Money, the universal mediator, heightens the chronic conflict in our control mechanisms
The fact that our customers became the new key stimulus for predatory behavior is merely the first half of the psychosplit. This chronic conflict has spread as rapidly as business itself and negatively affects virtually everyone on a daily basis. It is boosted by a second conditioning process, leading us to the final premise.
The decisive factor behind every successful transaction is not really the partner him- or herself, but the money that that person possesses and that might change hands. From the onset, however, this has generated a new association, a new internal linkage of nerve functions that made money the actual, omnipotent key stimulus. It activates our predatory instincts better than any customer on the other side of the counter.
There is no guilty party here, no “good” or “bad”. Progress can be burdened with considerable baggage, and money proved to have particularly severe side effects. Without this universal mediator, human progress as a whole would have been impossible. It was the specialization into professions and corporate goals that enabled technical and economic development. And money enabled an unlimited exchange of services; the fruit of every labor could be divided or accumulated as needed. It also bestowed us with the additional organs that have so immensely enhanced our power and promoted human culture and the finer things in life, i.e. luxury, the arts, sports, amusement and other pleasures. Without money as a tool for all our transactions, we would have stagnated at the level of underdeveloped tribes that do not know this mediator. Such splinter groups have all the aptitudes of their counterparts in high-tech, industrialized civilizations. Without money, however, their development stagnated, as would our own production and businesses, which require large investments. The same holds true for most inventions, discoveries and innovations.
As usual, immense advantages are counterbalanced by equally momentous disadvantages. I am referring to the problem of matching the volume of money to the size of the respective working force and to maintaining stable purchase value. The so decisively negative impact was that money not only bought food (energy and cellular building blocks) but could also be used to purchase every product and every service on the market – as long as we earned and saved enough Earning money not only puts food on the table but can fulfill virtually any innate drive or need dictated by culture, morals, and fashion. The full significance of this becomes evident when we take the biological (i.e. non-traditional) perspective. This jack-of-all-trades directly satisfies or heightens practically every drive and delivers every additional organ that our economy can produce (clothes, machines, buildings) and every imaginable service (medical attention, theater shows, air transport, etc.). Any culturally instilled wish can be fulfilled. This means that the universal mediator becomes the universal key stimulus, a unique step in evolutionary history.
Naturally, everyone knows that money can buy you most everything and fulfill almost any dream, and that earning money is therefore a highly desirable pursuit. What most people don’t know is that this concentrates all our innate and acquired drives, via conditioning, on earning that money.
In some animal species, artificially created key stimuli are known to be more efficient than the natural ones. Thus, certain brooding birds react to a greatly oversized artificial egg placed in their nests by heroically trying to brood that egg and neglecting their own eggs (Fig. 8). This merely represents a misguided drive, much like the acquired drives in which advertising lures us into purchasing something other than we had planned. In this sense, money is a magic wand, a powerful “supernormal” stimulus, that hypnotically attracts us. And this attraction is disadvantageous in business transactions because it prevents us from concentrating on the interests of our customers or employers. Simply put: maximizing profits means focusing on the problems and interests of the customer rather than on our earnings. Unfortunately, money prevents us from going that road.
Fig. 8: The supernormal key stimulus. As experiments have shown,
the females of certain bird species prefer artificial giant eggs over their
own even though such eggs are too large to sit on. This represents a negative
side effect of innate behavior, just like the psychosplit and the semi-predator
phenomenon in humans. Supernormal stimuli can also be effected by advertising,
which typically serves the needs of the producers more than that of the
customers. After H. Hass 1987, Vol. 4, after N. Tinbergen 1951.
Note that innate or acquired needs are typically characterized by a consummatory or end act that switches off the motivation. If I simply must have a certain type of cake, then this impulse will decrease dramatically after having consumed a certain number of pieces, ultimately becoming “switched off”. Being sexually aroused and then stilling that drive switches off that specific arousal, at least for some time. If someone wishes to see Mallorca and finally visits that destination, then that wish is satisfied and will only re-emerge at some later date, if at all. Such a “consummatory act”, however, is missing as far as earning money is concerned. Why? Because fantasy fuels our desire for things we don’t yet have. In short, our useful servant has become a tyrannical force. It prevents us from conducting equitable transactions and therefore reduces our economic potential. The overpowering key stimulus steers our thoughts in the wrong direction, makes us “egoistic” and causes us to act counter to our best interests. It goads us into “make a killing” and we end up earning less than we might have. Rather than optimally applying our talents and resources, we can also end up senselessly hoarding our money and become miserly.
A more detailed analysis reveals a third, even more disturbing type of conditioning. Not only is money a key stimulus we seek to help still our wishes and desires and that automatically activates our predatory instincts. Worse yet, the drive to acquire money supercedes all remaining drives, becoming a central focus that inexorably activates a series of other instincts that hinder us (Fig. 9). This is the second half of the psychosplit that I am trying to outline here. Its development can be summarized as follows:
First stage: We all search for food, just like our animal relatives. Key stimuli that point to food induce the respective “predisposition” which, like in animals, triggers instinctive behavioral programs.
Second stage: We buy food from others in a direct exchange that involves offering something in return. If that person becomes a regular customer, then every further contact, if that customer is in a “shopping mood”, will trigger the same reaction as sighting prey would.
Third stage: The customer pays not in kind (with food) but with money, which can then be used to purchase food. A second conditioning takes place. Money becomes an additional key stimulus that triggers our innate predatory strategies.
Fourth stage: The many uses of money (for food, services, goods) propels its value to a new level. Earning money thus became a central, newly acquired drive that coalesced with and effectively superceded all others.
Fig. 9: The supernormal drive. Money promotes virtually all our
innate drives. This explains why every drive tends to promote our focus
– via conditioning and insight – on earning money. Most of the acquired
drives and wishes we pick up through upbringing, habits, ideologies,
etc. also motivate our drive for money. It became the strongest of all
acquired drives and ranks ahead of the others. Because there is no associated
“consummatory” or “end” act, it continuously activates the psychosplit
(Angeborene Triebe...innate drive, Trieb nach Geld...drive for money, Erworbene Triebe...acquired drives)
At today’s stage of development, another weighty factor appeared. Supply and demand have become an ever more dynamic market force. This necessitates closely following the needs of your target group, i.e. the customers who are interested in what you have to offer. Again, this means focusing on the interests and advantages of your partners rather than on your own. This is doomed if we follow our instincts and seek to maximize our own benefit; if we concentrate on extracting even greater profits for our goods or services even if these are out of date; if we apply predatory, hard-sell tactics to move shoddy products and services to the seller’s advantage and the buyer’s disadvantage rather than staying one step ahead and anticipating the customer’s needs and desires, to the ultimate advantage of both buyer and seller.
It goes without saying that the psychosplit equally affects both individual workers and entire communities. In businesses this is clearly reflected in the overemphasis placed on balance sheets – a problem we will deal with later. In communities and states it is reflected throughout history in ruthless struggles for power and money. Wars of conquest, enslavement, and exploitation of other countries, along with class struggle, have always been the mainstay of political life. Today, this persists in the exhausting conflict between employers and employees and the enormous military expenditures of the world powers. In an effort to achieve positive trade balances, it has become quite commonplace for states to concentrate on their own gain and not on the benefit to others (which would ultimately be to their own advantage). The Marshall Plan, for example, and the development aid given by some countries (those that go beyond merely dispensing alms or egotistically creating markets for their wares) already demonstrate a true transactional character. The same holds true for those companies that focus on quality and customer-friendly services, i.e. on the interests and the shifting needs of their target groups.
In earlier chapters I omitted reference to certain sources of energy we typically associate with “harnessing” energy: the utilization of natural forces such as wind, the release of the energy contained in wood and coal through combustion, the energy in crude oil, water power and, finally, nuclear power. This aspect was swept under the rug in order to avoid unnecessarily complicating the presentation of the how we obtain food through transactions and how this process ultimately led to the psychosplit – an omission that I would now like to correct.
Even animals have learned to utilize natural forces. I have already mentioned one example, namely that of coral polyps, which leave it to the ocean currents and waves to convey microscopic life forms and organic remains directly to their mouths. Certain spiders utilize wind energy by climbing up plants or rocky cliffs, producing a thread that “catches” the wind and lifts them up into the air, transporting them over considerable distances. The fundamental difference to gaining energy by eating is that the natural forces spare the animal work it would otherwise have had to do. Whereas the energy taken up via food must first be released, appropriately converted, and then functionally utilized by organs, (e.g. the locomotory organs), the coral polyp need not imbibe water energy and the “ballooning” spider need not devour wind energy. Rather, these forces are directly tapped by certain structures (ballooning threads) to avoid unnecessary energy expenditure. In the Energon theory I termed this “direct utilization of outside energy.”30
We apply our intelligence to considerably increase such opportunities for utilizing energy sources that do not require eating and converting food energy. Taming fire was a crucial step in this direction and required as much intelligence as fashioning a stone axe as an additional organs to empower our hands. Masts and sails are an another example of harnessing outside energy: we force the wind to power the additional organs we call “sailboats” (an organ designed to cross waterbodies). The locomotory organ “automobile” is powered by an internal combustion engine with the energy contained in gasoline. We force gravitational energy to power hydroelectric power plants and use electrical energy to carry out an enormous range of functions. The important point in each case is that outside energy is used directly and immediately to power additional organs. If we move a boat with oars, then that energy stems from food that we “fueled up on” and converted into muscle power. The boat is improved with mast and sails because the wind then assumes this role and our food energy can be applied to correctly manipulating the sails and the rudder.
Fig. 10: Theory on the origin of life. Manfred Eigen developed
this plausible model for the origin of life, a process that proceeds via
reduplicating structures. In the energy-rich “primeval soup” of the ancient
seas, energy-rich molecules could encounter each other randomly, leading
to rings such as that illustrated here. Such rings can determine the development
of the subsequent ring. If additional molecules that promoted this process
inserted themselves in this cycle, then the improved and expanded “hypercycle”
preferentially reproduced itself. After M. Eigen and P.Schuster 1977/78.
(Nukleinsäure...nucleic acid, Replikation...replication, Übersetzung...translation, Kopplung...coupling, Enzym...enzyme)
Intellect and instinct work together quite well in the technological sector – up to this very day. In this case it is overtly beneficial for our instincts to help us maximize our own advantage. After all, this approach has enabled us to use outside energy to reach the greatest depths of the sea and to propel ourselves into space.
Unfortunately, these innate instinct controls fail in
transactional processes involving human services. Worse still, they actually
turn against us due to the psychosplit. Harnessing natural forces clearly
does fall right in the predator’s “line of business”. In contrast, our
predatory instincts are ill suited to motivate our fellow man to give us
food, to produce additional organs, or to provide some service in a transactional
setting. Money as an overpowering key stimulus reinforces this negative
tendency. The more our affluent society develops and the more we categorically
strive to maximize our pleasure, the more our thought processes lead us
astray and the more our intellect hinders optimal success. If only we could
deal with our fellow man as successfully as with other organisms and the
forces of nature.
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