Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men! – Allen Ginsberg
Moloch is the name of the capitalistic entity that rules us all. It belongs to no one individual, but it influences every individual. In Moloch’s world, every person is trying to maximize their energy usage. Economists would call this a good thing – I say this is just evil…
Let’s say that you have person A and person B.
They would both like to receive attention and affection from the other at a minimum cost to themselves. This is where you get the phrase about how the person who cares less has more power in a relationship.
However, what happens when both person A and person B practice being careless (or cool). Then, they both get nothing. This is the prisoner’s dilemma, a tragedy of the commons, a Malthusian trap, etc.
Now, let’s say that person B does not like Moloch, so he decides to spend 5 joules (J) of energy and send person A a text. Happy to receive a message, Person A sends back a cool response.
Yet, person A does not consider the costs that person B paid, so person A does not continue the text chain or ask to talk on the phone.
This leaves person B feeling used.
Obviously, person A was not required to add his own joules (J) of energy, but person A did break the reciprocal altruism.
In Moloch’s world, there is no such thing as reciprocal altruism – there can only be a race to the bottom.
At the individual neuroscience level, Moloch can be explained as people not activating their “fairness” or “taking turns” neurons.
Now, I’m not saying that everyone is cheating, but Moloch’s servants do not turn on their “fairness” neurons unless they want something in return. For example, person A might share his joules (J) of energy if he wants a promotion, a lover, a prize, etc. However, person A will not consciously decided to share his joules (J) with someone who provides him little to no benefit.
“The female, not the male, determines all the conditions of the animal family. Where the female can derive no benefit from association with the male, no such association takes place.”
Women are choosier than men due to parental investment.
Note: I’d like to modify Briffault’s law a bit [because I frankly find it biased].
Modified Briffault’s law:
- Every individual determines the conditions of the animal family.
- If the individual can derive no benefit from association with another individual, then no such association will take place.
- If costs outweigh the benefit, then no association will take place.
Sounds depressing doesn’t it? I agree. Moloch is sinister.
In defense, a reader might say, “But, there are still good people around.”
Yes, there are!
Sadly, you have to understand how ideas (memes or neurons) spread in a mechanical universe.
Clear’s Law of Recurrence:
The number of people who believe an idea is directly proportional to the number of times it has been repeated during the last year – even if the idea is false.
In conclusion, Moloch breaks down a society’s fairness for the sake of a maximizing competition. He cannot be beat unless there is a god-level power (please consider how the British parliament banned the slave trade even though they gained massive economic benefits from the trade). If you are a noble-hearted person, then you must try to find like-minded people who have “moral” neurons. Otherwise, you will waste your joules (J).
Fighting Moloch on Hard-Mode
[This is a extension for the brave, who refuse to be passive towards Moloch.]
I forgot where I read this, but here is a relevant metaphor.
Let’s say you have two neighbors: neighbor A and neighbor B.
They would both like a mosquito-free property.
However, the (theoretically 100% safe) mosquito treatment requires a decent amount of monetary contribution from each individual neighbor.
If each individual neighbor does not contribute, then mosquitoes can simply go from one yard to the next. So, even if neighbor B get the treatment, mosquitoes from neighbor A’s yard can just waltz in. Luckily, the treatment does somewhat spread in the air to the alternative yard, so the lazy neighbor will invariably receive some benefit.
We all know that this scenario breaks the reciprocal altruism. Now, here is the hard-mode.
Neighbor B can do the following:
- Spray his/her yard (lowering the total mosquito population) even if neighbor A cheats and gains automatic benefits
- Spend joules (J) to remain kind and help neighbor A
- Spend joules (J) to not get upset at neighbor A’s behavior
- Spend joules (J) to remain optimistic despite general unfairness
Most people would say f**k neighbor A, but this is exactly what Moloch wants: a cut-throat race to the least common denominator. Neighbor A and neighbor B do not talk to each other. No one wins all. Everyone suffers.