Human Behavior and the Maximization of Utility

My idea is that all of our most basic instincts regarding our behavior were selected for because they work to increase some general indicator of our well being.


My idea is that all of our most basic instincts regarding our behavior were selected for because they work to increase some general indicator of our well being, which we can call utility. Thus, I should be able to formulate a model, perhaps using game theory, showing how our behaviors work to maximize utility. Specifically, I am interested in a subset of the choices we make regarding behavior, which would be the set of choices we make regarding how we treat other people; you might call this morality or ethics. In any case, it seems to me that these traits must have been selected for during the early development of our species in order to maximize some indicator of utility, perhaps what biologists call inclusive fitness. I am an economist, so I hope to model these behaviors using game theory or perhaps a maximization with constraints model.

Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.
Videos
  • Prejudice is typically perpetrated against 'the other', i.e. a group outside our own.
  • But ageism is prejudice against ourselves — at least, the people we will (hopefully!) become.
  • Different generations needs to cooperate now more than ever to solve global problems.


Active ingredient in Roundup found in 95% of studied beers and wines

The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.

(MsMaria/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
  • A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
  • Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists see 'rarest event ever recorded' in search for dark matter

The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.

Image source: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
  • The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
  • The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Keep reading Show less