14]
  • Others have cited two studies from NIH on altruism as yielding opposite results. But the above attitudes suggests they are mutually supportive and supply a secular, scientific, brain-based rationale for auto-altruism. In one, fMRI showed that the subgenual cortex/septal region involved in  social attachment and bonding in animals (and not the mesolimbic reward system for food and sex) was active when participants performed altruistic behaviors. In the other NIH study volunteers playing a computer game that resulted in charitable donations instead of personal gain, showed not only high fMRI activity in the usual reward centers but also, unexpectedly, in the posterior superior temporal cortex which is active in distinguishing actions performed for personal gain versus for someone else’s gain. Two different brain centers, but do you see that they both have to do with human brain recognition of high connectivity between individuals in human soceity? Given the traditions of Buddhism and recent experimental results of neurology, both modern and ancient wisdom provide a foundation for the idea of auto-altruism despite the theoretical objections of geneticists and evolutionists. [155 Sm’14]
  • Although not available at the writing of those early papers on the inevitability of meta-humans, modern medical literature on brain structure and function as well as molecular biology also supports the idea. For example, rare pathologies in the brain have indicated that there is a special structural segment of the brain responsible for our sense of “selfness” in the pre-frontal cortex. Animals do not show activity by fMRI in this area or do not have the area. That’s why they don’t recognize themselves or faces in mirrors. It was recognized because destruction of this area in humans is correlated with loss of the ability for a human to distinguish self from other. See Oliver Sacks books or essays. He is a M.D. neurologist and a great essayist. (e.g. “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, ca. 1985). There is also some work in molecular biology identifying genes that are responsible for the demarcation of human from pre-human such as the FOXP2 complex that seems to be responsible for us being able to leap to speech and language. It shows much greater frequency and accumulation of mutations during the critical bridge period (primates to us). The specialized area and new gene mutations provide natural science evidence for the origins of consciousness, which you might argue equates with the origin of humanity. We as a species partly became human when we recognized the uniqueness of self versus non-self. [156 Sm’14]
  • My partner in these initial Socratic dialogues reminds me that if auto-altruism merely extends the SELF, then there is no altruism at all. However, a response would deny that auto-altruism and its evidence does not dissolve the actual boundary of the self. Recognizing the widespread connections between you and the rest of the universe does NOT EXTEND YOURSELF (as in this other interpretation), it only puts self in a more honest and actual context. You are still not the universe. If anything, it limits and humbles self by putting it in such a vastly greater context. The connections effect you and sometimes you effect them but they are NOT YOU. There still is a relative boundary condition. (In fact, the whole issue is deeply related to the relativity of boundary conditions in systems science and challenges to what is “healthy” and why it is hard to define health for a systems pathology to be possible (see related websites)). [158 Sm’14]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *