Friday, November 12, 2010

Gevlon's magical skill.

I remember earlier this year Gevlon going on about a “magical skill” he had discovered that was easily learned, and was the key aspect that would guarantee success in most aspects of life [and WoW], which he eventually defined as asocial behavior with peers. I have to assume the buildup to this revelation was deliberate, as he wanted to be sure people understood the extent to what he was claiming before naming it as something with so many negative connotations.

I think he has missed the core ideal slightly. Not caring what people think will typically mean that you only do things that benefit you. But it’s not the fact that you’re eschewing social influence, it’s the fact that you’re taking responsibility for yourself first that causes successful behaviour. Acting asocially is just a mindset that makes self-interest easier to justify if acting this way is not automatic for you. The “magical skill” is personal responsibility.

Gevlon’s “Goblin philosophy” asserts that a self-centred attitude is not only good for an individual, but also good for society, and I find it hard to contradict him. “Self-centred” to me equates to personal responsibility, though it also has the unfortunate negative connotation to mean that one doesn’t care about other people. I really don’t understand why society would necessarily look down on a person who focuses on themselves before others, or assume that this focus necessarily precludes caring about other people.

Pleasing other people makes me feel happy and preserves my social status. If it didn’t have this positive response I wouldn’t care about doing it. Thus my motivation for pleasing others is entirely selfish. Every sociopath knows the value of getting along with and being nice to people.

I’m going to make a bold claim and say that every single “selfless” person doing things for other people has this same motivation. Even “making the world a better place” carries a self-interest. For one, you live in that world and want it to be better for you; being seen as altruistic also carries a social value; and again the thought that you are positively affecting the world will make you feel better about yourself.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. That’s just my point. Calling self-interest a negative trait is ridiculous. It’s not about creating more for yourself than other people, it’s about efficiency -- nobody else in the world can understand your needs as easily as you do, therefore any situation in which another person is responsible for understanding and meeting them -- for "helping you" -- is going to be an inefficient way of doing so.

The only time acting out of self-interest creates an unfair advantage is when the people you interact with refuse to do the same. And to be honest I find it hard to sympathise with a person who will not take that kind of responsibility for themselves.

So I suppose this is where we return to the idea of acting asocially. The social instinct to help someone who is worse-off than you is huge, for me at least. But I wont let myself go out of my way to assist someone inefficiently to do something they could much more easily do themselves. All things considered, the world would be worse off for me doing so.

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