Monday, June 5, 2017

Human Bodies Are Optimized For What?

Comment on My Review of Kevin Laland by Arnold Kling


Human bodies aren't optimized for speed (ie cheetahs), or propulsion (ie dolphins), or flying (ie birds), or climbing (ie squirrels), or strength (ie guerrilla).   Our bodies are optimized for allocation.  We're the best at simultaneously moving multiple different resources from point A to point B.   We can carry different combinations of water, food, tools, weapons and offspring over long distances.  Is it a coincidence that we're also the smartest species?

Being able to physically carry a lot of different things selected for individuals who were the best at being able to mentally carry a lot of different things.  Being able to store and process a wider variety of information facilitated better physical carrying decisions.

Kevin Laland carries a lot of different information in his head.  But his combination of information hasn't led him to the conclusion that our intelligence is a function of our body type.  I don't think that he carries enough economics.  Then again, I don't know of any economists who've argued that our big brains are the result of deciding what to physically carry.  Simply carrying around a lot of economics isn't adequate to solve the puzzle of human intelligence.

The fact that Laland and economists haven't figured out the root cause of our intelligence proves that he's correct about the importance of pooling insights and knowledge.  Groups can physically and mentally carry more than individuals can.  But this is only useful to the extent that trade is facilitated.

Right now Netflix isn't a market.  There are around 100 million subscribers who don't have the opportunity to divide their limited fees among Netflix's unlimited content.  They can't use their money to help Netflix decide what to carry.  Do you know of any economists who've argued that Netflix should be a market?

Imagine a Netflix that was a market but with academic papers.  Subscribers could freely read all the papers, but they'd have the opportunity to divide their limited fees among the unlimited papers.  This specific, and substantial, prioritization process would highlight the most valuable papers in each field, which would facilitate the most profitable cross-pollination.

There's a limit to how much we can physically and mentally carry.  We have to prioritize.  We should only carry the most valuable stuff.  But this is only possible when we know the value of stuff.  Hence the importance of markets.

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