In a world based on secular humanism, the powerful strive for universal well-being and individuals prefer the long-term profit for all to the short-term profit for one. Because everyone is striving for universal well-being, sustainability would be highly important, leading to a post-scarcity civilization.

Now, what social mechanisms would demotivate the bully and favor the selfless?

Today it's a bit the opposite; although it is tough to us to be kind and share we get the image that the people on the top are big greedy bullies that are doing more wrong to humanity than right. Kind and sweet people are also often depicted as soft, without will and easy to break. A very bully point of view if you ask me. Hence my question, I would like to know how a society where its profound interpersonal and social structure favors the selfless could be.

There are already some very interesting and contrasting answers. I thank you for that.

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    $\begingroup$ This question seems more suited to sociology, or even politics with investigations as to why communism failed, though post-scarcity is definitely in the realm of fantasy. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jul 20 '17 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ You first need to realize that the picture of people at the top being greedy bullies is one that's mostly (there are a few notable exceptions!) created by people as propaganda to push their own particular agendas. Second, who gets to define what "profit for all" means? People want very different things: often A can't have what s/he wants without taking something away from B. It doesn't even have to be deliberate: the guy in the next apartment can't play his music without taking away your peace & quier - or vice versa, of course. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 20 '17 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf - this logic is lost on some people. Next thing you know it's gulag's and mass graves, but all for the greater good. And they can never quite figure out where it all went wrong. We're seeing it today with the censorship of free speech by the far left. "We're supportive, and inclusive! We want equality for all and support free speech! But not if you disagree with our opinions. In that case we're justified in shaming you, physically attacking you, etc." $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 20 '17 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ jamesqf, AndreiROM: People on the top are as different as other people concerning their social motivations and their ethics, the problem quasi want to point out is that top greedy bullies (yes, they exist) can leave a path of devastation due to their power. And please do not use a question as excuse to insert your very own propaganda. $\endgroup$ – Thorsten S. Jul 20 '17 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ James P. Hogan's Voyage from Yesteryear is about this very topic; it's set in a time where technology enabled post-scarcity, yet different cultures respond very differently to it. $\endgroup$ – André Paramés Jul 21 '17 at 18:40

20 Answers 20


Yes. A culture where the wish for a specific type of social approval surpasses people's desire for material possessions.

The core reason why our current day societies favor "bullies" and not kind people is that what most people desire above (almost; we'll get to that soon) all else is money. Money is power. Power lets you make even more money. And so the cycle continues.

The unrestricted acquisition of money is something which by it's very nature cause misery and suffering within the general population/world.

To fix this all you need to do is make people want something even more than they want money: specifically, praise from society and close peers for being noble and honorable (good) people.

The good thing is what most people actually want most of all isn't money but instead approval and acknowledgement (though not specifically that due to being a good person).

The bad thing is what society approves of and gives acknowledgement to, is people with money.

So to attain the status they desire people typically try to gain money.

Now how and if this is possible is something for another day. Certainly it couldn't simply arise spontaneously. That's just not how culture works. It might however spring out of shifting demographics, job markets (or rather a lack of) and advancing technologies. Which is good because all of the latter is happening now.

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    $\begingroup$ @AngelPray, if I get you right the 'trick' would be to to refocus people on their personal pyramid of needs without having to rely on wealth? Wealth is nowadays a way in our western society to satisfy the physiological and safety needs and can be used by its possessor to acquirer its social and esteem needs and eventually feel its self-actualisation needs satisfied. pyramid of needs: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 20 '17 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ @quasi Absolutely. The only issue is via the endless cycle of desire the pyramid never gets completed. Because as people aquire more wealth, people become increasingly scared and concerned about their possesions. Instead of just having to keep care of just their personal property they need to handle an entire empire. The solution most people find of course is to get even more money, which in turn means they have all the more to loose and all the more to deal with and the cycle continues. Constantly causing more stress and consequently more desire. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @quasi Something similar also happens with the need for esteem. People aquire money to be able to be actualised by an esteemed peer group. By then of course they need even more money to be able to be actualised by an even more esteemed (wealthy) group. And the cycle continues. This isn't true of all rich people of course. There are some who actually use their money to do good in the world and not just their wealth as an arbitrary point system but I'm sure you can differenciate the two. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ @quasi The point of guarenteed income is never to let people simply not work, the point is to take away a lot/most of the financial burden of not having a job so that people can themselves one as quickly and as calmly as possible. Never forget that human beings naturally find fulfillment and pleasure in working (when they have passion for the work in question of course). Humans will even go so far as to invent jobs when they retire (hobbies like stamp collecting, gardening, etc...). An inactive human isn't a happy human and people aren't naturally lazy. $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Jul 20 '17 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ You may be interested in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Evolution_of_Cooperation $\endgroup$ – Hagen von Eitzen Jul 21 '17 at 19:05

Yeah, good question. What you're asking is essentially, "How could we fundamentally change human nature?"

Since the beginning of recorded history, people have wanted basically the same things: basic needs like food and drink and protection from the weather, sex, love, amusement, prestige, power. In almost every society in recorded history money is a way to obtain many of these things.

G. K. Chesterton once wrote (couldn't find the exact quote with a brief search, but this is the gist of it) that the problem he has with many utopian schemes is that they assume that all the hard problems are solved, and then discuss at great length how they will solve the remaining easy problems. For example, he said, they will assume that in their utopian society no one will want more than his fair share, and then they will discuss whether is fair share should be delivered by balloon or automobile.

I think the only real solution to the problem that the world has ever seen is the solution that you're ruling out: religion. People can be and have been convinced that they have a responsibility to God or the gods to be considerate of their fellow humans. Without a demand for morality coming from such a higher source, why should anyone be anything but selfish?

Perhaps you could create a society where doing good for others has rewards. Capitalism has been successful mostly because it rewards people for producing products and services that benefit others. The way to get rich in a capitalist system is to produce something that other people want. But it only works to the extent that other people can afford to pay for it. Perhaps a sufficiently clever person could invent a social or economic structure where you could derive some clear benefit by helping the poor. But no one has succeeded in doing that.

Oh, it's easy enough to say, Why can't we create a society where people get praise and honor for helping the poor, and where people are willing to sacrifice material things in exchange for this praise and honor? The reason we can't is because that's just not how real human beings work. You might as well ask, Why can't we create a society where people enjoy being poor and starving to death? That's probably easier to achieve.

  • $\begingroup$ A lively conversation about religion has been moved to chat. Please continue it there. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 23 '17 at 22:38

Please pardon the length, but this topic is built upon a complex subject.

Most people naturally desire social approval and a feeling of contributing to the world - altruistic behavior does not require a religious motivation, so explicitly secular societies do not need special external reasons for people to behave in socially beneficial ways. Many people in the world give quite generously to altruistic causes even when they are not religious (likewise being religious does not guarantee someone behaves in altruistic ways or even prevents people from being hateful bigots at all). There will always be a segment of society which does not wish to engage in social behavior, but the vast majority of people would prefer to behave in ways which gain social accolades (or at least avoid social approbation).

Before some indulge in silly fantasies of a communist utopia if we just got rid of money, or that somehow attempting to purge all forms of [publicly visible] private motivation will result in a kind of post-scarcity transcendence, they should remember the wise words of Adam Smith: It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from regard to their own self-interest.

People improve their own position by providing things other people want (regardless of whether or not you think they should want that particular thing). You are better off, they are better off, everyone is better off - no altruism required. Sure people could try to cheat you, but if word of that gets around, they quickly find few people are willing to trade with them (or even want to socially engage with them). Thus maintaining their good reputation, by providing good value to others, is vital to their future self-interest. If you demonstrate that your values are for cheap goods without regard to environmental impact, the incentive is for people to provide exactly that (providing exactly what people actually want) - if your demonstrated values are that you will pay a premium for environmentally sustainable goods (or providers of goods and services who otherwise behave "ethically"), many will attempt to provide what is desired (hence the massive corporate shift toward "green"/"sustainable"/"fair trade" products). People just need to demonstrate what they value, and that is what will be produced as well as possible (needless to say there are plenty for whom this is merely virtue signalling on both sides of the transactions - in which case this is the problem where what is actually desired is merely to be perceived as virtuous rather than truly holding the values they claim - this problem will only be accentuated under a supposedly "public altruism" system).

As societies get wealthier, their desires turn toward more generally beneficial things - like having a clean environment, improving the society in which they live, easing the suffering of others, etc., and you can see this reflected in the behavior of affluent peoples of the world (hard to care about the plight of some endangered owl or the theoretical danger to the distant future while you are watching your children starve right now).

Maintaining a good reputation, by providing great value for others (socially and economically), is self-interested yet achieves societal benefits. With the dissemination of knowledge about a person's behavior should come social accolades or approbation. The effect of social shunning can be quite powerful, though unfortunately that is often used in very negative ways, as many disagree about what exactly constitutes deplorable behavior.

In any significant population, especially one which does not seek to purge diversity of opinion, there will be a wide collection of views as to what constitutes socially beneficial behavior, what approach creates a harmonious future of prosperity for all, whether certain goals themselves constitute improvements to be encouraged or harms to be punished, etc.

There is a thin line between enforcing "good" behavior and fascist culture purging undesirables. When you start embracing the hubris of imagining you can design mankind into "better" behavior, be aware of the long history of those altruistic motivations. Never forget that eugenics arose out of altruism - trying to improve humanity as a whole. Colonialism (the "White Man's burden") destroying the primitive cultures of lesser peoples to civilize them and bring Christianity, was largely an altruistic effort. Likewise, there are considerable disagreements about whether gender and sexual minorities should be protected or sent to reeducation facilities for the betterment of society (enforcing the "public good" of heteronormative society)? Should people who hold counter-revolutionary ideas be purged to protect the glorious socialist people's republic from dangerous dissent? Do not ignore these lessons of history if you want something with depth.

The world has been improving continually throughout history, and quite dramatically over the past few decades. Greater trade, more social interactions, greater dissemination of knowledge - all of these contribute to substantial worldwide improvements. There are ups and downs, but the trend is clear and strong - it just needs to be allowed to continue. There is no need for creating some special altruism encouragement mechanism (fascist enforcement of right-think), but merely allowing the world to grow more prosperous, more educated, more integrated, and more aware of the consequences of one's actions - the improvement in the world will continue. Sure it comes in 9 steps forward, one step back, but it continues ceaselessly (and the steps backwards generally stem from those with the hubris to imagine they can design the entire world better). Often the best approach is just to do nothing - trust in the emergent order of self-organized systems rather than your ability to design away humanity.

Now if you are trying to create a world in a dystopia wherein social engineers have attempted to create the perfect society (just look at the record through history of what happens when that is tried), then manipulating people in the attempt to force altruism is a good approach. If you present a world where this is fait accompli, and post-scarcity utopia has been achieved by "this one simple trick capitalists hate", you will only end up creating a setting which is merely shallow and childishly naive.

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    $\begingroup$ Possibly the best reasoned answer on the topic. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 20 '17 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting point of view. Just few remarks. As you could see one of the tags of the question is 'science fiction' this means that if it would be as you say, how would the social structures in 150 or 200 years favor the selfless? (I do not like to use term 'good' & 'bad'). Another thing is that in the same spirit capitalism was said to self-regulate markets and we saw what happened with that. Finally I am speaking about humanism, please read its definition: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_humanism $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ Would the TL;DR be, that's already how the world works? Plus one either way. $\endgroup$ – Mazura Jul 23 '17 at 3:16
  • $\begingroup$ I generally agree, but would like to add that one of the problems of today's world is that word about cheaters does not get around. They can always find another sucker. $\endgroup$ – Stig Hemmer Jul 24 '17 at 9:25

Make public service an essential part of being rich and famous

Ancient Greek city-states, and even the Roman Empire (at least until somewhere in the late 2nd or early 3rd century) had very little in the way of taxes, essentially only sales tax (only on certain expensive goods such as slaves), customs dues, and a ridiculously low land tax (normally 1%, raised to a "horribly high" 3% in time of war). There was no income tax, no tax on profits and no VAT. And yet millions of tourists come to Greece and Rome to see the splendid remains of a sophisticated civilization. So how were those magnificent temples built, the roads, the aqueducts, the amphiteaters?

They were built by rich people for use by the public.

The rich, in order to be acknowledged as rich and famous, had to perform liturgies, that is, literally, public works. Liturgies proper were legally enforced; once the Hellenistic world became rich, after the days of Alexander the Great, the legal obligations fell into disuse, and evergetism (literally, doing good deeds) became purely socially expected. (This is what the Romans inherited; they never had a legally enforceable obligation for the rich to contribute to the society: it was simply the expected behavior.)

What the rich got back was immortal fame. How many millions come to Rome each year to see the Pantheon? And there it is on the frontispiece, perfectly readable after more than twenty centuries: M. Agrippa L. F. Cos. Tertium Fecit -- Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, third time consul, made this. (Of Agrippa's Pantheon only the façade survives; the marvellous concrete monolith was built in the 2nd century under Trajan and Hadrian). And so the Gardens of Lucullus, the Flavian Amphitheater (better known today as the Colosseum), Trajan's Forum and, not least, the Appian Way "the queen of long roads", begun by Appius Claudius the Blind towards the end of the 4th century before the common era.

In the classical world, good fame was the supreme good, and wealth was but a means to achieve it: this is the entire secret.

Omnis homines, qui sese student praestare ceteris animalibus, summa ope niti decet, ne vitam silentio transeant veluti pecora, quae natura prona atque ventri oboedientia finxit.

All men, who desire to distinguish themselves from other living creatures, ought to strive with the utmost effort, lest they pass their lives in obscurity like beasts of burden, which nature has fashioned stooping and servile to their belly.

(C. Sallustius Crispus, On the conspiracy of Catilina, English translation by Rev. John Selby Watson, M.A., 1899, at Perseus).

We note that some rich people have continued to strive to live to this ancient ideal, and even in our corrupt days some still do; for example, the Bodleian Library, funded in the late 16th century by Sir Thomas Bodley, or, in our present time, the Gates Foundation or even the Tesla and SpaceX companies into which Elon Musk sunk his PayPal fortune.

But it is no longer the norm. It should be.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! very interesting and goes a hand in hand with the discussion in @AngelPray's answer where we propose to could climb up the pyramid of needs through a post-scarcity society and focus on focus on social recognition. $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ The Gates Foundation is, literally, an advertising budget. (The benefits are utterly wonderful, but it's an: advertising budget.) The one and only reason Mr Musk started a car company was pure, filthy, searing, bitter, blazing greed to make money, because car companies make a lot of money. The one and only reason Mr Musk started a company to tap the staggering flow of money from the US government ("Space X") was because one great way to make money is to tap the staggering flow of money from the US government. $\endgroup$ – Fattie Jul 22 '17 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ Also TBC, the sole reason Mr Musk started a "car" company was: the only way to get a huge amount of money today, is, by creating some company and then taking it public on the major stock markets. The nature of the company ("something to do with cars" "manufacturing pencils" "oil" "software" "technology" "farming" ...... whatever) is of no consequence. Mr Musk sat down and said "I have to quickly make another public company"; "cars" (or whatever) is a trivial side aspect of the undertaking. The raison d'etre is simply "make billions on a public offering". $\endgroup$ – Fattie Jul 22 '17 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ Pretty much every celebrity supports one charity or another. Some are genuine, some just do it to make themselves seem like a nicer person so they get more fans and thus more money. $\endgroup$ – Pharap Jul 22 '17 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Fattie: The examples were chosen carefully; maybe I should have said "arguably". Anyway, arguing, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has an endowment of 44 billion dollars. That is not an advertising budget. Tesla showed that there was a market for electric cars, and nowadays the traditional manufacturers are following suit; see for example the recent announcement from Volvo. Tesla is not profitable (yet). SpaceX has lowered the cost of putting a satellite in orbit by an order of magnitude. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 22 '17 at 16:06

Star Trek Replicator

A key point in this utopian future is the retiring of scarcity. It probably will come first or along side the social changes that TheSexyMenhir and AngelPray are talking about, not after, but if I don't have to want for anything at all (I don't need money, or food, or stuff cause I can have it all at the push of a button - and I don't have to work for anything at all). This leads to people only doing things because they enjoy them. It is a hard thing to truly wrap your mind around because scarcity is ingrained. The important thing would be that the replicator technology be open sourced, and available to everyone and the government and culture to support it.

Right now we have gotten pieces of this to work eg the internet has removed the information barrier, so information is now nearly free(there are government laws protecting special interests like music, these would have to go away).

We also aren't terribly far from automation and renewable energy reducing the cost of producing everything to nearly zero. If we then can use education to greatly reverse the population issues of our world, and/or settle other planets to spread us out so that land is not scarce, we might find ourselves looking at just having to figure out how to get along ideologically and we will be there.

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    $\begingroup$ Mentioned in the answer of @ is the pyramid of needs, who states that once we have our physiological and safety needs satisfied we still will have to satisfy another three. Of course you could put the top three levels of the pyramid (love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization) into what you call 'doing things because one enjoy them' Maslow's hierarchy of needs: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 20 '17 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed and that is a good point. $\endgroup$ – theinvisibleduck Jul 20 '17 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ And who enjoys being bullied, they will all have the option of going elsewhere. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Jul 20 '17 at 21:59

I don't think it's possible to exhaustively answer this question in a book, not to speak of a post on Stack Exchange, but let's try to find some starting points. The system and society we live in is based not only on historical developments but also on a broad range of incentives and natural tendencies and motivations. Trying to find key points in those may be a good start. Obviously this is heavily influenced by my personal opinions on things. Here's a few:

Humans like to feel powerful

Bullying is a way to exert power over others. The most important reason to do so is generally a personal need to feel powerful. This need often stems from a feeling of powerlessness which needs to be compensated. That's not to say that some people won't try to exert power and get drunk on the feeling, but many crimes of power are specifically committed by those who don't feel that they can validate themselves in other ways. This doesn't just include bullying but also many instances of rape, child abuse and domestic violence.

Because of this, first and foremost it's important to let people grow up and live with a feeling of agency over their own lives. Those who feel victimised, treated unfairly and believe they have no power to choose or influence how their life goes aren't only worse at trying to better themselves but also the most likely to lash out in order to make themselves feel better.

Giving a feeling of agency is hard. It influences childrearing, it influences school systems to a large degree and it's also connected to things like mechanical, boring and ungrateful work (see also Marx's theory of alienation). It's further influenced by inborn advantages and disadvantages such as disabilities. And lastly, it's heavily connected to expectations which are themselves in flux and can devolve into entitlement (see also my third point).

Another point is that we tend to internalise abuse and will sometimes perpetuate it, project it outward onto those we either feel have it better, remind us of our abusers, remind us of ourselves as we were being abused etc. We will often try to defend our abusers, especially in childhood and romantic relationships, and thus convince ourselves that the abuse is loving or even deserved. Then of course, we may later abuse those who we love and believe deserve it. We do this because we don't want to believe someone we love would harm us, because we don't want to admit we are damaged in some way (because that makes us feel weak) and because of many other sad reasons. I personally would expect a society based on secular humanism to outlaw all kinds of corporal punishment for a start, but else I don't have much of a solution to this except for a well funded universal mental healthcare system. In any case though there should be a wide awareness that the need to put down others reflects on one's own weakness.

Humans are only satisfied by things getting better

It isn't generally part of human nature to be content with a situation, even a relatively positive one. Humans constantly strive for improvement. We're naturally predisposed to recalibrate our measure of "happiness" and "suffering" according to our experiences, which lets us adapt to things like disabilities caused by accidents, but it also means any accomplishments and comforts we have will over time become an expected standard instead of a boon to us. We will begin to feel entitled to these things and while their loss will cause us suffering, we won't feel happier for having them. Our expectations may get out of control.

There are philosophies that emphasise appreciating what we have and curbing excessive desire, but those are limiters on the natural tendency which still exists and doesn't go away. Your society should encourage the attitude of being mindful of the things people possess/receive while trying to focus a person's need for improvement onto their own ability and understanding rather than their living situation - which however needs to be a decent one to begin with.

Modern society is too big for certain social mechanisms

A lot of the social regulation that works well with inherent human moral tendencies only works on the level of a small group - tribe sized. Masses are anonymous and thus we don't feel as bad if they're suffering or if we are doing something to harm them. Personal reciprocation, punishments like shunning and mechanisms like reputation all lose power in a faceless mass of billions. Our own instincts of empathy are numb towards large numbers, which is why both in advertising, asking for donations and in storytelling we tend to focus on individual characters instead.

I don't know what to do about this, but I know what not to do: segregate. In our society, rich people live in their own closed communities which are essentially a different world altogether. Their children often go to expensive private schools and some have no understanding at all of scarcity or poverty. Religions tend to do the same, and we've long known that people who have GSRM friends are less discriminatory towards the group as a whole. So your society needs to ensure regular social contact between all layers of society and may also encourage learning languages and travelling.

Capitalism has a natural feedback loop towards inequality

Capitalism can improve the overall wealth of a society (and has to a degree done so in the past) but it also will concentrate the wealth in the hands of the few and this will progressively get worse. Just like a first past the post voting system will inevitably lead to a two party system, this too can be shown mathematically - at least on a basic level. Unfortunately it is difficult to replace personal wealth as a motivator.

For this, many solutions have been proposed but very few have ever been tested. A credit economy in which money can be spent but not amassed (e.g. parecon), a sandbox market for entrepreneurial activity, a form of a participatory planning economy or just maybe some kind of social capitalism, possibly all with an unconditional basic income? We just don't know enough about how these things work in practice to say which is best, so you can choose whatever you like most. What we can say is that unregulated capitalism and authoritarian socialism generally haven't worked well whenever we tried them out. I'm a libertarian socialist, so my thoughts go in certain directions, feel free to go wherever else with yours.

Humans want to give their own offspring an advantage

One of the most difficult things about trying to achieve a level playing field in regardless whatever kind of economical system you have is that parents will want to pass on their earnings to their children. This includes both education and material possession. Providing for one's children is a deep rooted human trait and originally a very positive one. It can however easily lead to an increase of inequality as generations progressively build on their advantages, leaving less lucky ones behind.

The only solution to this that I know of is to encourage this behaviour on the educational front while limiting the private ownership of material advantage far enough that passing on what can be owned doesn't cause too much of a problem.

Justice works differently from how it feels

Personal and systemic are two very different categories. For example, I don't think that the death penalty should exist, but there are still people who I'd gladly murder if I could get away with it, because I think they deserve to die. We humans like the idea of revenge, we become obsessed with it. However, retributive justice isn't a particularly effective system on a societal level, the attempts at reform we make are in many cases token efforts and there are incentives against reintegration in many countries.

I don't know of a way to curb the human desire for revenge, but we are absolutely able of using a system that doesn't succumb to it. Let your society use a system focused on restorative justice wherever possible and use incarceration as a tool of crime prevention by segregating those who're a danger to others. There's a lot of untested ideas to play with here. You could, for example, try the Australian approach of putting serious criminals into their own separate society in which they're allowed to live freely as normal, only they can't leave without permission. It's not a system I'd use in reality, but it makes for interesting stories. I would also consider nonabusive forms of prison labour. More importantly though you should minimize imprisonment altogether and reserve it for violent criminals mostly. Focus instead on making amends to victims, placing offenders under supervision, loss of certain rights and privileges such as access to certain jobs (in which they'd have the potential to do lots of damage).

Lastly, you'd need a court system that deemphasises the nature of the criminal and emphasises the facts of the case, evidence and clear guidelines for convictions and consequences. Jury systems have the unfortunate trait of people being easily swayed by emotional appeals and personal prejudice.

A political caste can be problematic

In almost every society I know of we will at some point have people who're specialised politicians. The problem with this is that a) this again leads to a form of segregation with those in power not being affected as much by their decisions as others and b) the ability to convince people to vote for you isn't necessarily correlated with the ability to govern well (see also Trump).

The thing is, both a functioning representative democracy and most forms of participatory political systems (say, council communism) have the same problem and that's education. Uneducated people will easily vote for demagogues against their own personal best interest, because they make uninformed decisions. Uneducated people also probably won't make good decisions in a direct democracy for pretty much the same reasons. And I'm reluctant to propose some kind of expert oligarchy for obvious reasons. Direct democracy also has a problem of taking up lost of time, i.e. inefficiency.

If we allow ourselves some kind of utopian fiction we might go for a form of digital democracy in which the internet is used to much more quickly inform people and let them cast their votes, but well you've seen what the internet is like now (see also Breitbart).

I honestly have no idea how to ever solve this conundrum, although better political and economical education as well as bringing back rhetorics as a subject would be a start.


Sorry but I need to stop here even though this is far from complete. Maybe I'll add more later, until the I hope it's helpful and I apologise to anyone who feels offended by my radical leftist propaganda.

EDIT: Sorry this took so long, but I really wanted to quote an excerpt from a book here and then I couldn't find my copy of the book. We'll have to do without. For what it's worth I heartily recommend giving Nick Harkaway's 2008 novel "The Gone-Away World" a read.

Inhumanity of nonhuman entities

Organisations aren't human, and despite what someone may have decided about Hobby Lobby, they don't really have beliefs and feelings either. But they do have structures, and they do have goals, and their structures will be built to serve those goals. One of these goals is self-preservation.

When we look at churches, corporations or ideologies, they are human constructs of varying generations. Religions are human constructs, memes essentially. They survive in a world of memetic natural selection by adopting traits that support their survival, for example making doubt a sin and blind faith a virtue to dissuade people from thinking too hard about why they don't make sense. Churches then are constructed to serve the religions, but a church in and of itself has structures and goals of its own. And even when we assume that in the beginning an idea was created in order to benefit mankind, just like certain religious ceremonies were created for a rational purpose that doesn't exist anymore but have been retained as ritual nonetheless, ideas and organisations can become corrupted by choosing to protect themselves rather than the reasons why they were created (see also the catholic church child rape scandal for an organisation trying to protect itself above everything else).

The thing is: organisations don't have human empathy or common sense. They will go after their goals single-mindedly, only tempered by the humans in them that have the power to decide humanly. But since these human aspects will generally go against these interest of the company as a whole, the development will always go against it. A private corporation's goals is profit. And thus it will internally select for the more ruthless leadership, the lower wage, the higher price and the dirtier methods as long as those serve this goal.

This has a dehumanising aspect on its members who're incentivised to become less human to advance and get all the other nice things that humans want like the feeling of power from my first point and also lots of money. They will justify their behaviour to themselves, they will compartmentalise their feelings like an Auschwitz guard who's a really loving family man at home, and at some point they will hit their bottom line and be replaced by someone who's willing to sink lower for the cause.

This is how utopias turn into dystopias.

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    $\begingroup$ thank you a lot for your extended answer. There is a lot of material that can be used. Very interesting to me is your point on "Humans are only satisfied by things getting better" as I was omitting it. At the moment the "getting better" is mainly based on material gathering, maybe doing a switch to social recognition and self-actualization could be a good incentive. Of course this could only work, as participatory democracy (and any other kind) if there is a long trans-generational educational system paired with it. $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ I know that segregation and sectarianism are of the main issues in an egalitarian society and people deciding for others even more and I do not want to enter in a kind of AI controlled communist system. Maybe a system based on agency for individuals, self determination for small communities (who could have a direct democracy system through the net, I like this idea on the community level because people are in touch with it), participatory democracy on a city/regional level and then we can get more representative on larger scale? $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 11:02
  • $\begingroup$ At the moment in a lot of countries a president can only have two mandates. Do you think it could be a good thing to limit a political career to 8 years? $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with the drug law point, like I said prison should be mostly for violent crime and I'm more on the side of legalisation anyway. I think systems and organisations needs to be heavily regulated, not individuals. The problem isn't the term limit, it's that people in power are capable of using that power to their benefit and the public's detriment. Without ownership of big corps and wealth limits a lot of lobbyism falls away but the problem is still eternal. And I'll add more later today. ("Mostly" interesting. Heh.) $\endgroup$ – Pahlavan Jul 21 '17 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ @quasi Just a small thing, if there's ever a story to come out of this question I'd be interested in reading it, so I'd appreciate a heads up where and when, if any. $\endgroup$ – Pahlavan Sep 6 '17 at 5:26

You have a personal bias as to how interpersonal interactions should occur, and how society should be organized. It comes across in how you describe bullies, and bully POVs. This is not criticism, it's purely an observation. Unfortunately your ideals run completely parallel to human nature.

Mankind may one day reach a point where scarcity is a thing of the past. I sincerely doubt it, but it's not entirely impossible. However, even at that point, human nature will still come into play as far as societal and inter-personal relationships are concerned.

Human history is full of conflict, murder, and strife. This is not a coincidence. For hundreds of thousands of years we fought for survival, and this can't be changed merely because, ideally, we should all get along.

Even if a majority of people agreed with that sentiment, human society is not monolithic. There exist thousands of cultures on this planet, and if one embraces pacifism to a great degree, then some other more aggressive group will simply conquer them.

For a society to be successful, the state has to protect its citizens interests, and sadly this sometimes means that some other group will have to suffer in order for yours to thrive. And realize, that existing in a post-scarcity society will not help eliminate conflict.

People don't always fight over food, or resources. More often than not they slaughter each other for ideological beliefs. And so, if your post-scarcity society is super friendly, and inclusive, but another society is very driven by ideological belief, then they will either infiltrate your own system and use your acceptance against you, or they will outright attack and conquer you.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. Although I disagree on several points: Most of the time, today and in the past, groups of people fought for interests (being gold, land or trade routes) and the powerful used ideology as one of the stories to feed their armies. Also, we, as human, are on the verge of overpopulating the Earth because, even with all the conflict we have. And we're able to achieve enormous things through working together. Also I would like you to think about 'human nature', is it something we have hard burned in our genes? Or is it something we get through education? Or is it both? $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 20 '17 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ Nevertheless, I do not speak about a society without conflict. Conflict can be exciting and motivating, as long as we do not kill ourselves, of course. I think about two different schools of thought or two art schools or even in sports $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 20 '17 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ @quasi - human interaction is shaped by our behavior, which is hard wired - to a great degree - genetically. If you've ever felt lust, frustration, envy, or anger that's your body reacting instinctively to a situation. You can train yourself to remain calm, to listen to other POVs etc, but it doesn't come naturally. Observe any group of children and it will confirm this. Not all people will be willing, or even able to adopt a purely selfless attitude. It runs contrary to our survival instincts. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Jul 20 '17 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ I do not want to discuss if those are innate mechanics or placed into through by a educational frame we've been building on since our ancestors got sentient, because I do not know. What I want to do is to create a fictional world where our basic needs are satisfied. Maybe at that point those traits you describe will be used differently. For example getting angry from injustice can be used as an energy for social change, vanity for social acceptance etc. If those traits do not get satisfied, you will get frustrated. That doesn't mean that you will start bullying and molesting people. $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 11:38

By introducing a set of rules which determine what is selfless and assigning punishment and rewards according to those rules.

You know, like laws.

Okay, almost like laws, but for everyone instead of only for those that are too poor to defend themselves with smear-campaigns, expensive lawyers, and bribes.

Implement the following changes:

  • Unified World Government and unified legal system. => No sanctuaries for those that break the law. Takes away a common threat of corporate lobbyists; "If you do this, we'll take our business (and tax-money) elsewhere."
  • Destroy Monopolies => You need to prevent any one power to be too powerfull to be regulated by your laws.
  • Prevent Cults of Personality from Forming => Again, you don't want too much power in one hand.

The End goal of the above points, is to create a society where anyone can feel that the law is applied fairly (assuming the law is actually fair). This will make those governed by those law more likely to act according to your laws.

It's very important, that the people will WANT to follow your laws. That way they can be absorbed into the cultural consciousness - and with time can become habits.

  • $\begingroup$ I understand where you want to go but a central regime and preventing cults or whatever other sort of new power structures is, in my eyes, against some of the core principles of humanism as openness to revision, self determination, individual agency and critical thinking. Humanism on wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 20 '17 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ @quasi Openness to revision, individual agency and self determination can be achieved by applying the same structures that modern states use to do so: A democratic government with the ability to change the law. Basically bake the way to change things into the system, but block power-structures that try to grow outside of it. Have to admit though, that I can't think of a way to step arround the Cult of Personality thing. $\endgroup$ – TheSexyMenhir Jul 20 '17 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ the biggest problem of our contemporary democracies is that politics became a career. Also if you want to climb up the ladder little by little the political system as it is today will probably corrupt you. For example, in a lot of countries, electoral campaigns are expensive. To get elected one must compromise a lot and once the politicians are at the top play hand in hand with groups of interests so they stay at the top. Then there is the whole question of privileges of the political class. $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 12:02

You might be looking for a gift economy. It's not uncommon in some societies, though it's been mostly eclipsed by market-driven economies.

Modern western societies try to move in that direction occasionally, with governments gaining prestige according to how many people they 'help' through social programs, but, to fuel that, they have to aggressively tax other people. Perhaps you could model it in a modern feudal society, where different strata are expected to gift up and down in different ways.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting point. I have to dig into this gift economy a bit more. Already some ideas came from other answers. As putting in place a system that would satisfy basic needs, this paired with an educational system that stimulates the students in having a motivated active role in society. All this in a society, playing who's on the vanity of people, where social status can be achieved by benefiting it. (Ok, it's very condensed) $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 12:23

This helps explain why actually evolution does tend to prefer niceness: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201607/the-prisoner-s-dilemma-and-the-virtues-tit-tat

The point is that the ideal behavior for an individual is to initial be nice but get revenge when they are wronged, to prevent others from further wronging you. It actually explains a lot of human behavior.

But perhaps if when others wrong you, not only do you get revenge but others in the group will work together to get revenge in some way that sterilizes you.. possibly including death or long jail time, which in a sense does happen.

Or perhaps others could do something to reward nice behavior.. which encourages more of it. So sort of a tit-for-tat for niceness as well. Which also sort of already exists.

But the point is if either of those was in some way taken to the extreme, evolution would favor the selfless.

Or what about this? They evolve the ability to detect when each other are lying? That might be just enough to strengthen tit for tat for both positive and negative behavior reinforcement.

  • $\begingroup$ Punishing and prisons are used today and do not really work. Detecting lying would only help a bit, as a lot of time the wrong doer is convinced it is doing good. To it or its community. What I liked is the encouragements to nice behavior, but more through social recognition or something in that kind. $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ If punishing people could be done to the extent that they lost the ability to reproduce.. it would help. Or maybe they and their kids were sterilized? Little extreme... but it would probably work. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Czarnek Jul 21 '17 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ I do not know if it would work or not but this seems quiet against some fundamental principles of humanism. Also it is something imposed upon the population not something that came from it. I actually prefer the carrot to the stick en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_humanism $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 22 '17 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ They may consider chemical castration, where all you do is take a pill to be humane... or not. I could see either way. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Czarnek Jul 24 '17 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ @MatthewCzarnek The idea that tit-for-tat is part of evolution or "the most successful" strategy is ludicrously wishful thinking. Animals from insects to spiders, sharks, crocodiles and lions and tigers and other big cats don't play it, there is no indication the top dinosaur predators played it, and even among modern humans, the first interaction with a human predator may be enough to crush the person that cooperates with or trusts the predator for their first transaction, a transaction that can end in rape, murder, or bankruptcy (and does, every single day). $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Jan 1 '18 at 19:46

Promoting selflessness is a mistake, even if that is what you want.

An easy analogy to explain this is in the topic of Business Profits. In business, it is a big tactical mistake to focus on profits and keep trying to think of ways to make more profit. This kills more successful businesses than any other tactic.

This does not mean one shouldn't be aware about profits, they cannot be ignored: But it is important to realize that profits are a residue, what is left over from customer payments after satisfying the customers. The point of the business is to satisfy customers at less cost than the customers will happily pay.

The distinction seems trivial, but there are MANY easy ways to increase profits by making customers less happy: less choice, less service, less quality with cheaper parts, less guarantee, a worse return policy, and so on.

It is very difficult to make more profit and keep the customers equally happy. Most businesses have already minimized their staff and other expenses, so to make a bigger profit they turn to shortcuts, and lower quality (sometimes by overburdening their work force, which grows stressed and resentful and less attentive to the quality of their work).

The cost-cutting approach can work for many years, but eventually the drip, drip, drip of customers leaving (along with their best employees, because those are the ones that can easily find easier jobs) puts them in a financial bind, and the lost customers and good employees seldom come back: They have found something they like better.

It is more difficult but usually possible to make customers more happy, with a small increase in price and a smaller increase in costs, and thus take home more profit. Or if you have happy customers, to work on marketing to get more happy customers without changing quality.

So back to the selfless! You have a similar problem here; selflessness is, like profit, a residue. It emerges naturally from human nature when their own self feels satisfied: sheltered, healthy, safe, secure, socially connected and free to help. Or not. They do not have to feel rich. We have a lot of people in this position in the world: Retirees in countries where they receive a secure stipend they do not have to work for, along with health care they don't have to work for. Many of them donate time and energy to various causes.

I would warn that numerous psychology experiments show that rewarding somebody for any act (which includes selfless behavior) tends to make them think transactionally. In particular this includes behavior they did for free (like painting, or playing a game) because it was fun: If they start getting paid for it, even \$1, they tend to no longer do it for fun: They expect a dollar, and doing it for free is no longer fun because it isn't rewarded! This is true for both children and adults.

The answer is, if you want to promote selflessness, you should do that indirectly by promoting the kinds of conditions that eliminate the barriers to selflessness most people have. What are those? Trying to make sure they don't end up homeless, trying to make sure their kids are clothed, fed, educated and have healthcare, trying to make sure their own retirement is not going to be a stressful hellscape at the very time their physical and mental capacities are on the decline, and their health costs are increasing.

Now it sounds like I am advocating for socialism, but I am really not (at least not the socialism most people think of). The point isn't to make all of society equal, or equally rich. The point is not to put a ceiling on anybody; the point is to put a very substantial floor on how far one can decline financially: That floor is you will always have enough to not go hungry, enough shelter and warmth/cooling, water and sewage services, enough safety to be seldom worried about victimization by criminals, enough healthcare to not worry about suffering for lack of care, and enough education for your children to not worry if they will be able to make it in life.

If you promote that, selflessness will be maximized automatically.

Added to address OP commentary.

Social status will always matter; that is human nature.

Power does not always matter. I provide a specific circumstance, in the hope you can generalize to the broader culture:

At the university I had dozens of friends I got together with in various combinations, but none of us were ever "in charge" or deciding what we will do, where to eat, what volunteer projects to join, etc. New professors and college workers were often invited along, usually to lunch or a presentation or whatever. They could become our friends and be part of our informal group. But we would quickly disinvite and rebuff any that insist upon trying to be "the leader". We don't want leaders, even our department head was elected by us and could be un-elected and replaced. We want colleagues, companions, and people with a sense of humor, and the same goes for collaborators on our scientific projects: Nobody wants to spend two or three years of their life working alongside a jerk that is constantly trying to assert they are in charge and always knows best.

That is the part of the point of having a social connection first; to see if people can go along with somebody else's idea, even if it just Thai food for lunch instead of Pizza. They don't have to like it or pretend they did, but if they can't shrug off a minor mistake and all they do is complain about how Pizza would have been better --- In our culture, that personality trait goes beyond lunch and makes them a solo researcher in their career.

The same would go for trying to insist upon a place for lunch: If Richard asks me if I feel like Thai because he knows I like it, and we invite newbie Samuel along with us and he doesn't like Thai, he can decline without penalty. If he wants burgers, we will say we are set on Thai, if he tries to insist we should try his burger joint, we still refuse and again, that attitude of not taking "No" for an answer, if persistent and repeated, will result in academic isolation.

Now to apply that to your culture at large: In a post-scarcity society (a mini-version of that is approximated by academics and researchers working in a university setting), the notion of Project Leaders is acceptable and often an organizational necessity. Somebody has to pay attention to coordination and project-wide decisions, funding, schedules, progress and information dissemination.

But Power over others does not have to come with that; such power (for example to fire somebody, hire a person or firm to do something, spend large sums of money, or rewrite the budget) can be reserved to various committees by majority vote.

What makes people act selflessly, even if they are not inclined to do so, is a culture that rewards them with friends and collaborators for what they care about; and the punishment of isolation if they show a pattern of acting selfishly or trying to gain power: No friends, no colleagues, no collaborators. This is not a monetary reward or punishment, but even more effective than that.

The post-scarcity part is very important here: The strong safety net means nobody must work for anybody, so they don't work for people they do not like, or regard as selfish power-mad jerks. IRL that type of person gets away with their behavior because so many of their employees feel trapped in the job and forced to put up with a boss they dislike, or even hate. With a strong safety net, young adults won't tolerate such behavior: They in particular have little to lose (in terms of lifestyle) by quitting and falling into that safety net, so they just won't take jobs (or stay in them) if their boss is overly controlling or doesn't treat them fairly. That in turn means very few such people ever get to be bosses, because their turnover rate is too high, constantly incurring new training costs and learning curve, which is too expensive for their bosses to remain competitive.

That is cultural feedback: Bosses need approval and friendship of their subordinates, and that same personality trait has to eventually travel up to the top of the pyramid; because nobody on the bottom layer of the pyramid (our minimum wage slots) has to put up with any shit and can walk out at any time with zero consequences in terms of their lifestyle.

About 97% of people want to have friends, and the big, society-wide projects that bring high social status require teamwork. You can't make an action movie alone, you can't build the Large Hadron Collider alone. You can't even build much of a business alone, if the culture of working with friends that share equally means few people want to work for you!

Of course one can write a novel, or a song, or a mathematics paper alone, but for most life is more enjoyable with friends and co-workers, and that is also the route to getting bigger projects done that carry more social status. It is nice to be a part of something, and held in high regard by your friends. If much of that regard demands you be a good team player and selfless, then that is what you do.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I want to go in that direction but feel that this alone is a bit weak to build a society on (let's not forget that it also need to be an engaging world for others to read). So I wanted to investigate a bit on what could be the social mechanisms, from the citizens part that could benefit being selfless. Today, for example, being rich, is not only about having a lot of wealth, it's also about social status and power on the people. How kind of behavior be in the post-scarcity society you just explained? $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 25 '17 at 23:34

To answer how an altruistic society might evolve, look at what caused it to evolve to be the way it is now. Most of human history there was scarcity of food and a lot of danger from predators or other human tribes competing for food, so physical strength and ability to amass resources were very important for survival or the group, so such people were viewed positively by society.

In the modern world fighting off bears is less of a concern, and a much bigger problem might be environmental collapse. If you extrapolate that further, you could say that in few short thousands of years (or hundreds if you want to be optimistic), humans will evolve to dislike greed, due to it's wastefulness and environmental concerns, while emphasising non-violent cooperation, since efficient use of resources is more important then fighting off things.

Eventually creativity, ability to get along and not-hoarding things might become more socially desired then strength and wealth. Also robots will do all the heavy lifting so who needs strength, am I right?

  • $\begingroup$ yes, it is a bit in this direction I intend to go, actually. $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 25 '17 at 23:11

I think the question may be slightly different than you are thinking. You are asking for help to build a selfless utopia. I would argue the challenge is not finding a way to build a selfless utopia, but to pick one from the thousands that have come before us. What you seek is a very popular topic in philosophy. Hundreds of philosophers have penned their words on the topic, trying to capture that fundamental essence that makes us better.

The hard part is not standing up on a soap box and proclaiming my vision for society. Instead, I think it's more effective to proclaim that of others. There are some really good ideas out there in philosophy, if you just research them.

Arne Naess championed the idea of the Ecological Self through most of the 20th century. He coined the term, defining as "The ecological self is that which the self relates to." He wrote a great number of articles arguing that this definition of self is no less meaningful than any other definition, while its implications are vast. For example, he solves the issue of the selfish gene in this way: altruism is really selfishness in disguise. He argues that Mother Theresa was the most selfish person who lived, but the self that she associated with was so wide and all-encompassing that it was possible to misconstrue her wide selfish behavior as mere altruism. According to Naess, she did what she did not because she loved the children she helped more than she loved herself; she did it because she loved herself in such a wide and rich way that we are all better people for the time she spent with us.

If such a philosophy were common place, I think the world would have a different color today.

Or take the works of Alan Watts. He teaches a different argument, one that is more Eastern. Instead of arguing that the self is vast, he argues it is small, and perhaps even an illusion. What remains without that illusion is... well... it's something else. The hard part with paraphrasing such philosophers is that their ideas deserve more credit than one can truly give in a paragraph. Instead, if I may link a video which has some of my favorite (and more accessible) ideas he's put forth. I highly recommend giving him the attention he's due if you're writing of a world for the selfless.

In reality, the hardest part I have found, when it comes to such a topic, is that the people who are truly striving for this sort of society aren't the ones talking about it. They're the ones who are too busy doing it. But if you go looking, you'll find more than enough gurus and sifus and pastors and mentors, each with a little piece of the puzzle to unlock the society you seek to write about.

So enjoy! Namaste!


Essentially this would take a major cultural shift. Considering our world will be dealing with major changes in the coming century. Rising population, dwindling resources, the shift to renewable energy, the necessicity for recycling of resources, global warming, multipolar geopolitics, displacement of people from the workforce with robotics, and a rebalancing of culture and political power away from the European nations (and, yes, the USA is a European nation) to the non-Western.

It is possible that probable there will be cultural, social, economic, and political realignment on a grand scale. In circumstances like these, precisely the kind of cultural shift to much more selfless society could arise. There is, of course, no guarantee this could be the outcome, but if a plenitude of factors happened to fall out the right way, then it might be possible.


In contrast to the other answers I think it is quite possible, but it would mean a radical approach.

You may not like this at all, but if you want more and more good people, you need to inhibit procreation of bad people to suppress genetic inheritance and you need to inhibit bad upbringing to suppress psychological damage. There is no other way.

At first I would say we are in fact on the right track so far: Despite the sensational approach of newspapers and TV and a flood of horror movies depicting a world of violence, if we compare the track record, the number of violent crimes has steadily decreased during human existence. Also the number and extent of wars and its casualties in comparison to their number of citizens has decreased (As horrific as WWI and WWII were, they inflicted less proportional casualties than the earlier Thirty Years war!). Also the casualties were caused by the progress of conventional weaponry.

I think we have currently the situation (from my experience, totally unscientific of course) that some people strive for good actions, less people strive for evil and selfish actions and the rest of the population are opportunists which adapt to the situation.

What advantage have good people? They can work together, trust each other and they are able to hold out bad situations if the need arises. Bad people on the contrary have always the problem that they must always look out for other bad people that can deprive them of their earnings or fool them. So the standard approach is the bad people are looking out for good people which can be exploited. Knowing that after a time victims know their identify, perpetrators are often moving to a new home.

So the solution is simple: Good people are taking the next step of networking together (the idea itself is old, see freemasonry) and use the current technology to allow each good person to collect and identify predators. Every time a good person is taken advantage of, every good person ceases to support the perpetrator or people who support him/her. This is not done by shitstorms or actively harming them by violence etc., but by passive resistance. You do not listen to their schemes, you do not buy something from them and you do not sell something if you are not legally obliged (shop owner). The perpetrator hits an invisible wall.

The next step is political organization. The good people are electing their best trusted person for political power. Now the question hangs on the fact if the majority of opportunists will choose a party which in fact tries to hold promises and which can be trusted (I am not sure of that, short-sighted decisions are unfortunately often popular).

Having not the option of the typically evil actions of killing and castration to inhibit procreation (we are still talking about people supposed to be good), the only way I see is that people who commit crimes are redlisted. Redlisting means that people are informed that they are not suitable partners and if this fails (humans are dumb), the redlisted people will go to prison if they procreate and their childs are free for adoption. The prison surely does not circumvent people to have a first child, but it puts them out of the way for further procreation. The goal is not total control, but stacking the deck for good behavior so that after generations Darwin can do the work.

Also people who are visibly overburdened with rearing up a child (which is a common occurrence now) must get counseling to avoid losing their childs (to inhibit the environmental component for bad children).

This is the thing where people will balk at because it means we are abandoning the notion that people have a right to procreate and it strongly reminds us of the eugenics motion during the first half of the 20th century. As this is worldbuilding, I am telling you an option which you personally may despise.

On the other hand: Few people do not accept that we inhibit possible dangerous behavior by e.g. a driving license which prohibit problematic drivers and drug users from driving. But everyone should be allowed to rear up a child which can be abused and mistreated?

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting input. Although I do not see it fit into a global humanist society because it goes in counter the act of free agency, if could be interesting to test this structure on a smaller community. Maybe a country? Who knows $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 21 '17 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ "you need to inhibit procreation of bad people to suppress genetic inheritance" -- I'm rather afraid that in order to do so, you first need to identify the "bad people", and if you can do that then you really don't have a problem in the first place (because you could just stigmatise/punish/exile them and thereby remove them from any ability to have significant effects on society anyway). Sure, you might be able to find some of them, but then you just leave behind the ones who are good at hiding it, and if that is an inheritable trait you're in serious trouble... $\endgroup$ – Jules Jul 23 '17 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Jules I am very aware of the severe problems which must be addressed with this approach and how divisive it is (Is it a dystopia?). It runs counter against many things we take for granted, therefore it is a good worldbuilding question. But in fact we mostly do know who the bad apples are because they show this behavior even as children (animal cruelty, bullying, ruthlessness, manipulation), but there are no consequences as long as they are not caught. Stigmatisation and punishment is something good people have trouble with, so let bad people have a good life, but prevent procreation. $\endgroup$ – Thorsten S. Jul 23 '17 at 18:11

My first exposure to a post-wealth economy was "...And Then There Were None" by Eric Frank Russell, later reprinted as part of his novel The Great Explosion. That society had developed what some people refer to as a moneyless gift economy, where social disapproval was the medium of economic enforcement.

With more mature eyes I don't think the principles involved would scale, but certainly things like potlatch (a simple form of socialism where tribes competed to give away wealth for status) could grow in the right soil.


If you want society to become selfless, you have to construct your world so that selfish behavior is consistently more self-destructive than selfless behavior, and furthermore this difference must be a natural consequence of action, and not a indirect consequence via rewards and punishments bestowed by whoever is in charge.

The stick-and-carrot approach fails because people will readily grasp that their selfish behavior led to their suffering only because you disapproved of it and applied a punishment.

A lot of the behavior that is called "selfish" in regimes seeking utopia is really nothing more than people objecting to getting screwed over by the latest five-year plan.

Furthermore, in order to effectively deliver these slaps and benefits you will need to concentrate a great deal of power in your hands. This will inspire the greed of those who want that power for the wrong reasons, and you will be playing Snowball to their Napoleon.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree. That's why I was more thinking about a social mechanism, something that works amongst the people, like admiration or respect. Two things that today wealth invoke. $\endgroup$ – quasi Jul 25 '17 at 23:37

Survival of the Most Co-operative

It's actually the natural order of things. A culture of any beings (not just humans) dominated by constricted/ selfish attitudes will most likely die out. Google the phrase "survival of the most co(-)operative" for articles such as https://www.positive.news/2014/economics/14547/compassionate-survive/ with deeper links to scientific work.

It is our scarcity economy, our culture (self-made concepts) that are at odds with this order; not the other way around.

You could have a crisis moment, after which the -only- survival choice is a more co-operative system. Or you could have evolution play its path (albeit one with Fermi-Paradox-like near-misses regarding self-extinction). I'm sure there are other options.

As a species we have a natural 'background fear' which comes from several things. Harari in his (dubious, imho) latest book 'Sapiens' puts that down to humanity cheating to get to the top of the jungle heap. I'm not sure it's just that. Ego evolved to preserve the vital prerogative to persist. In nature that was useful, but it became too strong.

Putting these threads together, our challenge is psychological; not ideological. We do need better myths. But I doubt it's a philosophical question, as others have said for their own reasons. Something to change our psychological priorities, reduce our egotism, or get us staring down the barrel of extinction might do it. Might.

I'd like to think meditation might contribute to that psychological shift from ego. But I can see that being controversial on this site.


I'd strongly urge you to look to Game Theory, minimax, and the rational strategy as opposed to the superrational strategy.

Nash proves that cooperative behavior is mathematically optimal by analyzing minimax equilibria. In normal Prisoner's Dilemma, the rational strategy is to defect, to guarantee minimal downside, but the result, if the other agent also rationally defects, is less benefit for both participants.

The superrational strategy, where both players cooperate, leads to the maximum benefit. (This is problematic in un-iterated Dilemma, but it's easy to prove that persistent defection in iterated Dilemma with a superrational agent is irrational.)

Financialists don't like Nash and his ideas because it undermines the license they have to wreak havoc on the economy by pursuing self-interested goals with no concern for the fallout.

Financialists, which is to say people who make their money by speculating, have more incentive to exploit Pareto Efficiency, which is gain that requires making someone else worse off, because the markets are filled with optimists (otherwise known as "marks") with less information and resources than the financialists, who can often drive the market.

Pareto Improvement, under which a party or parties may benefit without making someone else worse off, is the ideal for for a society that values humanity, and produces maximum benefit for that society.

The best part is, this position is not subjective, but arises out of the mathematical analysis of equilibria in the framework of Game Theory.


If it didn't already exist, I would be suggesting our current system! By which I mean the combination of capitalism and socialism typically observed in "western" countries.

The idea being that people that contribute to society are rewarded with money which they can use to buy what they want. There are people out there building our buildings, making cars, clothes, food, technology, etc. for the benefit of society. Sure they are not "selfless" because they are only doing it for the money they'll get in return, but it achieves the desired effect to a certain degree.

Anyway, to "favour" the selfless leads to a contradiction because if they are being selfless because it favours them to be so, then they are not truly selfless and therefore it's no different from the "do work in exchange for money" proposition that the capitalist system offers.

(Then we add a dash of socialism to prevent exploitation of workers, pay for things which are needed but no one in particular would pay for (e.g. the police) and help people who have difficulty paying for the benefits they require)

It's far from perfect and incredibly open to exploitation, of course, but like any suggestion you'll find on here, "in theory" it works.

In terms of your requirement to "individuals prefer the long-term profit for all to the short-term profit for one" - this may not be the goal of the individual, but it is the intended outcome of the system as a whole. It also tries to "demotivate the bully" because, of course, we have laws and punishments.

  • $\begingroup$ The problem of the laws and punishments of our system is that it has been written by and to favour big bullies. Also, it is not based on secular humanism (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_humanism). But thank you for your input. $\endgroup$ – quasi Sep 9 '17 at 13:53

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