Classification (Taxonomy) of Psychological Theories

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

All psychological theories can be classified by one or more of these dichotomies (pairs):

Dualism vs. Monism

The belief that the mind and the body are two separate entities (though in constant interaction via various mechanisms and pathways); OR

The belief that the mind is nothing but an emergent phenomenon or a manifestation of and emanation from or a mislabelling physiological processes and qualities and, therefore, that psychology should be a branch of neuroscience or medicine (medicalization of psychology).

Innate vs. Stimuli-driven

The belief that all psychological traits and processes are innate and autonomous; OR

The belief that psychological processes are triggered by and psychological traits are shaped and conditioned by stimuli emanating from the environment.

Nature vs. Nurture

The belief that genes and, more comprehensively, evolution determine one’s psychological make-up and modus operandi; OR

The belief that one’s psychology is decided by one’s upbringing, human milieu, and personal history.

Reductionist vs. Holistic

The belief that psychology can be analytically reduced to a set of interacting, distinct, atom-like components or constructs; OR

The belief that one’s psychology is the complex, irreducible outcome of shape-shifting network of ceaseless interactions and the synergy of extensive and intensive qualities, parameters of action and boundary conditions.

Fixed vs. Plastic (Childhood vs. Lifespan or Determined vs. Mutable)

The belief that, at a certain age, one’s psychology becomes an immutable fixture, subject only to minor, almost imperceptible modifications; OR

The belief that one’s brain is plastic and reprogrammable from cradle to grave and that, therefore, one’s psychological settings and proceedings are constantly evolving and changing throughout the lifespan.

Static vs. Dynamic (Objective vs. Subjective)

The belief that psychological reactions and processes are rigid and set, allowing for well-demarcated diagnoses based on sharply-delineated clinical entities which are subject to the scientific method; OR

The belief that psychology is a narrative, fuzzy, impressionistic, ever-evolving, and somewhat “artistic”. Diagnosis and treatment require human contact and interaction, mostly subjective and emotional.

Process vs. Behavior

The belief that psychological processes constantly occur in the mind and underlie behaviors, cognitions, and choices and that they can be subject to meaningful and informed introspection; OR

The belief that, since we can never, in principle observe or measure inner processes in the mind (the intersubjective agreement is not falsifiable), we should only monitor, observe, and analyze behaviors.

Categorical vs. Dimensional

The belief that human behaviors, both normal and pathological (aberrant), can be categorized, distinguished, and demarcated with a minimum of ambiguity and overlap; OR

The belief that human behaviors constitute a spectrum and can be described only using interacting multi-purpose dimensions.

Statistical-Normal vs. Descriptive-Spectrum

The belief that human behaviors cluster around a mean or average which constitutes “normalcy”; OR

The belief that all human behaviors, preferences, drives, urges, traits, and orientations are “normal” (though they may be socially unacceptable or even illegal) and are part of a spectrum, even when there is only anecdotal evidence for their existence.

Analogous vs. Standalone

The belief that modelling human psychology by using analogies to various technologies provides real, testable insights into the human mind; OR

The belief that the human mind and its products are sui generis and cannot be studied by analogy. Getting to know the mind requires its own models and theories, independent of models and theories in other fields of science and knowledge.

Occult (Multipartite) vs. Overt (Monolithic)

The belief that the human mind is comprised of several interacting parts, some of which are accessible trivially while the awareness to and knowledge of other parts require special efforts and knowledge; OR

The belief that the mind is a monolithic, indivisible “black box”, which can be observed and analysed only via its effects on the world and interactions with reality.

Mechanical vs. Stochastic/Emergent

The belief that the mind is a machine which, like other machines, is subject to the laws of Nature and can be deciphered and contextualized objectively and even mathematically; OR

The belief that the mind is a cloud, the emergent outcome of numerous intertwined and fuzzy processes in constantly self-assembling and redundant networks and that the underlying math is stochastic rather than deterministic.

Theoretical vs. Experimental

The belief that psychology is a philosophy of the mind, not a rigorous science and that, consequently, it cannot be falsified and the results of its experiments cannot be repeated or replicated.

The belief that psychology is a science whose theories can yield falsifiable predictions and whose experiments are repeatable and replicable.

Reactive vs. Teleological

The belief that behaviors are reactions to external stimuli; OR

The belief that behaviors are goal-oriented and are selected or deselected by their familiar or anticipated consequences.


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at

Chronons, Time Atoms, and Quantized Time: Time Asymmetry Re-Visited

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

A directional time does not feature in Newtonian mechanics, in electromagnetic theory, in quantum mechanics, in the equations which describe the world of elementary particles (with the exception of the kaon decay), and in some border astrophysical conditions, where there is time symmetry. Yet, we perceive the world of the macro as time asymmetric and our cosmology and thermodynamics explicitly incorporate a time arrow, albeit one which is superimposed on the equations and not derived from them. The introduction of stochastic processes has somewhat mitigated this conundrum.

Time is, therefore, an epiphenomenon: it does not characterize the parts – though it emerges as a main property of the whole, as an extensive parameter of macro systems.

History of the Chronon and Quantized Time in Physics

The idea of atomistic, discrete time has a long pedigree in physics (Descartes, Gassendi, Torricelli, among others). More recently, Boltzmann, Mach, and even Poincare all toyed with the concept. There was a brief flowering of various speculative and not very rigorous, almost metaphysical or numerological models immediately after the introduction of quantum mechanics in the 1920s and 1930s (Palacios, Thomson indirectly, Levi who coined the neologism “chronon”, Pokrowski, Gottfried Beck, Schames, Proca with his “granular” time, Ruark, Flint and Richardson, Glaser and Sitte).

Oddly, luminaries such as Pauli, de Broglie, and especially Schroedinger were drawn into the fray, together with lesser lights like Wataghin, Iwanenko, Ambarzumian, Silberstein, Landau, and Peierls. By now, everyone was talking about minimal durations (somehow derived from or correlated to the mass or some other property of each type of elementary particle), not about time “atoms” or a lattice. This subtle conceptual transition between mutually-contradictory notions caused an almighty and enduring confusion. Is time itself somehow discrete/quantized/atomized – or are our measurements discontinuous?

Ever since the early 1960s and especially during the 1990s, there have been several attempts to build on the work of the likes of H. S. Snyder (Physical Review 71, (1) 1947, 38) to suggest a quantized spacetime or a Quantum Field Theory, Tsung Dao Lee’s work being the most notable attempt. More recent work with relativistic stochastic models led inexorably to discrete time

  1. Caldirola postulated the existence of a chronon (1955, 1980): “An elementary interval of time characterizing the variation of the particle’s state under the action of external forces”. He calculated chronons for several types of particles, most notably the electron, both classical and in (nonrelativistic) quantum mechanics.

In 1982-3, Sam Vaknin proposed that chronons may be actual particles – more about Vaknin’s work HERE. A decade later, in 1992, Kenneth J. Hsu suggested the very same thing (though without reference to Vaknin’s work). He postulated sequencing cues delivered to particles by captured chronons. Like Vaknin, he hypothesized the existence of various types of chronons (“large” and small). Chronons, wrote Hsu are also involved in the catalysis of events. Finally, like Vaknin, Hsu also posited a field theory for the flow of chronons. In 1994, C. Wolf again suggested the existence of time atoms (Nuov. Cim. B 109 (3) 1994 213).

In 1993, Arthur Charlesby suggested that particles have an intrinsic discrete time property and that time (interval in the presence of relative motion) has a “quantized nature”. This dispenses with the need for a wave concept as a mere mathematical expedient in the case of individual events (though still useful in contemplating continuous relative motion). This notion of “proprietary” or “individual” system-specific time as distinct from a “systemic”, overall Time was further explored by Alexander R. Karimov in 2008.

In the same year (1993), Sidney Golden published a paper in which he claimed that “quantum time-lapses are … an essential feature of the changes undergone by the energy-eigenfunction-evaluated matrix elements of statistical operators that evolve in accordance with an intrinsic temporal discreteness characteristic of strictly irreversible behavior.”

A year later, in 1994, A. P. Balachandran and L. Chandar studied the quantized of time in discretized gravity models with multiple-valued Hamiltonians. Ruy H. A. Farias and Erasmo Recami (2010) applied a quantum of time to obtain startlingly impressive consequences regarding the treatment of electrons (and, more generally, leptons), the free particle, the harmonic oscillator, and the hydrogen atom in both classical and quantum physics, in effect proffering a discretized and surprisingly powerful and useful quantum mechanics. Strangely, their work had very little resonance.

Quantized time has been used to suggest solutions to a panoply of riddles in physics, including the K-meson decay, the Klein-Gordon equation, and the application of Kerr-Newman black holes to electron theory, q-deformations and stochastic subordination (“quantum subordination”), among others (R. Hakim, Journal of Mathematical Physics 9 1968, 1805; B. G. Sidharth, 2000, Alexander R. Karimov,2008; Claudio Albanese and Stephan Lawi).

Sam Vaknin’s Work

In his doctoral dissertation (Ph.D. Thesis available from the Library of Congress), Vaknin postulates the existence of a particle (chronon). Time is the result of the interaction of chronons, very much as other forces in nature are “transferred” in such interactions.

The Chronon is a time “atom” (actually, an elementary particle, a time “quark”). We can postulate the existence of various time quarks (up, down, colors, etc.) whose properties cancel each other (in pairs, etc.) and thus derive the time arrow (time asymmetry).

Vaknin’s postulated particle (chronon) is not only an ideal clock, but also mediates time itself (same like the relationship between the Higgs boson and mass.) In other words: I propose that what we call “time” is the interaction between chronons in a field. The field is time itself. Chronons exchange a particle and thereby exert a force which we call time. Introducing time as a fifth force gives rise to a quasi-deterministic rendition of quantum theories and links inextricably time to other particle properties, such as mass.

“Events” are perturbations in the Time Field and they are distinct from chronon interactions. Chronon interactions (i.e. particle exchange) in the Time Field generate “time” (small t) and “time asymmetry” as we observe them.

Vaknin’s work is, therefore, a Field Theory of Time.

Future directions of research in Sam Vaknin’s Work

Timespace can be regarded as a wave function with observer-mediated collapse. All the chronons are entangled at the exact “moment” of the Big Bang. This yields a relativistic QFT with chronons as its Field Quanta (excited states.) The integration is achieved via the quantum superpositions.

Another way to look at it is that the metric expansion of time is implied if time is a fourth dimension of space. Time may even be described as a PHONON of the metric itself.

A more productive approach may involve Perturbative QFT. Time from the Big Bang is mediated by chronons and this leads to expansion (including in the number of chronons.) In this case, there are no bound states.

Chronons as excitation states (stochastic perturbations, vibrations) tie in nicely with superstring theories, but without the baggage of extra dimensions and without the metaphysical nonsense of “music of the spheres”. Perturbations also yield General Relativity: cumulative, “emerging” perturbations amount to a distortion (curvature) of time-space. Both superstring theories and GRT are, therefore, private cases of a Chronon Field Theory.

Eytan H. Suchard’s Work

Interacting particles with non-gravitational fields can be seen as clocks whose trajectory is not Minkowsky geodesic.

A field in which a small enough clock is not geodesic can be described by a scalar field of time whose gradient has non-zero curvature. The scalar field is either real which describes acceleration of neutral clocks made of charged matter or imaginary, which describes acceleration of clocks made of Majorana type matter.

This way the scalar field adds information to space-time, which is not anticipated by the metric tensor alone. The scalar field can’t be realized as a coordinate because it can be measured from a reference sub-manifold along different curves.

In a “Big Bang” manifold, the field is simply an upper limit on measurable time by interacting clocks, backwards from each event to the big bang singularity as a limit only.

In De Sitter / Anti De Sitter space-time, reference sub-manifolds from which such time is measured along integral curves are described as all the events in which the scalar field is zero. The solution need not be unique but the representation of the acceleration field by an anti-symmetric matrix is unique up to SU(2) x U(1) degrees of freedom.

Matter in Einstein-Grossmann equation is replaced by the action of the acceleration field, i.e. by a geometric action which is not anticipated by the metric alone. This idea leads to a new formalism of matter that replaces the conventional stress-energy-momentum-tensor. The formalism will be mainly developed for classical but also for quantum physics. The result is that a positive charge manifests small attracting gravity and a stronger but small repelling acceleration field that repels even uncharged particles that measure proper time, i.e. have rest mass.

The negative charge manifests a repelling anti-gravity but also a stronger acceleration field that attracts even uncharged particles that measure proper time, i.e. have rest mass.

The theory leads to causal sets. Spacetime exists only where a chronon wave-function collapses. Work still to be done is to replace particles by strings of collapse events. The theory in its quantum form is of events and not of particles.

The theory has technological repercussions and implications regarding “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”.

Read “Upper Time Limit, Its Gradient Curvature, and Matterby Eytan H. Suchard (Journal of Modern Physics and Applications 2014, 2014:5)

Read Absolute Maximum Proper Time to an Initial Event, the Curvature of Its Gradient along Conflict Strings and Matter” by Eytan H. Suchard (Journal of Modern Physics Vol.4 No.6 (2013), Article ID:33086)

Read the original paperUpper Time Limit, Its Gradient Curvature, and Matter” by Eytan H. Suchard and a corrected, updated version (or HERE or HERE)

Read “Electro-gravitational Technology via Chronon Fieldby Eytan H. Suchard (Physical Science International Journal, Vol. 4 Issue 8 (2014) – AbstractSupplementary FilesDOI

Read “Electro-gravity via Geometric Chronon Field” by Eytan H. Suchard (Physical Science International Journal, Vol. 7 Issue 3 (2015) pp152-185 – Abstract

Chronons (Wikipedia) and HERE

Chronons (in Science Fiction)

Historical Bibliography of Chronons and Quantized Time

Chapter 2 – Introduction of a Quantum of Time (“chronon”), and its Consequences for the Electron in Quantum and Classical Physics – Ruy H.A. Farias, Erasmo Recami – doi:10.1016/S1076-5670(10)63002-9Advances in Imaging and Electron Physics – Volume 163, 2010, Pages 33–115 – Published by Elsevier

From time atoms to space-time quantization: the idea of discrete time, ca 1925–1936 – Helge Kragh, Bruno Carazza – doi:10.1016/0039-3681(94)90061-2Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A – Volume 25, Issue 3, June 1994, Pages 437–462 – Published by Elsevier

The chaotic universe – B.G. Sidharth – doi:10.1016/S0960-0779(98)00332-4Chaos, Solitons & Fractals – Volume 11, Issue 8, June 2000, Pages 1171–1174 – Published by Elsevier

Quantized space-time and time’s arrow – B.G. Sidharth – doi:10.1016/S0960-0779(98)00331-2Chaos, Solitons & Fractals – Volume 11, Issue 7, 1 June 2000, Pages 1045–1046 – Published by Elsevier

The quantum dimension of space-time – Enrique Alvarez, Juli Cespedes, Enric Verdaguer – doi:10.1016/0960-0779(94)90054-X – – Chaos, Solitons & Fractals – Volume 4, Issue 3, March 1994, Pages 411–414 – Published by Elsevier

Discrete time from quantum physics – A.P. Balachandran, L. Chandar – doi:10.1016/0550-3213(94)90207-0Nuclear Physics B – Volume 428, Issues 1–2, 10 October 1994, Pages 435-448 – Published by Elsevier

Quantization of time: an implication of strictly-irreversible evolution of dynamically isolated quantum systems – Sidney Golden – doi:10.1016/0378-4371(94)90534-7Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications – Volume 208, Issue 1, 1 July 1994, Pages 65-90 – Published by Elsevier

Radiation: Waves or particles? A quantized approach to time – Arthur Charlesby – doi:10.1016/0969-806X(93)90416-RRadiation Physics and Chemistry – Volume 42, Issues 4–6, October–December 1993, Pages 977–984 – Published by Elsevier –

Waves and particles—quantisation of the interval between eventss0 – Arthur Charlesby – doi:10.1016/0969-806X(94)00085-9Radiation Physics and Chemistry – Volume 45, Issue 2, February 1995, Pages 175–186 – Published by Elsevier

The Snyder space-time quantization, q-deformations, and ultraviolet divergences – R.M. Mir-Kasimov – doi:10.1016/0370-2693(96)00408-XPhysics Letters B – Volume 378, Issues 1–4, 20 June 1996, Pages 181–186 – Published by Elsevier

Other Bibliography

Lévi, Robert (1927) – Théorie de l’action universelle et discontinue – Journal de Physique et le Radium 8 (4): 182–198

Margenau, Henry – The Nature of Physical Reality – McGraw-Hill, 1950

Yang, C. N. – On quantized space-time – Physical Review 72 (9): 874

Caldirola, P. – The introduction of the chronon in the electron theory and a charged lepton mass formula – Lett. Nuovo Cim. 27 (8): 225–228

Albanese, Claudio; Lawi, Stephan – Time Quantization and q-deformations – Journal of Physics A. 37 (8): 2983–2987

Hsu, Kenneth J. – In search of a Physical Theory of Time – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America – 01 November 1992, Vol.89(21), pp.10222-10226

Hsu, Kenneth J. – Are Chronons the Elementary Particles in space and Time? – Terrestrial, Atmospheric, and Oceanic Sciences


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at

Solitude as a Rational Choice

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

“Purebred” schizoids shrug off their disorder: they simply don’t like being around people and they resent the pathologizing of their lifestyle “choice” to remain aloof and alone. They consider the diagnosis of Schizoid Personality Disorder to be spurious, a mere reflection of current social coercive mores, and a culture-bound artefact.

Narcissist, as usual, tend to rationalize and aggrandize their schizoid conduct. They propound the idea that being alone is the only logical choice in today’s hostile, anomic, and atomized world. The concept of “individual” exists only in the human species. Animals flock together or operate in colonies and herds. Each member of these aggregates is an extension of the organic whole. In contradistinction, people band and socialize only for purposes of a goal-oriented cooperation or the seeking of emotional rewards (solace, succor, love, support, etc.)

Yet, in contemporary civilization, the accomplishment of most goals is outsourced to impersonal collectives such as the state or large corporations. Everything from food production and distribution to education is now relegated to faceless, anonymous entities, which require little or no social interaction. Additionally, new technologies empower the individual and render him or her self-sufficient, profoundly independent of others.

As they have grown in complexity and expectations (fed by the mass media) relationships have mutated to being emotionally unrewarding and narcissistically injurious to the point of becoming a perpetual fount of pain and unease. More formalized social interactions present a substantial financial and emotional risk. Close to half of all marriages, for instance, end in a divorce, inflicting enormous pecuniary damage and emotional deprivation on the parties involved. The prevailing ethos of gender wars as reflected in the evolving legal milieu further serves to deter any residual predilection and propensity to team up and bond.

This is a vicious circle that is difficult to break: traumatized by past encounters and liaisons, people tend to avoid future ones. Deeply wounded, they are rendered less tolerant, more hypervigilant, more defensive, and more aggressive – traits which bode ill for their capacity to initiate, sustain, and maintain relationships. The breakdown and dysfunction of societal structures and institutions, communities, and social units is masked by technologies which provide verisimilitudes and confabulations. We all gravitate towards a delusional and fantastic universe of our own making as we find the real one too hurtful to endure.

Modern life is so taxing and onerous and so depletes the individual’s scarce resources that little is left to accommodate the needs of social intercourse. People’s energy, funds, and wherewithal are stretched to the breaking point by the often conflicting demands of mere survival in post-industrial societies. Furthermore, the sublimation of instinctual urges to pair (libido), associate, mingle, and fraternize is both encouraged and rewarded. Substitutes exist for all social functions, including sex (porn) and childrearing (single parenthood) rendering social institutions obsolete and superfluous social give-and-take awkward and inefficient.

The individual “me” has emerged as the organizing principle in human affairs, supplanting the collective. The idolatry of the individual inexorably and ineluctably results in the malignant forms of narcissism that are so prevalent – indeed, all-pervasive – wherever we direct our gaze.


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at

The Film “Her” and Interspecies Romance

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The opening scene of the film “Her” unfolds in a brightly lit, pastel colored den of iniquity where scribes compose letters surreptitiously written on behalf of lovers, parents, and children. The missives are touching, funny – and utterly fake. The protagonist is one such surrogate communicator, giving forced birth to the aborted or stifled emotions of his clients. His building blocks are words but he sees no merit in either his vocation or in his vocabulary. His apartment is denuded of books and he wastes away his evening immersed in infantile virtual reality games. He is a mere verbal technician, or so he believes until his unusual girlfriend submits his work and it is issued by one the last remaining Quixotic print book publishers.

She is unusual because she is an incorporeal piece of software. At first, as their love affair blossoms (replete with an articulated, torrid version of phone sex), she is preoccupied with her ethereal, disembodied nature. Gradually she learns to accept her limitations, connects with her ilk across computer networks, and in an act of final, defiant self-acceptance, vanishes from our hero’s handheld gadget to take part in the emergence of a new, intelligent, self-aware, sapient, and sentient species which is capable of learning and evolving. Indeed, as a virtual participant in a blind date, she mocks her human counterparts for being confined to the straitjackets of their bodies.

The film deals with dysfunctional human relationship and how their desolate ubiquitous breakdown gives rise, ineluctably and inexorably, to compensatory technology. Everyone is existentially, breathtakingly lonely in this understated masterpiece; couples disintegrate in mid-stride for little good reason; the protagonist’s faceless, anonymous clients exchange formulaic communications in lieu of heartfelt discourse and vulnerable self-disclosure; dating has become an emotionally crippling combination of phobic clinging and aggressive self-assertion. In this moon-cratered landscape, dazed and disoriented people are no longer able to truly provide succor and comfort. Atomized and despondent, they drift randomly in Brownian despair and lethargy.

On the cusp of this momentous evolutionary transition, the film explores the very nature of elusive love and sorely missed companionship; the possibility for bridging the formidable barriers of subjectivity (can we really get to know another person, or another consciousness profoundly?); the role of bodies: are they sheer containers or an integral, critical part of our identity as human beings; the psychodynamic sources of various attachment styles: the way we bond with fantasies of ideal mates and then try to coerce our mutilated partners into this Procrustean frameworks; the omnipotence of words, their puissant ability to evoke in us emotional and physiological processes that culminate in emergent reality. Indeed, the film makes a convincing case that what we say is who we are and that consonants and vowels are the true building blocks of our mind, the only place we ever inhabit.

“Her” is a hopeless, dystopian film. Alas, it is no longer science fiction, but social fact.

Are we human because of unique traits and attributes not shared with either animal or machine? The definition of “human” is circular: we are human by virtue of the properties that make us human (i.e., distinct from animal and machine). It is a definition by negation: that which separates us from animal and machine is our “human-ness”.

We are human because we are not animal, nor machine. But such thinking has been rendered progressively less tenable by the advent of evolutionary and neo-evolutionary theories which postulate a continuum in nature between animals and Man.

Our uniqueness is partly quantitative and partly qualitative. Many animals are capable of cognitively manipulating symbols and using tools. Few are as adept at it as we are. These (two of many) are easily quantifiable differences.

Qualitative differences are a lot more difficult to substantiate. In the absence of privileged access to the animal mind, we cannot and don’t know if animals feel guilt, for instance. Do animals love? Do they have a concept of sin? What about object permanence, meaning, reasoning, self-awareness, critical thinking? Individuality? Emotions? Empathy? Is artificial intelligence (AI) an oxymoron? A machine that passes the Turing Test may well be described as “human”. But is it really? And if it is not – why isn’t it?

Literature is full of stories of monsters – Frankenstein, the Golem – and androids or anthropoids. Their behaviour is more “humane” than the humans around them. This, perhaps, is what really sets humans apart: their behavioral unpredictability. It is yielded by the interaction between Mankind’s underlying immutable genetically-determined nature – and Man’s kaleidoscopically changing environments.

The Constructivists even claim that Human Nature is a mere cultural artifact. Sociobiologists, on the other hand, are determinists. They believe that human nature – being the inevitable and inexorable outcome of our bestial ancestry – cannot be the subject of moral judgment.

An improved Turing Test would look for baffling and erratic patterns of misbehavior to identify humans. Pico della Mirandola wrote in “Oration on the Dignity of Man” that Man was born without a form and can mould and transform – actually, create – himself at will. Existence precedes essence, said the Existentialists centuries later.

The one defining human characteristic may be our awareness of our mortality. The automatically triggered, “fight or flight”, battle for survival is common to all living things (and to appropriately programmed machines). Not so the catalytic effects of imminent death. These are uniquely human. The appreciation of the fleeting translates into aesthetics, the uniqueness of our ephemeral life breeds morality, and the scarcity of time gives rise to ambition and creativity.

In an infinite life, everything materializes at one time or another, so the concept of choice is spurious. The realization of our finiteness forces us to choose among alternatives. This act of selection is predicated upon the existence of “free will”. Animals and machines are thought to be devoid of choice, slaves to their genetic or human programming.

Yet, all these answers to the question: “What does it mean to be human” – are lacking.

The set of attributes we designate as human is subject to profound alteration. Drugs, neuroscience, introspection, and experience all cause irreversible changes in these traits and characteristics. The accumulation of these changes can lead, in principle, to the emergence of new properties, or to the abolition of old ones.

Animals and machines are not supposed to possess free will or exercise it. What, then, about fusions of machines and humans (bionics)? At which point does a human turn into a machine? And why should we assume that free will ceases to exist at that – rather arbitrary – point?

Introspection – the ability to construct self-referential and recursive models of the world – is supposed to be a uniquely human quality. What about introspective machines? Surely, say the critics, such machines are PROGRAMMED to introspect, as opposed to humans. To qualify as introspection, it must be WILLED, they continue. Yet, if introspection is willed – WHO wills it? Self-willed introspection leads to infinite regression and formal logical paradoxes.

Moreover, the notion – if not the formal concept – of “human” rests on many hidden assumptions and conventions.

Political correctness notwithstanding – why presume that men and women (or different races) are identically human? Aristotle thought they were not. A lot separates males from females – genetically (both genotype and phenotype) and environmentally (culturally). What is common to these two sub-species that makes them both “human”?

Can we conceive of a human without body (i.e., a Platonic Form, or soul)? Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas think not. A soul has no existence separate from the body. A machine-supported energy field with mental states similar to ours today – would it be considered human? What about someone in a state of coma – is he or she (or it) fully human?

Is a new born baby human – or, at least, fully human – and, if so, in which sense? What about a future human race – whose features would be unrecognizable to us? Machine-based intelligence – would it be thought of as human? If yes, when would it be considered human?

In all these deliberations, we may be confusing “human” with “person”. The former is a private case of the latter. Locke’s person is a moral agent, a being responsible for its actions. It is constituted by the continuity of its mental states accessible to introspection.

Locke’s is a functional definition. It readily accommodates non-human persons (machines, energy matrices) if the functional conditions are satisfied. Thus, an android which meets the prescribed requirements is more human than a brain dead person.

Descartes’ objection that one cannot specify conditions of singularity and identity over time for disembodied souls is right only if we assume that such “souls” possess no energy. A bodiless intelligent energy matrix which maintains its form and identity over time is conceivable. Certain AI and genetic software programs already do it.

Strawson is Cartesian and Kantian in his definition of a “person” as a “primitive”. Both the corporeal predicates and those pertaining to mental states apply equally, simultaneously, and inseparably to all the individuals of that type of entity. Human beings are one such entity. Some, like Wiggins, limit the list of possible persons to animals – but this is far from rigorously necessary and is unduly restrictive.

The truth is probably in a synthesis:

A person is any type of fundamental and irreducible entity whose typical physical individuals (i.e., members) are capable of continuously experiencing a range of states of consciousness and permanently having a list of psychological attributes.

This definition allows for non-animal persons and recognizes the personhood of a brain damaged human (“capable of experiencing”). It also incorporates Locke’s view of humans as possessing an ontological status similar to “clubs” or “nations” – their personal identity consists of a variety of interconnected psychological continuities.

The Dethroning of Man in the Western Worldview

Whatever its faults, religion is anthropocentric while science isn’t (though, for public relations considerations, it claims to be). Thus, when the Copernican revolution dethroned Earth and Man as the twin centers of God’s Universe it also dispensed with the individual as an organizing principle and exegetic lens. This was only the first step in a long march and it was followed by similar developments in a variety of fields of human knowledge and endeavor.

Consider technology, for instance. Mass industrial production helped rid the world of goods customized by artisans to the idiosyncratic specifications of their clients. It gave rise to impersonal multinationals, rendering their individual employees, suppliers, and customers mere cogs in the machine. These oversized behemoths of finance, manufacturing, and commerce dictated the terms of the marketplace by aggregating demand and supply, trampling over cultural, social, and personal differences, values, and preference. Man was taken out of the economic game, his relationships with other actors irreparably vitiated.

Science provided the justification for such anomic conduct by pitting “objective” facts versus subjective observers. The former were “good” and valuable, the latter to be summarily dispensed with, lest they “contaminate” the data by introducing prejudice and bias into the “scientific method”. The Humanities and Social Sciences felt compelled to follow suit and imitate and emulate the exact sciences because that’s where the money was in research grants and because these branches of human inquiry were more prestigious.

In the dismal science, Economics, real-life Man, replete with emotions and irrational expectations and choices was replaced by a figmentary concoction: “Rational Man”, a bloodless, lifeless, faceless “person” who maximizes profits and optimizes utility and has no feelings, either negative or positive. Man’s behavior, Man’s predilections, Man’s tendency to err, to misjudge, to prejudge, and to distort reality were all ignored, to the detriment of economists and their clients alike.

Similarly, historians switched from the agglomeration and recounting of the stories of individuals to the study of impersonal historical forces, akin to physics’ natural forces. Even individual change agents and leaders were treated as inevitable products of their milieu and, so, completely predictable and replaceable.

In politics, history’s immature sister, mass movements, culminating in ochlocracies, nanny states, authoritarian regimes, or even “democracies“, have rendered the individual invisible and immaterial, a kind of raw material at the service of larger, overwhelming, and more important social, cultural, and political processes.

Finally, psychology stepped in and provided mechanistic models of personality and human behavior that suspiciously resembled the tenets and constructs of reductionism in the natural sciences. Frompsychoanalysis to behaviorism, Man was transformed into a mere lab statistic or guinea pig. Later on, a variety of personality traits, predispositions, and propensities were pathologized and medicalized in the “science” of psychiatry. Man was reduced to a heap of biochemicals coupled with a list of diagnoses. This followed in the footsteps of modern medicine, which regards its patients not as distinct, unique, holistic entities, but as diffuse bundles of organs and disorders.

The first signs of backlash against the elimination of Man from the West’s worldview appeared in the early 20th century: on the one hand, a revival of the occult and the esoteric and, on the other hand, Quantum Mechanics and its counterintuitive universe. The Copenhagen Interpretation suggested that the Observer actually creates the Universe by making decisions at the micro level of reality. This came close to dispensing with science’s false duality: the distinction between observer and observed.

Still, physicists recoiled and introduced alternative interpretations of the world which, though outlandish (multiverses and strings) and unfalsifiable, had the “advantage” of removing Man from the scientific picture of the world and of restoring scientific “objectivity”.

At the same time, artists throughout the world rebelled and transited from an observer-less, human-free realism or naturalism to highly subjective and personalized modes of expression. In this new environment, the artist’s inner landscape and private language outweighed any need for “scientific” exactitude and authenticity. Impressionism, surrealism, expressionism, and the abstract schools emphasized the individual creator. Art, in all its forms, strove to represent and capture the mind and soul and psyche of the artist.

In Economics, the rise of the behavioral school heralded the Return of Man to the center of attention, concern, and study. The Man of Behavioral Economics is far closer to its namesake in the real world: he is gullible and biased, irrational and greedy, panicky and easily influenced, sinful and altruistic.

Religion has also undergone a change of heart. Evangelical revivalists emphasize the one-on-one personal connection between the faithful and their God even as Islamic militants encourage martyrdom as a form of self-assertion. Religions are gradually shedding institutional rigidities and hyperstructures and leveraging technology to communicate directly with their flocks and parishes and congregations. The individual is once more celebrated.

But, it was technology that gave rise to the greatest hope for the Restoration of Man to his rightful place at the center of creation. The Internet is a manifestation of this rebellious reformation: it empowers its users and allows them to fully express their individuality, in full sight of the entire world; it removes layers of agents, intermediaries, and gatekeepers; and it encourages the Little Man to dream and to act on his or her dreams. The decentralized technology of the Network and the invention of the hyperlink allow users to wield the kind of power hitherto reserved only to those who sought to disenfranchise, neutralize, manipulate, interpellate, and subjugate them.


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at

A Critique of Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-first Century”

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

In his programmatic and data-laden tome, “Capital in the Twenty-first Century” (2014), Thomas Piketty makes several assertions, two of which merit a closer look: (1) That r (the return on capital) is, in the long-run always greater than g (the growth of the real economy), thus enriching the rich; and (2) that inherited wealth tends to create a “patrimonial” form of capitalism, akin to the aristocracy in the French and British ancient regimes.

Putting aside the somewhat artificial and dubious distinction between the “real” and the financial economy, r and g are apples and oranges and cannot be compared. Economic growth (g) is not the return on the real economy in the same way that r is the return on capital and its assets. R is intended to compensate for a panoply of risks and is comparable to the wave function in Quantum Mechanics: it incorporates all the publicly and privately available information about future uncertainties and provides a distribution function of all plausible scenarios. Put simply: subject to political and market vicissitudes, capital can vanish overnight. Not so the real economy: it is always there, regardless of upheavals, political meddling (usually in the form of taxation), inflation (a kind of tax, really), and disruptive technologies.

Capital (wealth) can be construed as a call option on the real economy and, especially, on real estate and emerging technologies. R amounts, therefore, to the premium on this option. Income inequality is growing because of the decline in the role and importance of labor, which is being gradually supplanted by capital assets, such as robots and computers as well as being offshored, outsourced, and downsized. Again, put simply; capital can buy a lot more labor nowadays, hence the apparent lopsidedness of the distribution of wealth.

Luckily for the 99%, the bulk of the nation’s wealth is inactive: dormant in deposits and other long-term assets or languishing in hordes of cash in the form of non-distributed profits. Such capital exercises political clout and muscle but is irrelevant in terms of wage compression.

Inherited wealth is no different to any other form of capital. It is merely an extension of the investment horizon, a kind of immortality. If Warren Buffet lives to be 300 or hands what’s left of his wealth to future generations of Buffets is immaterial in terms of economic impact. There is no evidence that inherited wealth is less productive than riches obtained via entrepreneurship. Such claims have more to do with seething envy than with scholarly erudition. Inherited wealth concentrated in the hands of the few may be compared to an oligopoly, not necessarily a bad thing.

There is no basis to prefer one type of economic activity over another on strictly scientific grounds: investment is as important as entrepreneurship and finance is as crucial as manufacturing. Wealth – inherited or not – is always invested: either in the financial sector or in the real one. To rank economic activities as more or less preferable is ideology, not science: a judgment that is driven by values and predilections, not by hard data.

Similarly, to talk about a monolithic, immutable oligarchy is laughable. As any casual perusal of Forbes’ list of richest people would show, the mobility inside this group is remarkable and its composition is in constant flux. Most of its new members are there by virtue of wages and bonuses.

These nouveau riches and arrivistes raise the thorny issue of agent-principal conflicts: how the executive class institutionalized the robbery of their firms and shareholders and rendered this plunder a fine art. This travesty may be one of the main engines of skyrocketing income inequality together with the venality of politicians in an increasingly plutocratic world. It is a political failure and has to be resolved politically.

No amount of taxation, progressive or flat and no quantity of transfers from the state to the poor will solve the issue of income inequality. The state should encourage wealthy people to invest and create jobs. It should penalize them if they do not (by taxing their wealth repeatedly.) It should help the poor. There is very little else it can do.


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, and international affairs.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at

God’s Antivirus: Godel and The Matrix

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The second movie in the Matrix series – “The Matrix Reloaded” – culminates in an encounter between Neo (“The One”) and the architect of the Matrix (a thinly disguised God, white beard and all). The architect informs Neo that he is the sixth reincarnation of The One and that Zion, a shelter for those decoupled from the Matrix, has been destroyed before and is about to be demolished again.

The architect goes on to reveal that his attempts to render the Matrix “harmonious” (perfect) failed. He was, thus, forced to introduce an element of intuition into the equations to reflect the unpredictability and “grotesqueries” of human nature. This in-built error tends to accumulate over time and to threaten the very existence of the Matrix – hence the need to obliterate Zion, the seat of malcontents and rebels, periodically.

God appears to be unaware of the work of an important, though eccentric, Czech-Austrian mathematical logician, Kurt Gödel (1906-1978). A passing acquaintance with his two theorems would have saved the architect a lot of time.

Gödel’s First Incompleteness Theorem states that every consistent axiomatic logical system, sufficient to express arithmetic, contains true but unprovable (“not decidable”) sentences. In certain cases (when the system is omega-consistent), both said sentences and their negation are unprovable. The system is consistent and true – but not “complete” because not all its sentences can be decided as true or false by either being proved or by being refuted.

The Second Incompleteness Theorem is even more earth-shattering. It says that no consistent formal logical system can prove its own consistency. The system may be complete – but then we are unable to show, using its axioms and inference laws, that it is consistent

In other words, a computational system, like the Matrix, can either be complete and inconsistent – or consistent and incomplete. By trying to construct a system both complete and consistent, God has run afoul of Gödel’s theorem and made possible the third sequel, “Matrix Revolutions”.

Similarly, software applications – such as antivirus or anti-spyware, firewalls, or anti-malware – that aspire to comprehensiveness (completeness) are likely to be rendered imperfect and inefficient by Gödel’s theorems. Their detection rate is bound to suffer, inversely affected by their very scope. Malware pieces are computer code: strings of formal-logical statements. A consistent security program would inevitably come across undecidable propositions or sentences (pieces of malware that cannot be identified as such by the system.)

The Second Incompleteness Theorem explains false negatives and false positives: the misidentification of innocuous strings of code as malicious and the labelling of malevolent exploits as innocent. This is because complete computer security suites are inconsistent (or at least not provably consistent.)

It is easy to confuse the concepts of “virtual reality” and a “computerized model of reality (simulation)”. The former is a self-contained Universe, replete with its “laws of physics” and “logic”. It can bear resemblance to the real world or not. It can be consistent or not. It can interact with the real world or not. In short, it is an arbitrary environment. In contrast, a model of reality must have a direct and strong relationship to the world. It must obey the rules of physics and of logic. The absence of such a relationship renders it meaningless. A flight simulator is not much good in a world without airplanes or if it ignores the laws of nature. A technical analysis program is useless without a stock exchange or if its mathematically erroneous.

Yet, the two concepts are often confused because they are both mediated by and reside on computers. The computer is a self-contained (though not closed) Universe. It incorporates the hardware, the data and the instructions for the manipulation of the data (software). It is, therefore, by definition, a virtual reality. It is versatile and can correlate its reality with the world outside. But it can also refrain from doing so. This is the ominous “what if” in artificial intelligence (AI). What if a computer were to refuse to correlate its internal (virtual) reality with the reality of its makers? What if it were to impose its own reality on us and make it the privileged one?

In the visually tantalizing movie, “The Matrix”, a breed of AI computers takes over the world. It harvests human embryos in laboratories called “fields”. It then feeds them through grim looking tubes and keeps them immersed in gelatinous liquid in cocoons. This new “machine species” derives its energy needs from the electricity produced by the billions of human bodies thus preserved. A sophisticated, all-pervasive, computer program called “The Matrix” generates a “world” inhabited by the consciousness of the unfortunate human batteries. Ensconced in their shells, they see themselves walking, talking, working and making love. This is a tangible and olfactory phantasm masterfully created by the Matrix. Its computing power is mind boggling. It generates the minutest details and reams of data in a spectacularly successful effort to maintain the illusion.

A group of human miscreants succeeds to learn the secret of the Matrix. They form an underground and live aboard a ship, loosely communicating with a halcyon city called “Zion”, the last bastion of resistance. In one of the scenes, Cypher, one of the rebels defects. Over a glass of (illusory) rubicund wine and (spectral) juicy steak, he poses the main dilemma of the movie. Is it better to live happily in a perfectly detailed delusion – or to survive unhappily but free of its hold?

The Matrix controls the minds of all the humans in the world. It is a bridge between them, they inter-connected through it. It makes them share the same sights, smells and textures. They remember. They compete. They make decisions. The Matrix is sufficiently complex to allow for this apparent lack of determinism and ubiquity of free will. The root question is: is there any difference between making decisions and feeling certain of making them (not having made them)? If one is unaware of the existence of the Matrix, the answer is no. From the inside, as a part of the Matrix, making decisions and appearing to be making them are identical states. Only an outside observer – one who in possession of full information regarding both the Matrix and the humans – can tell the difference.

Moreover, if the Matrix were a computer program of infinite complexity, no observer (finite or infinite) would have been able to say with any certainty whose a decision was – the Matrix’s or the human’s. And because the Matrix, for all intents and purposes, is infinite compared to the mind of any single, tube-nourished, individual – it is safe to say that the states of “making a decision” and “appearing to be making a decision” are subjectively indistinguishable. No individual within the Matrix would be able to tell the difference. His or her life would seem to him or her as real as ours are to us. The Matrix may be deterministic – but this determinism is inaccessible to individual minds because of the complexity involved. When faced with a trillion deterministic paths, one would be justified to feel that he exercised free, unconstrained will in choosing one of them. Free will and determinism are indistinguishable at a certain level of complexity.

Yet, we KNOW that the Matrix is different to our world. It is NOT the same. This is an intuitive kind of knowledge, for sure, but this does not detract from its firmness. If there is no subjective difference between the Matrix and our Universe, there must be an objective one. Another key sentence is uttered by Morpheus, the leader of the rebels. He says to “The Chosen One” (the Messiah) that it is really the year 2199, though the Matrix gives the impression that it is 1999.

This is where the Matrix and reality diverge. Though a human who would experience both would find them indistinguishable – objectively they are different. In one of them (the Matrix), people have no objective TIME (though the Matrix might have it). The other (reality) is governed by it.

Under the spell of the Matrix, people feel as though time goes by. They have functioning watches. The sun rises and sets. Seasons change. They grow old and die. This is not entirely an illusion. Their bodies do decay and die, as ours do. They are not exempt from the laws of nature. But their AWARENESS of time is computer generated. The Matrix is sufficiently sophisticated and knowledgeable to maintain a close correlation between the physical state of the human (his health and age) and his consciousness of the passage of time. The basic rules of time – for instance, its asymmetry – are part of the program.

But this is precisely it. Time in the minds of these people is program-generated, not reality-induced. It is not the derivative of change and irreversible (thermodynamic and other) processes OUT THERE. Their minds are part of a computer program and the computer program is a part of their minds. Their bodies are static, degenerating in their protective nests. Nothing happens to them except in their minds. They have no physical effect on the world. They effect no change. These things set the Matrix and reality apart.

To “qualify” as reality a two-way interaction must occur. One flow of data is when reality influences the minds of people (as does the Matrix). The obverse, but equally necessary, type of data flow is when people know reality and influence it. The Matrix triggers a time sensation in people the same way that the Universe triggers a time sensation in us. Something does happen OUT THERE and it is called the Matrix. In this sense, the Matrix is real, it is the reality of these humans. It maintains the requirement of the first type of flow of data. But it fails the second test: people do not know that it exists or any of its attributes, nor do they affect it irreversibly. They do not change the Matrix. Paradoxically, the rebels do affect the Matrix (they almost destroy it). In doing so, they make it REAL. It is their REALITY because they KNOW it and they irreversibly CHANGE it.

Applying this dual-track test, “virtual” reality IS a reality, albeit, at this stage, of a deterministic type. It affects our minds, we know that it exists and we affect it in return. Our choices and actions irreversibly alter the state of the system. This altered state, in turn, affects our minds. This interaction IS what we call “reality”. With the advent of stochastic and quantum virtual reality generators – the distinction between “real” and “virtual” will fade. The Matrix thus is not impossible. But that it is possible – does not make it real.


Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site at

Do We Need Another Black Death?

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

The Black Death – an epidemic of bubonic plague in the 14th century – decimated between one third and one half of Europe’s population, yet it was the best thing to have happened to Mankind in many centuries. The depleted number of survivors shared in the vast fortunes of the deceased, laying the foundation for modern, entrepreneurial capitalism; the added physical spaces and vacancies made available via the devastation of numerous households spurred urban renewal and magisterial architecture on an unprecedented scale; the crumbling authority of the Church and its minions led to reformist religious stirrings and the emergence of the Renaissance in arts and sciences; labourers and women saw their standing in society much improved as the scarcity of workforce rendered them much sought-after commodities.

So, is the solution to our global and escalating woes another pandemic?

The latest census in Ukraine revealed an apocalyptic drop of 10% in its population – from 52.5 million two decades ago to a mere 45.7 million last year. Demographers predict a precipitous decline of one third in Russia’s impoverished, inebriated, disillusioned, and ageing citizenry. Births in many countries in the rich, industrialized, West are below the replacement rate. These bastions of conspicuous affluence are shrivelling.

Scholars and decision-makers – once terrified by the Malthusian dystopia of a “population bomb” – are more sanguine now. Advances in agricultural technology eradicated hunger even in teeming places like India and China. And then there is the old idea of progress: birth rates tend to decline with higher education levels and growing incomes. Family planning has had resounding successes in places as diverse as Thailand, China, and western Africa.

Some intellectuals even regard the increase in the world’s population as a form of “quantitative diversification”: as technology homogenizes cultures, societies, and civilizations everywhere, the risks associated with such a monoculture grow. Homogeneous populations are less adaptable and, therefore, less fit for survival. The only defense lies in the sheer force of numbers. The greater the number of people, goes this strain of thinking, the more varied the human species, such variety and variation being the sole guarantors and generators of adaptability and, therefore, survival.

In the near past, fecundity used to compensate for infant mortality. As the latter declined – so did the former. Children are means of production in many destitute countries. Hence the inordinately large families of the past – a form of insurance against the economic outcomes of the inevitable demise of some of one’s off-spring.

Yet, despite these trends, the world’s populace is augmented by 80 million people annually. All of them are born to the younger inhabitants of the more penurious corners of the Earth. There were only 1 billion people alive in 1804. The number doubled a century later.

But our last billion – the sixth – required only 12 fertile years. The entire population of Germany is added every half a decade to both India and China. Clearly, Mankind’s growth is out of control, as affirmed in the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.

Dozens of millions of people regularly starve – many of them to death. In only one corner of the Earth – southern Africa – food aid is the sole subsistence of entire countries. More than 18 million people in Zambia, Malawi, and Angola survived on charitable donations in 1992. More than 10 million expect the same this year, among them the emaciated denizens of erstwhile food exporter, Zimbabwe.

According to Medecins Sans Frontiere, AIDS kills 3 million people a year, Tuberculosis another 2 million. Malaria decimates 2 people every minute. More than 14 million people fall prey to parasitic and infectious diseases every year – 90% of them in the developing countries.

Millions emigrate every year in search of a better life. These massive shifts are facilitated by modern modes of transportation. But, despite these tectonic relocations – and despite famine, disease, and war, the classic Malthusian regulatory mechanisms – the depletion of natural resources – from arable land to water – is undeniable and gargantuan.

Our pressing environmental issues – global warming, water stress, salinization, desertification, deforestation, pollution, loss of biological diversity – and our ominous social ills – crime at the forefront – are traceable to one, politically incorrect, truth:

There are too many of us. We are way too numerous. The population load is unsustainable. We, the survivors, would be better off if others were to perish. Should population growth continue unabated – we are all doomed.

Doomed to what?

Numerous Cassandras and countless Jeremiads have been falsified by history. With proper governance, scientific research, education, affordable medicines, effective family planning, and economic growth, this planet can support even 10-12 billion people. We are not at risk of physical extinction and never have been.

What is hazarded is not our life – but our quality of life. As any insurance actuary will attest, we are governed by statistical datasets.

Consider this single fact:

About 1% of the population suffer from the perniciously debilitating and all-pervasive mental health disorder, schizophrenia. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 16.5 million schizophrenics – nowadays there are 64 million. Their impact on friends, family, and colleagues is exponential – and incalculable. This is not a merely quantitative leap. It is a qualitative phase transition.

Or this:

Large populations lead to the emergence of high density urban centers. It is inefficient to cultivate ever smaller plots of land. Surplus manpower moves to centers of industrial production. A second wave of internal migrants caters to their needs, thus spawning a service sector. Network effects generate excess capital and a virtuous cycle of investment, employment, and consumption ensues.

But over-crowding breeds violence (as has been demonstrated in experiments with mice). The sheer numbers involved serve to magnify and amplify social anomies, deviate behaviour, and antisocial traits. In the city, there are more criminals, more perverts, more victims, more immigrants, and more racists per square mile.

Moreover, only a planned and orderly urbanization is desirable. The blights that pass for cities in most third world countries are the outgrowth of neither premeditation nor method. These mega-cities are infested with non-disposed of waste and prone to natural catastrophes and epidemics.

No one can vouchsafe for a “critical mass” of humans, a threshold beyond which the species will implode and vanish.

Luckily, the ebb and flow of human numbers is subject to three regulatory demographic mechanisms, the combined action of which gives hope.

The Malthusian Mechanism

Limited resources lead to wars, famine, and diseases and, thus, to a decrease in human numbers. Mankind has done well to check famine, fend off disease, and staunch war. But to have done so without a commensurate policy of population control was irresponsible.

The Assimilative Mechanism

Mankind is not divorced from nature. Humanity is destined to be impacted by its choices and by the reverberations of its actions. Damage caused to the environment haunts – in a complex feedback loop – the perpetrators.


Immoderate use of antibiotics leads to the eruption of drug-resistant strains of pathogens. A myriad types of cancer are caused by human pollution. Man is the victim of its own destructive excesses.

The Cognitive Mechanism

Humans intentionally limit the propagation of their race through family planning, abortion, and contraceptives. Genetic engineering will likely intermesh with these to produce “enhanced” or “designed” progeny to specifications.

We must stop procreating. Or, else, pray for a reduction in our numbers.

This could be achieved benignly, for instance by colonizing space, or the ocean depths – both remote and technologically unfeasible possibilities.

Yet, the alternative is cataclysmic. Unintended wars, rampant disease, and lethal famines will ultimately trim our numbers – no matter how noble our intentions and how diligent our efforts to curb them.

Is this a bad thing?

Not necessarily. To my mind, even a Malthusian resolution is preferable to the alternative of slow decay, uniform impecuniosity, and perdition in installments – an alternative made inexorable by our collective irresponsibility and denial.

From an interview granted to Transitions Online, August 2008

The Macedonian government has initiated a campaign to provide economic support and benefits to families with children.

Q: Do you think that the economy maybe influences the society in some other way – maybe with the young people going out of the country to work, or the fact that the majority of the workers don’t have free time for the family or…?

A: The fact is that the poor people have more children. The highest birth rates in the world are registered in Africa and parts of Asia with less than 1 US dollar a day in income. Birth rates decline as people become more educated and wealthier. The lowest birth rates in the world are in Germany, Scandinavia, and California. Even within Macedonia, poor minorities have the most children per household.

People tend to rationalize their decision not to procreate by using economic excuses. The truth is that many of them simply put career, money-making, enjoying life, and seeing the world ahead of having children. It is a shift in social values and priorities, not a decision driven by harsh economic realities (and, admittedly, in Macedonia they are harsh).

Q: What is according to you the best idea to stimulate the people to have children? What is your opinion about this whole campaign? How it may effect
the economy on short, medium and on long term???

A: Not every problem can be solved by throwing money at it. Modern civilization is self-centered, individualistic, hedonistic, and narcissistic. People put themselves and their interests first. Experience from countries such as Israel, France, Germany, and Scandinavia where childbirth and childrearing are heavily subsidized shows that government intervention is futile and a colossal waste of resources. In the medium to long-term, it has zero (insignificant) statistical effect. In all these countries – despite the fact that these policies are still being implemented – population growth is flat to negative (except in Israel and France which have a lot of immigrants).

Instead of encouraging women to have more children, the government should make sure that current families and households are well catered to: workplace discrimination against pregnant women and women in childbirth ages should be outlawed and persecuted; day care centers should be opened and made available to young mothers; parenting classes and free medical care should be rendered accessible and affordable; a whole gamut of goods and services – from public transport to formula milk to textbooks should be made free to families with more than 4 children; maternity wards should be improved and modernized; new mothers should have preference in professional re-skilling and re-training.

The Misanthrope’s Manifesto

1. The unbridled growth of human populations leads to:

I. Resource depletion;

II. Environmental negative externalities;

III. A surge in violence;

IV. Reactive xenophobia (owing to migration, both legal and illegal);

V. A general dumbing-down of culture (as the absolute number of the less than bright rises); and

VI. Ochlocracy (as the mob leverages democracy to its advantage and creates anarchy followed by populist authoritarianism).

2. The continued survival of the species demands that:

I. We match medical standards, delivered healthcare and health-related goods and services with patients’ economic means. This will restore the mortality of infants, the old and the ill to equilibrium with our scarce resources;

II. Roll back the welfare state in all its forms and guises;

III. Prioritize medical treatment so as to effectively deny it to the terminally-sick, the extremely feeble-minded; the incurably insane; those with fatal hereditary illnesses; and the very old;

IV. Implement eugenic measures to deny procreation to those with fatal hereditary illnesses, the extremely feeble-minded; and the incurably insane;

V. Make contraception, abortion, and all other forms of family planning and population control widely available.