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Johnny Atman

Psychotherapist & NLP Trainer,

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How can a human being overcome selfishness, the idea that one is separate from the rest of humanity?

In an action, we usually have a target (goal) a means to achieve that (a method) and resources. Should one of the components be out of line, or not supporting the other two, the action would be a failure as harmony would be broken. So every component supports the others, every component lives for the others. When this alignment is achieved, the Archer is satisfied, releases the arrow from the bow and the target is hit. How can we live for one another and align our hearts for the benefit of all humanity?


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  • Oct 28 2013: Its my view that we operate in cooperating groups. We need to be in groups to effectively exist be safe to be and be safe to prosper and have our offspring prosper. We are not so selfish within the group as it damages our reputation and will weaken goodwill within the group towards us - weakening our prospects. By being kind within the group our reputation improves and returned kindness comes our way - we can improve our prospects.

    To lessen selfishness we need to have effective systems in place which visibly display reputations. On this TED site we build a visible reputation by making an honest contribution - abusive contributors will get a poor reputation and be ignored while the reputable gain reputation and more influence. Ebay uses visible reputation systems for buyers and sellers and loh and behold everyone is honest!

    Its my view that social business and charities can create online reputation building systems so that donors and ethical consumers can build their reputations. Maybe displayable on outgoing email and social media. Others will join in the scheme as having no visible reputation may be frowned upon in peer groups. In such a scenario social business sector can grow to fulfill our demand for a sustainable environment. If this topic interests read my essay on www.goviralbaby.com (a bit lengthy)

    We might throw a banana skin out of the car if nobody is watching - not on a busy street! Selfishness exposed is uncomfortable!
    • Oct 29 2013: Nope reputation is a popularity contest. If you say something popular that people already believe you'll get 'voted up'. If you say something that goes against the status quo, people will speak out against you.

      Most people are ignorant remember, even most TEDsters.
      • Oct 29 2013: Lets spread a little kindness, TEDsters are not ignorant. Maybe some TEDsters simply have not had the good fortune to have been exposed to a lot of enlightenment! Back to the point reputation and selfishness - In the real world it is based on deeds done. If you promise everything and deliver nothing your reputation quickly goes from hero to zero.

        Martin Nowak (harvard) wrote a great book called supercooperators in which he proved in mathematically driven computer models that cooperators will prevail over defectors ( ie free riders, non cooperators).

        Nowak shows it is mathematically true that selflessness as a behaviour wins over selfishness. Selfless populations benefit from synergistically helping one another while free riders can lurk and multiply in the population free riding on the goodwill and trust of the selfless.

        When visible reputation is introduced in the models the selfless individuals within society refrain from synergistically helping the individuals of low reputation only helping occasionally ie giving them a chance to behave cooperatively occasionally - so that they can come away from the dark side when they realise they have a losing strategy.

        In the real world with our current technology we have the opportunity roll out a voluntary scheme for consumers to join within which they can build a positive reputation. If such a scheme goes viral selflessness, ie ethical consumer behaviour/charitable giving can be highlighted. Can ethical selfless behaviour go viral?
        • Oct 30 2013: I don't think you grasp that his book is totally divorced from the history of life on earth (evolution) and the limited amount of fuel/energy people have at their disposal to model their environments and behave.

          Every behavior has a physical cost associated with it in terms of stress and energy.

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