The roles of the smart and the strong in future society:

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This tiny forest is where all the action is!
Provocative title, yes, but this is something I'd been thinking about for a while.

Thousands of years ago, brawn was more important than brains. While intelligence led us to the society we have today, our ancestors were all about killing animals and eating them, fighting off warring tribes, building things physically, and so on.

Nowadays, many of the jobs and roles in society that required muscles are either less important, not necessary, or may even be replaced by robots as that technology gets better. We live in a world where wars can be fought using drones, where the world is much more at peace than in the past, where 3D printing is looking to build more and more things including possibly houses (someone invented a 3D printer that is used to build the house itself entirely based on a design the customer comes up with), eliminating a lot of physical labor.

Furthermore, studies are coming out showing that "alpha males" may be bad for society in various ways. Studies showing that men high in testosterone are more likely to cheat on their wives, compete with their own children for their wife's attention, be bad and less-involved fathers, and more. Studies also showing that they tend to be disliked as coworkers and are problematic employees due to their tendency to not get along with people. And workplaces are starting to not want to hire known bullies, due to studies showing that bullies in the workplace tend to cause coworkers to work less hard at their jobs, be more likely to sabotage the workplace in retaliation, and quit when feasibly possible. In short, "alpha males" strongly appear to be bad husbands, bad fathers, bad coworkers and bad employees.

There's more to it than this, but I wanted to get this topic out there. What do you guys think? I think we are moving more and more towards a society where strength and "toughness" (except mental toughness, which is important in many ways) are not valued much and intelligence and originality and even cooperation are valued more. Do you think this is the case, and what effects do you think this might bring on society?
2 KingNick199529th Jan 2014 04:07:55 PM from Somewhere over the waynebow , Relationship Status: Browsing the selection
I agree that Brain will definitely overtake brawn. In many ways it has already happened for example Nerds are the new it thing and Steve Jobs was a huge celebrity.
I don't see strength going anywhere - people like to use manual labour as it's more fulfilling and healthy. Even with 3D printers doing a lot of work, I see people continuing to put some stuff together by hand out of choice. And then there's always the gym.

Alpha males are just as assured - leadership has always been about brain more than brawn, which is why tribal chieftains tended to be elders.
4 demarquis29th Jan 2014 05:05:28 PM from Hell, USA , Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
I think I disagree with the entire premise of the OP. When we evolved into our human ancestors, our competitive advantage came from our brains: in terms of physical strength we were nothing. Even chimps are stronger than we are.

Compared to previous generations, we are stronger than ever. We are taller, healthier and more muscular than the australopithicines, than early homo, heck, then even human from one hundred years ago. Meanwhile, there is no evidence that we are any more intelligent than we were 40,000 years ago.

Looking at the OP overall, however, it seems you may have meant something like our lifestyle and chances at success rely less on physical labor and more on intellectual skills. That certainly is true.

But then you mention "alpha males" and traditional masculinity. While crude bullying is bad for any workplace, "A" type personalities who emphasize competition and success over nearly anything else are still favored in corporate and business work settings. Successful entrepreneurs tend to be rather, how shall we say this, jerks.

So while "mind work" will continue to rise in importance at the expense of "muscle work", people who are able to channel raw aggression into ambition and competition will still experience an advantage in the competition for scarce resources.

edited 29th Jan '14 5:06:16 PM by demarquis

I do not compromise—I synthesize.
5 Ramidel29th Jan 2014 09:51:28 PM , Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
[up]Mmm...not necessarily, for one reason. Namely, that the needs of life are barely scarce at all and that only artificially.

There's a growing movement, most widely-covered in Japan but throughout the developed world (including the US, though here it's hampered by the deliberate destruction of the middle class and cultivation of the underclass), towards what the Japanese are calling "herbivores." The trend is that more people are, once their material needs are comfortably met, ceasing to put further effort into social advancement and instead focusing on personal goals and lifestyles; the social imperative to "keep up with the Joneses" and "get ahead" is being abandoned.

So I think that at some point, the benefits to aggression will be lessened as conventional markers of social status and material abundance become irrelevant. Respect is likely to come from greater ability in one's chosen field, which is more a forebrain thing.
Fiat justitia ruat caelum.
Thousands of years ago, brawn was more important than brains. While intelligence led us to the society we have today, our ancestors were all about killing animals and eating them, fighting off warring tribes, building things physically, and so on.


Yeah, being strong enough to fight, or escape from, physical threats or to do physical labor was important to our ancestors, but saying it was "most important" isn't completely correct. The thing about physicality is that most people—even the physically strong—typically want to avoid using the extent of it. No matter how much of a warrior you are, you really don't want every fight ending in a desperate contest of strength and toughness. Fighting is a degenerative condition (meaning that the more you do it, and the harder you do it, the less you can do it in the future), especially when you consider the lack of medical care, antibiotics, rehabilitation, and other things that people would need. So yes, while fighting was important to the survival of primitive man, being smart enough to avoid it or to use diplomacy, was equally important.

Same is true for labor. No matter how strong you are, the last thing you want is a permanent back injury.

And finally, could we avoid saying "studies show"? What studies? By whom? And who verified that those studies were true?

edited 29th Jan '14 11:29:27 PM by KingZeal

For one, the whole concept of "alpha male" is going out of vogue, now that research has shown that animal groups (particularly the wolf packs from whence the term was popularized) tend to get structured like that in captivity, with specimens on top of the hierarchy really being otherwise useless bullies. In the wild, packs are usually family units with the dominant pair simply being the literal Team Mom and Team Dad, whose behavior is actually closer to "beta" stereotypes.

Consequently, it makes sense that type "A"s would dominate the highly competitive yet socially limited and creatively sterile corporate environment, while actual social and technological advancements are put forward by soft-spoken nerds with better things to do than fight over the biggest piece of a shrinking pie.

Even in the past, cooperation and brain power were prized much more than competition and brute strength. Both warfare and manual labor were, as they are now, far more dependent on careful planning, disciplined teamwork, and technological solutions, than on individual champions using physical force. The sheer difference between legendary tales of mighty heroes, and actual military manuals, shows that Hollywood Tactics in fiction pretty much predate Hollywood by millennia.

To summarize, brawn was never the dominant trait to begin with, nor was the "alpha male" anything more than an exaggerated action-hero used for light entertainment. If anything, the all-but-unachievable living and social standards prominent in modern media may have actually created more anxiety over social and financial standing than before. But again - that's just entertainment; not really an accurate reflection of society as a whole.

edited 30th Jan '14 12:21:02 AM by indiana404

This tiny forest is where all the action is!
All interesting observations. I wish I had something more to add to this, but can't think of anything to say at the moment.

True, people with the "alpha" personality tend to have a certain kind of smart, a certain kind of social skills and confidence, but that's not the same as being cooperative and able to work well with others, provide for the family and not cheat on one's spouse.

And yes, my original post was indeed about jobs rewarding "beta" type personalities and intelligent people, and how stereotypical jocks and other "alpha" personalities will be less rewarded and less important in the future.
9 BlueNinja030th Jan 2014 09:18:28 AM from Lost in a desert oasis , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Chronically Sleep Deprived
I saw an article today that made me think of this thread. If reading truly is the measure of a child's success in school and work, the only way to change that is to get more parents who like to read, which seems to be a hell of a challenge these days.
TBH, his ego doesn't need more stroking. Nor does any other part of him. - M84
This tiny forest is where all the action is!
Nerds raising nerd kids, the future of successful society?

Here's the other thing though: the overwhelming popularity of the internet is said to be creating a "new literacy", as people have no choice but to read in order to get to a lot of the content they enjoy.
Yeah, but that's a different type of reading. Reading to enjoy internet content is equivalent to reading magazines, comic books, or other pulp material in previous decades. There's nothing wrong with it, but people can like reading those things and become averse to reading academic texts or literature because they don't get immediate satisfaction fro it.
This tiny forest is where all the action is!
Good point. I like in-depth investigative reporting, myself. I read plenty of that online.

Anyway, as I was thinking more about this topic, I'm realizing that it's not so much the "strong" but assholes that society will kind of "select" against. Though there is overlap.

There's evolutionary precedence, in non-human populations, for this sort of thing. I'd read about how in some African countries, elephants are killed for their tusks, to make ivory. Only male elephants grow tusks, and not all of them do. Female elephants have realized this. As a result, they are now selecting not the "manly" males with tusks as their mates, but instead the males who don't have tusks, resulting in them unknowingly spreading the gene against growing tusks. This is a form of evolution. Natural selection in a sense - the females are choosing the mates themselves.

Asshole traits likely had an evolutionary advantage. Tough men who also committed rape were more likely to spread their genes on. Women have often been attracted to tough, cocky, confident men - the very traits of assholes.

But what will happen in the future? What about when many workplaces try to avoid hiring assholes due to fear that they'll be more trouble than they're worth? In South Korea, colleges are starting to not allow known bullies to apply, as they've discovered how bullying lowers the academic performance of everyone around them. So they cut the problem off by not allowing them in. Physical strength (which does not mean being an asshole, but is found within jocks, who are often assholes) will be less important in jobs where robotics take the roles previously held by humans.

Cocky, confident, sexually promiscuous "alpha males", so to speak, may have lots of sex... with women who use birth control and don't actually pass on their genes. Will they settle down and get married, passing their genes on to their kids? If it's true that "beta" traits make better husbands and fathers (in addition to coworkers and classmates), and if women become aware of this and become more selective of who they'll actually allow to impregnate them, then we may see a reduction of such traits, if there's a genetic component to them, in the future.
I'd say the issue is not so much genetic as it is social. Going from this old gem, "assholes" do well enough in safe, controlled environments where the means of survival are assured by external forces. Be it jocks and cheerleaders in highschool, ambitious corporate sharks and primadonna celebrities desperate for attention, or even vain nobles struggling for their place in the court pecking order - fact is, their environment provides them with precious few opportunities for meaningful and lasting accomplishment, thus their place in society has to be constantly and aggressively asserted.

To contrast, "nerds" - or otherwise engineers, technicians, number-crunchers, specialized workers and (some) scientists - tend to do a lot better later in life, where the lack of artificial constraints and lesser value of decorative accomplishments leave the jocks in the dust, while balding bespectacled mathletes can run or ruin entire governments with the press of a button.

To reiterate on the "alpha male" as an entertainment figure, think of how much value Western culture places on the aforementioned dime-a-dozen celebrities, as opposed to people whose work actually produces something, and you'll see where the roots of the reading discrepancy lie. Through the influence of pop-culture, the otherwise insignificant trend that Writers Cannot Do Math has slowly developed into the overall notion that Everybody Hates Mathematics - with obvious results. Fortunately, the solution may be just as simple - bring back the Science Heroes! Neil deGrasse Tyson can't do it all by himself!

edited 30th Jan '14 11:24:33 AM by indiana404

not sure this one's actually a skull, but w/e
I thought the elephant thing was due to all the ones with big tusks not being able to reproduce due to, y'know, being dead.
I stopped worrying about strange men on the internet around the time I became one.
This tiny forest is where all the action is!
I read that entire article you liked to, indiana 404. Really impressive and an interesting angle I'd never seen before, about just what is wrong with the school system and culture it creates. I have no idea how it would be fixed, though that could be another OTC topic.

I wonder how society would change if the school system did not exist in this form? If jobs make an effort to ferret out the assholes and bullies who have been shown to ruin workplaces, then this means essentially that we'd have a truly backwards school system where, due to the kid/teen culture rather than the adults running it, the people who succeed most in the school environment socially, are the people who are fucked later in life and vice versa. Not that social skills aren't important, but if the jobs become skewed towards intelligence and creativity, and those are the people who make it in life, then you'd really have a school system that is working totally against what people need to be.
In a way, traditional apprenticeship worked like that - students would be given tasks which, while mostly menial, were directly related to the craft they were supposed to learn and live by. With everyone having something meaningful to do, any adversarial relationships were closer to fairly benign fraternity hazing, rather than outright bullying. After all, no master would risk compromising the workshop's daily operations and public reputation over the antics of some belligerent wannabe. Consequently, the social skills students learned had more to do with promoting productive teamwork, rather than competing for meaningless praise - that bit was left for the annual guild fair.

So yes, different educational systems are well known to produce vastly different social structures, with respective results in society as a whole.
This tiny forest is where all the action is!
I'd talked to someone on the autism spectrum who said that while she did a lot of work in IT, allegedly the area that autistics are built for, it's the people who asskiss who move their way up, and people have even tried to steal credit for her work. She eventually quit and became a night shift security guard. No-one cared if the night shift guard had any social skills or not, and her life got easier.

It got me thinking though, that people really are more or less hired (or at least retained) based on their ability to converse around the water cooler rather than their ability to do the actual job.

If businesses realized that the "social skills" type people aren't the best employees, and scum who steal credit for others' work are in fact a liability, what would happen? Would the businesses lean towards not hiring such people? Would they lean towards hiring people based solely on merit, or at least try to ferret out those who will cause trouble?

I read an article about the history of One thing that stuck out to me is that prospective employees are required to take personality tests. They hire those who are introverted and systematic in their thinking - the smart, not the "alpha".

Businesses pay attention to what other businesses do internally. They want to run themselves better, be more efficient, save money, and improve the quality of their product or service (assuming there's competition). Is there a chance that Amazon's style of hiring might catch on?
18 BlueNinja019th Feb 2014 08:02:15 AM from Lost in a desert oasis , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Chronically Sleep Deprived
people really are more or less hired (or at least retained) based on their ability to converse around the water cooler rather than their ability to do the actual job.
That's a partial truth. You do need to know how to do the job, but you also need to know how to demonstrate that you know the job, and that requires social skills. There are people who can BS their way through a job interview, but then don't have the skills to do the job, while people with the skills who can't display that in the interview have a harder time getting the job. It works the same way for promotions as well; IMX with the military, the people who are amazing at their job but have zero social skills have a middling chance of being promoted, the people with great social skills, but can't do the job actually have a smaller chance of getting promoted because of how our evals work.
the "social skills" type people aren't the best employees, and scum who steal credit for others' work are in fact a liability, what would happen?
People with good social skills =/= people who steal credit. The second are a liability, the first are not. There is assuredly some overlap, yes. But just because you have social skills does not make you bad at a job, no matter what the field. (Personally, I think some IT people need more social skills.)
TBH, his ego doesn't need more stroking. Nor does any other part of him. - M84
19 demarquis19th Feb 2014 11:30:14 AM from Hell, USA , Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
Another thing is that, at least in a business environment, "Good social skills" often translates as "Able to negotiate good deals", both for themselves, and for their business. That is often seen as a highly valuable skills to have, and not just in sales.
I do not compromise—I synthesize.
This tiny forest is where all the action is!
I imagine it would depend on how and where it's used. The ability to hold water-cooler conversations, or not, seems to result in people getting kicked out even if they can do the job.

In any case, companies are slowly becoming aware of what studies are showing - that abusive managers and coworkers damage the entire workplace and cause other people (not just their direct victims) to leave, or if they stay, to work less hard at their jobs and be more likely to try to sabotage the place.
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