Transcript: This Sad, Modern Condition | Jan 28, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and spotted gray tie.

A caption on screen reads "This sad, modern condition. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says MODERN SOCIETY HAS
MADE ASTONISHING PROGRESS IN
MANY AREAS OF LIFE.
WHETHER THAT'S MADE US HAPPIER,
OR BETTER OFF PSYCHOLOGICALLY,
IS LESS CLEAR, PARTICULARLY IN
LIGHT OF RISING RATES OF
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY
DISORDERS.
LAST YEAR, THE UNITED KINGDOM
EVEN APPOINTED A MINISTER OF
LONELINESS.
WHAT IS GOING ON?
AND DOES IT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO
WITH HUMANS GETTING TOO FAR
AHEAD OF OURSELVES FROM AN
EVOLUTIONARY STANDPOINT?
JOINING US NOW TO CONSIDER THAT:
IN AUSTIN, TEXAS:
DAVID BUSS, EVOLUTIONARY
PSYCHOLOGIST AT THE UNIVERSITY
OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN AND AUTHOR OF
"THE EVOLUTION OF DESIRE:
STRATEGIES OF HUMAN MATING."

Buss is in his late fifties, clean-shaven, with short white hair. He's wearing rimless glasses, a black suit and a pale blue shirt.

Steve continues AND IN ITHACA, NEW YORK:
DAVID SLOAN WILSON, STATE
UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF
BIOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY AT
BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY AND AUTHOR
OF THE FORTHCOMING BOOK, "THIS
VIEW OF LIFE: COMPLETING THE
DARWINIAN REVOLUTION."

Wilson is in his sixties, clean-shaven, with receding white hair. He's wearing glasses and a black sweater over a red shirt.

Steve continues GIVEN THAT WE HAVE BOTH OF OUR
GUESTS NAMED DAVID HERE, I THINK
WE'LL DO THIS A LITTLE MORE
FORMALLY, AND IT WILL BE
PROFESSOR WILSON AND PROFESSOR BUSS.
BOTH OF YOU, WELCOME TO TVO.
LET'S JUST START OUR
CONVERSATION BY LAYING DOWN SOME
OF THESE FACTS TO HELP SET THE
TABLE FOR THE DISCUSSION TO COME.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Modern mental health."

Steve reads data from the slate and says
ACCORDING TO THE WORLD HEALTH
ORGANIZATION, DEPRESSION...
DEPRESSION IS NOW THE LEADING
CAUSE OF ILL HEALTH AND
DISABILITY WORLD WIDE.
RATES OF DEPRESSION HAVE RISEN
BY MORE THAN 18 percent SINCE 2005.
IN CANADA, SUICIDE IS ONE OF THE
LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH IN BOTH
MEN AND WOMEN FROM ADOLESCENCE
TO MIDDLE AGE.
LAST YEAR IN THE UNITED STATES,
THE SUICIDE DEATH RATE WAS THE
HIGHEST IT'S BEEN IN AT LEAST 50
YEARS.
HERE IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO,
MORE THAN A THIRD OF HIGH SCHOOL
STUDENTS INDICATE A MODERATE TO
SERIOUS LEVEL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL
DISTRESS.
THAT WOULD BE SYMPTOMS OF
ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION.
AND, AS WE SUGGESTED EARLIER
THIS YEAR, THE BRITISH
GOVERNMENT CREATED WHAT IT CALLS
A MINISTER OF LONELINESS TO HELP
COMBAT WHAT THE PRIME MINISTER
THERE, THERESA MAY, CALLS THIS,
QUOTE, SAD REALITY OF MODERN LIFE.
PROFESSOR WILSON, TO YOU FIRST.
HOW DOES LOOKING TO OUR
EVOLUTIONARY PAST HELP US
UNDERSTAND THE LEVELS OF
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY IN THE
MODERN WORLD TODAY?

The caption changes to "David Sloan Wilson. Binghamton University."

Wilson says THE FIRST THING TO SAY IS FOR MOST
OF OUR EXISTENCE, WE'VE LIVED IN
SMALL, HIGHLY COOPERATIVE
GROUPS.
SO THAT IS THE NATURAL HUMAN
SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT.
AND THAT'S WHAT IS IN SUCH SHORT
SUPPLY TODAY.

Steve says PROFESSOR BUSS, WHAT
WOULD YOU ADD IN TERMS OF, TO
WHAT EXTENT EVOLUTIONARY THEORY
CAN HELP US UNDERSTAND WHAT'S
HAPPENING HERE?

The caption changes to "David Buss. University of Texas."

Buss says YES.
WELL, I THINK THERE'S A
FUNDAMENTAL MISMATCH BETWEEN
ANCESTRAL ENVIRONMENTS AND
MODERN ENVIRONMENTS, LIKE
PROFESSOR WILSON SAID, WE
EVOLVED IN THE CONTEXT OF SMALL
GROUP LIVING WHERE THERE WAS NO
SUCH THING AS SPENDING A LOT OF
TIME ALONE, LIKE WE DO NOW IN
THE MODERN ENVIRONMENT.
IN THE UNITED STATES, SOMETHING
LIKE 37 PERCENT OF PEOPLE LIVE
ALONE IN ISOLATED CONDITIONS.
WE EVOLVED IN SMALL GROUP
LIVING.
ALSO WITH CLOSE KIN AROUND WHO
WERE INVESTED IN OUR WELFARE.
NOW WE LIVE WITH OUR KIN
SCATTERED TO THE WINDS, AND SO
WE DON'T HAVE THAT SHEER NUMBER
OF PEOPLE AND QUALITY OF PEOPLE
WHO ARE INVESTED IN OUR WELFARE.

Steve says DO YOU FIND THAT
ODD, PROFESSOR WILSON, THAT WE
SEEM TO LIVE IN CITIES THAT
ENCOMPASS MILLIONS AND MILLIONS
OF PEOPLE, AND YET WE'RE
LONELIER THAN EVER?

Wilson says WELL,
ONE POINT TO MAKE IS THAT IN
MODERN TIMES, THINGS CAN STILL
BE GOOD.
THE TRENDS WE'RE TALKING ABOUT
ONLY TOOK PLACE IN THE LAST 20
TO 30 YEARS.
BUT THINGS ARE FALLING APART
NOW, BUT THINGS COULD BE MADE
BETTER, EVEN IN MODERN LIFE.

Steve says DO YOU AGREE WITH
THAT, PROFESSOR BUSS?

Buss says OF COURSE THEY
CAN BE MADE BETTER BY
IDENTIFYING WHAT THE MISMATCHES
ARE BETWEEN ANCESTRAL AND MODERN
ENVIRONMENT?

Steve says SUSAN PINKER HAS
BEEN ON THIS PROGRAM AND SHE HAS
WRITTEN ABOUT THIS TOPIC.
WE WANT TO PLAY A SNIPPET OF
WHAT SHE SAID LAST TIME SHE WAS
ON AND THEN WE'LL COME BACK AND CHAT.
MR. DIRECTOR, PLEASE.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "February 9, 2015. Susan Pinker. Author."
In the clip, Susan talks in the studio. She's in her fifties, with brown hair in a bob.

She says THE AREAS OF YOUR BRAIN THAT
BECOME ACTIVATED WHEN YOU'RE
EXPERIENCING PHYSICAL PAIN ARE
VERY SIMILAR TO THE AREAS THAT
ARE ACTIVATED WHEN YOU'RE
SOCIALLY ISOLATED.
WE ARE A SOCIAL SPECIES.
AND BEING ALONE RAISES ALARM
SIGNALS PHYSICAL LOGICALLY THAT
MORE OR LESS TELL YOU, IF YOU
DON'T FIX THIS, YOU'RE A GONER.

The clip ends.

Steve says WHY WOULD LONELINESS
BE SO, SO PAINFUL?

The caption changes to "David Sloan Wilson. Author, 'This view of life.'"
Then, it changes again to "All the lonely people."

Wilson says SUSAN
PINKER IS EXACTLY RIGHT.
WE SEAMLESSLY INTEGRATE OUR
SOCIAL RESOURCES AND OUR
PERSONAL RESOURCES.
DO YOU KNOW THAT PAIN ITSELF IS
A SOCIAL SIGNAL?
SO WHEN WE FEEL PAIN, IN A SENSE
WE'RE CRYING OUT FOR OTHERS TO
HELP US.
WE FEEL PAIN IN A DIFFERENT WAY
THAN ANIMALS DO BECAUSE WE ARE
THAT SOCIAL A SPECIES.

Steve says PROFESSOR BUSS, I
GUESS OUR ANCIENT ANCESTORS
STRUGGLED FOR SURVIVAL AGAINST
THE ELEMENTS IN A WAY THAT WE
DON'T HAVE TO TODAY, THANKFULLY,
BUT HAS THAT ALSO HAD THE
PERVERSE EFFECT OF CREATING THE
CONDITIONS THAT ALLOW... THAT
DON'T ALLOW THE KIND OF
CLOSENESS THAT THEY HAD BACK IN THE DAY?

Buss says YES, I THINK THAT'S TRUE.
AND ONE OF THE KEY VARIABLES IS
THAT IN ANCESTRAL TIMES, WE WENT
THROUGH... WHAT DARWIN CALLED
THE HOSTILE FORCES OF NATURE
WHERE WE HAD TO COMBAT LITERAL
SURVIVAL AND DEATH ISSUES, AND
SO WE FOUND OUT THROUGH THESE
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS WHO OUR
TRUE FRIENDS WERE AND WHO OUR
FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS WERE.
IN THE MODERN ENVIRONMENT,
STRIPPED FROM THESE HOSTILE
FORCES OF NATURE, WE DON'T GO
THROUGH THESE CRITICAL TESTS
WHERE WE KNOW WHO WE CAN REALLY
RELY ON IN TIMES OF CRISIS.
SO EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE A LOT OF
SUPERFICIAL FRIENDS, PEOPLE HAVE
TWITTER FRIENDS AND FACEBOOK
FRIENDS BY THE THOUSANDS, WE
DON'T HAVE A SENSE OF DEEP
FRIENDSHIP THAT MOST PEOPLE
WOULD HAVE HAD ANCESTRALLY BY
GOING THROUGH THOSE TRIALS AND
TRIBULATIONS.

Steve says PROFESSOR BUSS,
SINCE YOU RAISED THE PRESIDENT'S
FAVOURITE THING IN THE WORLD,
SOCIAL MEDIA, LET'S PICK UP ON
THAT PART OF THE CONVERSATION
AND MOVE ON.
ONE STUDY SAID, I THINK THIS WAS
IN 2015, SAID THAT PEOPLE FEEL
DEPRESSED AFTER SPENDING A GREAT
DEAL OF TIME ON FACEBOOK BECAUSE
THEY FEEL BAD WHEN COMPARING
THEMSELVES TO OTHERS AND THE
LIVES THAT THEY THINK OTHER
PEOPLE ARE LEADING.
LET'S GO BACK TO OUR
EVOLUTIONARY PAST.
HAVEN'T WE ALWAYS COMPARED
OURSELVES, PROFESSOR WILSON, TO
THE OTHERS IN OUR GROUP?

The caption changes to "David Sloan Wilson, @David_S_Wilson."
Then, it changes again to "Comparing yourself to the whole world."

Wilson says YES,
BUT WE'VE ALSO BEEN IN SMALL
GROUPS FIERCELY EGALITARIAN.
SO BASICALLY THE SENTIMENT IS IS
THAT WE'RE ALL MORAL EQUALS.
YOU ARE NOT BETTER THAN ME,
ESPECIALLY MORALLY.
AND SO I THINK THE KIND OF
RANKING THAT IS SO COMMON
NOWADAYS IS IN FACT TOXIC AND
DIFFERENT THAN THE NORMAL HUMAN
EXISTENCE IN A SMALL GROUP
SETTING, WHICH IS HIGHLY, HIGHLY
EGALITARIAN.

Steve says PROFESSOR BUSS, NEED
LESS TO SAY, OUR ANCESTORS DID
NOT HAVE TINDER, WHICH MEANT
THAT THE POTENTIAL...

Buss says RIGHT.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says OUR POTENTIAL MATES
THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO WERE
FAIRLY LIMITED COMPARED TO
TODAY.
HOW HAS THAT CONTRIBUTED, IN
YOUR VIEW, TO OUR SAD, MODERN
CONDITION.

The caption changes to "David Buss, @ProfDavidBuss."

Buss says ABSOLUTELY.
ANCESTRALLY IN OUR ENTIRE
LIFETIMES, WE WOULD HAVE
ENCOUNTERED PERHAPS A FEW DOZEN
POTENTIAL MATES.
NOW WITH INTERNET DATING
SERVICES, TINDER, AND OKAY CUPID
AND MANY OTHERS, WE LITERALLY
HAVE THOUSANDS OR MILLIONS OF
POTENTIAL MATES.
THAT HAS A GOOD SIDE TO IT IN
THAT WE CAN IN PRINCIPLE HAVE
CONTACT WITH PEOPLE THAT WE
NEVER WOULD COME INTO CONTACT
WITH IN OUR DAY-TO-DAY LIVES.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME, IT CREATES
THIS ILLUSION THAT THERE'S
ALWAYS SOMEONE A BIT BETTER OUT
THERE, AND SO I THINK THE RAPID
DECLINES IN RELATIONSHIPS, IN
MARRIAGES, IN ENDURING ROMANTIC
COMMITMENTS ARE IN PART A
FUNCTION OF THIS WEIRD MODERN
NOVEL ENVIRONMENT OF INTERNET DATING.

Steve says SO TOO MUCH CHOICE
CAN BE A BAD THING?

Buss says ABSOLUTELY.
THEY'VE SHOWN THIS WITH OTHER
THINGS.
IF YOU GIVE PEOPLE SIX CHOICES
OF JAM, PEOPLE TASTE A COUPLE
AND THEN THEY SELECT ONE AND BUY
IT.
IF YOU GIVE PEOPLE 24 CHOICES OF
JAM, THEY GET OVERWHELMED AND
DON'T BUY ANYTHING.
SO THAT JAM EXPERIMENT ALSO I
THINK APPLIES TO THE MATING
ENVIRONMENT.

Steve says PROFESSOR WILSON, DO
YOU SEE A MISMATCH BETWEEN HOW
CHILDREN DEVELOPED AND WERE
EDUCATED IN OUR EVOLUTIONARY
PAST AND HOW THEY ARE TODAY?

The caption changes to "Think of the children!"

Wilson says THAT'S RIGHT.
THAT'S A BIG MISMATCH.
IF YOU LOOK AT HOW EDUCATION
TOOK PLACE BACK THEN, IT DID NOT
RESEMBLE AT ALL FORMAL EDUCATION
OF TODAY.
IT TOOK PLACE LARGELY IN THE
CONTEXT OF PLAY, BASICALLY.
AND THIS IS ANOTHER THING THAT'S
IN TREMENDOUSLY SHORT SUPPLY.
KIDS ARE GROWING UP BOTH INSIDE
AND OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL WITH
HIGHLY SCRIPTED ACTIVITIES.
THEY'RE NOT ALLOWED TO JUST GO
OUTSIDE AND PLAY THE WAY OUR
PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS DID.
THAT'S THE BIG ONE, THE LACK OF
UNSTRUCTURED AND SELF-MOTIVATED
PLAY.

Steve says PROFESSOR WILSON,
FOLLOW UP, IF YOU WOULD, ON THIS
NOTION: THE CONNECTION TODAY
BETWEEN OUR... IT SEEMS TO BE WE
HAVE THIS NEED TO BE SO, SO
CLEAN AND HYGIENIC, AND
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY?
DO THOSE DOTS CONNECT FOR YOU?

The caption changes to "The downside of perfect hygiene."

Wilson says YEAH.
I MEAN, MISMATCHES ARE
EVERYWHERE.
I MEAN, WE'VE CREATED THESE
MODERN ENVIRONMENTS WHICH HAVE
EXCELLENT ASPECTS, OF COURSE.
WE DON'T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE
STONE AGE.
BUT THEN THERE ARE SUBTLE
DIFFERENCES THAT WE NEVER
ANTICIPATED.
ONE OF THOSE IS THAT THE
ENVIRONMENT CAN BE TOO CLEAN,
TOO HYGIENIC, AND OUR IMMUNE
SYSTEMS DO NOT EVOLVE AGAINST
THAT BACKGROUND.
SO WHEN OUR IMMUNE SYSTEMS GO
HAYWIRE, THEN THAT RESULTS IN
ALL KINDS OF PHYSICAL AND MENTAL
DISORDERS, INCLUDING ANXIETY AND
DEPRESSION.
FOR THE SIMPLE REASON THAT OUR
IMMUNE SYSTEMS ARE EVOLVED TO
DEVELOP IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL
SORTS OF MICROBES AND OTHER
SPECIES.
WHEN THOSE ARE ABSENT, ALL BETS
ARE OFF AS FAR AS OUR IMMUNE
SYSTEMS ARE CONCERNED.

Steve says DAVID BUSS, YOU LOOK
LIKE YOU WANTED TO RESPOND TO THAT.

Buss says YEAH.
I JUST WANTED TO ADD ONE THING,
WITH RESPECT TO THESE MISMATCHES
WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT, AND
THAT IS THAT DEPRESSION AND
ANXIETY RATES ARE ABOUT TWICE AS
HIGH AMONG WOMEN COMPARED TO
MEN, AND I THINK THIS IS ALSO A
RESULT OF A MISMATCH.
WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE
DEPRESSION RATES ARE IN MORE
TRADITIONAL CULTURES,
HUNTER-GATHERER CULTURES.
BUT I THINK WE DO KNOW THAT THE
SOCIAL ISOLATION, THE LACK OF A
SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE AND KIN
WHO ARE INVESTED IN YOUR WELFARE
HAS A MORE PROFOUND EFFECT ON
WOMEN THAN ON MEN.
SO I THINK THAT SEX DIFFERENCE
IN DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY IS
SOMETHING THAT WE ALSO NEED TO
ATTEND TO.

The caption changes to "Men versus women."

Steve says DAVID WILSON, DO WE
HAVE ANY IDEA WHY THAT IS?

Wilson says THERE
ARE SO MANY POSSIBILITIES, BUT I
THINK PROFESSOR BUSS PUT HIS
FINGER ON ONE OF THEM, THAT
SOCIAL CONNECTEDNESS, BASICALLY,
MIGHT BE SOMETHING THAT IMPACTS
WOMEN MORE THAN MEN.
BUT, YOU KNOW, THE REVERSE IS
ALSO TRUE.
WE FIND, FOR EXAMPLE, IN COLLEGE
ENVIRONMENTS, WOMEN ARE DOING
BETTER THAN MEN.
I THINK MEN, TRADITIONAL MALE
SEX ROLES ARE BECOMING OBSOLETE
AND MEN DON'T REALLY KNOW WHAT
TO DO, HOW TO ACT IN MODERN
SOCIETIES, WHERE SUCH THINGS AS
PHYSICAL LABOUR, PHYSICAL
STRENGTH, SOCIAL DOMINANCE, ALL
THESE THINGS ARE BEING CALLED
INTO QUESTION.
SO I THINK THAT MEN ARE AS AT
RISK AS WOMEN.

Steve says PROFESSOR BUSS, YOU
WANT TO COME BACK ON THAT?

Buss says I THINK THEY'RE
AT RISK IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
BUT IT IS A FACT THAT DEPRESSION
RATES ARE TWICE IN WOMEN WHAT
THEY ARE IN MEN, AND PROFESSOR
WILSON IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.
WOMEN ARE THRIVING... FOR
EXAMPLE, THEY GET BETTER GRADES
IN COLLEGE, THEY HAVE LOWER
DROP-OUT RATES, ET CETERA.
BUT NONETHELESS THEIR ANXIETY
AND DEPRESSION ARE STILL HIGH.
AND SO THERE'S SOMETHING MISSING
IN THE MODERN ENVIRONMENT THAT
WAS UNDOUBTEDLY PREVALENT OR
PRESENT IN ANCESTRAL
ENVIRONMENTS THAT WE NEED TO
ATTEND TO.
SO I THINK PROFESSOR WILSON IS
RIGHT.
MEN AND WOMEN HAVE FACED
DIFFERENT ADAPTIVE CHALLENGES IN
THIS... FROM DIFFERENT FORMS OF
MISMATCH.

Steve says PROFESSOR BUSS, DO
YOU WANT TO FOLLOW UP AND
SPECULATE ON WHAT THAT MISSING
THING MIGHT BE?

Wilson says I'D
LIKE TO EMPHASIZE THAT MISMATCH
IS SOMETHING WHICH EXISTS FOR
ALL EVOLUTIONARY PROCESSES.
WE TEND TO THINK OF IT AS A
MISMATCH WITH GENETIC EVOLUTION.
BUT CULTURAL EVOLUTION GENERATES
MISMATCHES, AND PERSONAL
EVOLUTION GENERATES MISMATCHES.
IN FACT ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
ITSELF IS AN INDICATOR OF
PERSONAL MISMATCHES.
THE PERSON IS BASICALLY NOT
WELL-ADAPTED TO THEIR
ENVIRONMENT FOR ANY NUMBER OF
REASONS, AND THEREFORE NEEDS TO
CHANGE.
AND ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION ARE
SOME OF THE MECHANISMS THAT GET
US TO CHANGE, OR AT LEAST MAKE
US FEEL THAT WE NEED TO CHANGE.
SO WE NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO
ALL FORMS OF EVOLUTION.
THE FAST FORMS, CULTURAL AND
PERSONAL EVOLUTION, IN ADDITION
TO SLOW FORM, GENETIC EVOLUTION.

Steve says GO AHEAD, PROFESSOR BUSS.

Buss says I WOULD JUST
ADD TO THAT.
SO ON THIS ISSUE OF MISMATCH, A
COUPLE WE HAVEN'T MENTIONED IS
THAT OUR ANCESTORS WERE OUTSIDE
MOST OF THE TIME.
THEY WERE EXPOSED TO SUNLIGHT.
AND THEY WERE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE.
THEY WERE HUNTING, THEY WERE
GATHERING, THEY WERE BUILDING
SHELTERS, THEY WERE MIGRATING
FROM PLACE TO PLACE.
AND SO IN THE MODERN
ENVIRONMENT, WE LIVE INSIDE.
WE DON'T HAVE THE SUNLIGHT
EXPOSURE.
WE HAVE LOWER LEVELS OF ACTIVITY
OR ENERGY EXPENDITURE.
AND WE KNOW THAT EXPOSURE TO
SUNLIGHT AND LOW ACTIVITY LEVELS
ARE LINKED TO DEPRESSION.
AND SO I THINK THESE PHYSICAL
DIFFERENCES, IN HOW WE GO ABOUT
OUR DAY-TO-DAY LIVES, ARE
CRITICAL MISMATCHES THAT ALSO
INFLUENCE, IN ADDITION TO THE
SOCIAL MISMATCHES, THE PHYSICAL
ONES ALSO INFLUENCE OUR
DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY LEVELS.

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Steve says FASCINATING.
LET ME READ SOMETHING HERE FROM
ROBERT WRIGHT WRITING IN TIME
MAGAZINE, THIS IS A COUPLE OF
DECADES AGO. HE WROTE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "De-Winging the better angels of our nature." The quote reads "A larger threat to mental health may be the way civilization thwarts civility. There is a kinder, gentler side of human nature, and it seems increasingly to be a victim of repression.
The good news is that doing this job entailed some quite pleasant feelings. Because social cooperation improves the chances of survival, natural selection imbued our minds with an infrastructure for friendship, including affection, gratitude and trust."
Quoted from Robert Wright, Time Magazine. August 28, 1995.

Steve says TO YOU FIRST, DAVID BUSS.
IS THAT INFRASTRUCTURE, THOSE
SORT OF BETTER ANGELS OF OUR
NATURE, BEING REPRESSED IN 2018
TO THE DETRIMENT OF OUR MENTAL HEALTH?

The caption changes to "Better angel, give me your wings."

Buss says YES.
I DON'T LIKE THE WORD
"REPRESSION," BECAUSE IT HAS
THESE HYDRAULIC FREUDIAN
CONNOTATIONS.
BUT I WOULD SAY THE BETTER
ANGELS OF OUR NATURE AREN'T AS
ACTIVATED.
WE HAVE THESE PSYCHOLOGICAL
ADAPTATIONS FOR GENEROSITY AND
TRUST AND SHARING AND COMMUNAL
LIVING, AND I DON'T THINK THEY
ARE AS ACTIVATED IN THE MODERN
ENVIRONMENT, IN PART BECAUSE WE
DON'T GO THROUGH THESE CRITICAL
TESTS AND WE DON'T KNOW WHO OUR
TRUE FRIENDS ARE.
I THINK THAT'S A KEY THING,
DISTINGUISHING TRUE FRIENDS FROM
FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS.

Steve says PROFESSOR WILSON?

Wilson says I THINK
WE NEED TO APPRECIATE THAT
VARIATION IN SUCH THINGS AS
TRUST... THERE'S LOTS OF
VARIATION, EVEN IN LARGE-SCALE
SOCIETIES.
IF YOU LOOK AT OTHER NATIONS,
FOR EXAMPLE, THE SCANDINAVIAN
NATIONS... I SPEND A LOT OF TIME
STUDYING NORWAY... AND THERE ARE
VERY, VERY HIGH LEVELS OF TRUST
IN THEIR SOCIETY AND THEIR
GOVERNMENT, AND THOSE ARE
SIZABLE NATIONS.
SO IT'S NOT THE CASE THAT MODERN
TIMES INEVITABLY DO THESE
THINGS.
THERE'S LOTS OF ELBOW ROOM FOR
IMPROVEMENT IN MODERN TIMES.
WE NEED TO BE COMPARATIVE, AND
THEN WE NEED TO LEARN HOW TO
BUILD THESE THINGS IN ON A LARGE
SCALE.
THAT SAID, IT CERTAINLY IS THE
CASE THAT WORLD WIDE, ESPECIALLY
IN OUR OWN COUNTRY, CANADA LESS
THAN AMERICA, BUT STILL, WE HAVE
LOW, LOW LEVELS OF TRUST AND
THAT CANNOT BE GOOD.

Steve says WELL, LET ME FOLLOW
UP WITH YOU, PROFESSOR WILSON,
BECAUSE YOU DID STUDY
SPECIFICALLY HOW WE EVOLVED IN
COOPERATIVE GROUPS AS OPPOSED TO
AS INDIVIDUALS.
FOR GOOD OR FOR BAD... MAYBE FOR
GOOD AND FOR BAD, DO YOU SEE
PEOPLE RETREATING BACK TO TRIBAL
GROUPS IN 2018?

The caption changes to "The limits of individualism."

Wilson says YES, THERE IS.
THERE'S A KIND OF SKEPTICISM FOR
LARGE-SCALE COOPERATION,
GLOBALISM AND THE LIKE, IT HAS
NOT WORKED, ESPECIALLY THE NEO
LIBERAL ECONOMIC MODEL HAS NOT
WORKED.
THE RESPONSE TO THAT IS
DISTRESS, GENERALIZED DISTRESS,
AND SOMETIMES WHERE THAT LEADS
IS TO BASICALLY ALLEGIANCE TO
SMALLER SCALE NATIONALISM,
TRIBALISM, AND SO ON.
YES, THAT IS WHAT'S HAPPENING,
AND IT CANNOT BE GOOD.
WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO COOPERATE
AT A LARGER SCALE.
WE NEED GLOBALISM DONE RIGHT.
THAT IS VERY DIFFERENT THAN THE
NEO LIBERAL ECONOMIC MODEL.

Steve says DAVID BUSS, WE SEEM
TO BE DANCING AROUND A LITTLE
BIT.
THE WORD THAT COMES TO MIND IS
"TRUMP" HERE, ISN'T IT?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live."

Buss says YEAH, TO PICK
UP ON THAT ISSUE.
IN ORDER TO ACTIVATE SOME OF
THESE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR
NATURE, I THINK WE HAVE TO
DECREASE THE LEVEL OF
POLARIZATION OR TRIBALISM OR
INTER-GROUP CONFLICT THAT SEEMS
TO HAVE DEVELOPED IN THE MODERN
ENVIRONMENT.
YEAH, WE HAVE ADAPTATIONS FOR
INTER-GROUP CONFLICT BECAUSE
HISTORICALLY OVER EVOLUTIONARY
TIME, WE WERE ENGAGED SOME OF
THE TIME IN SMALL GROUP WARFARE.
AND SO I THINK SOME OF THESE
NASTIER COALITION... ARE BEING
HYPERACTIVATED AND SO I THINK
ATTENTION NEEDS TO BE PAID TO
DEACTIVATING SOME OF THOSE IN
ADDITION TO ACTIVATING SOME OF
THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE.

Steve says WOULD YOU SAY,
THOUGH, PROFESSOR BUSS, THAT THE
CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED
STATES IS SORT OF A POLITICAL
MANIFESTATION OF ALL OF WHAT
WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW?

Buss says YES.
I THINK HE CERTAINLY... ONE
MANIFESTATION... I MEAN, THERE'S
PRETTY GOOD EVIDENCE OF
HEIGHTENED POLARIZATION AT A LOT
OF LEVELS, CERTAINLY WITHIN THE
UNITED STATES, BUT I THINK ALSO
IN WESTERN EUROPE AS WELL.

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Steve says OKAY.
I GUESS I'M GOING TO ASK YOU TO
HUMOUR ME FOR A SECOND HERE
BECAUSE SOMEONE WHO WOULD
PROBABLY AGREE WITH EVERYTHING
THAT BOTH OF YOU HAVE SAID SO
FAR ON OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT IS
THE UNABOMBER. TED KACZYNSKI, IN
1995, WROTE THE FOLLOWING...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "The Unabomber manifesto." The quote reads "I attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved."
Quoted from Ted Kaczynski, The industrial society and its future. 1995.

Steve says NOW, THE UNABOMBER'S
SOLUTION WAS TO DESTROY
EVERYTHING THAT HAD TO DO WITH
TECHNOLOGY AND TRY TO LIVE IN A
MORE PRIMITIVE STATE, WHICH HE
DID IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT.
PROFESSOR WILSON, WE DON'T WANT
TO DO THAT, DO WE?

The caption changes to "Turn back the clock?"

Wilson says OF
COURSE NOT.
PLEASE DON'T ASSOCIATE ME WITH
THE UNABOMBER.
[LAUGHTER]
NO, WE NEED TO EXPAND THE SCALE
OF COOPERATION.
WE CANNOT DO THAT BY JUST LIVING
ENTIRELY IN SMALL-SCALE SOCIETY.
TRUMP IS NOT THE PROBLEM.
TRUMP IS A SYMPTOM OF THE
PROBLEM.
YOU KNOW, THE PROBLEM IN LARGE
PART IS SOMETHING WE HAVEN'T
MENTIONED YET, IS EXTREME
INEQUALITY.
THIS IS VERY INTERESTING.
BECAUSE IF EXTREME INEQUALITY
EXISTS AT THE LEVEL OF SMALL
GROUPS, THAT'S TOXIC ALSO.
THE REASON SMALL GROUPS FUNCTION
WELL IS BECAUSE THEY ESTABLISH
RELATIVE EQUALITY.
IF YOU ESTABLISH RELATIVE
EQUALITY AT THE LARGE SCALE,
THEN THINGS FUNCTION WELL.
THEY HAVE IN THE PAST.
THEY CAN IN THE FUTURE.
IN MANY WAYS THE ROOT PROBLEM
HERE IS EXTREME INEQUALITY.
IF WE COULD ADDRESS THAT AT ANY
SCALE, THEN THAT'S A BIG PART OF
THE SOLUTION.

Steve says GO AHEAD, PROFESSOR BUSS.

Buss says YEAH.
I THINK THAT IS... PROFESSOR
WILSON IS CORRECT, THAT THAT IS
A KEY PROBLEM, AND I THINK ONE
OF THE FEATURES OF THAT IS THE
INVENTION OF CASH ECONOMIES
WHICH ARE ONLY ABOUT 7,000 YEARS
OLD.
SO ANCESTRALLY, YOU COULDN'T
STOCKPILE RESOURCES AND PRODUCE
THE KIND OF DRAMATIC INEQUALITY
THAT WE SEE TODAY.
CASH ECONOMIES ALLOW PEOPLE TO
STOCKPILE RESOURCES IN A WAY
THAT'S EVOLUTIONARY
UNPRECEDENTED.
AND SO I DON'T KNOW IF WE'LL
EVER GO BACK TO PRE-CASH
ECONOMIES, BUT I THINK THAT IS
ONE OF THE MODERN CULTURAL
INVENTIONS THAT HAS EXACERBATED
THE INEQUALITY AMONG PEOPLE TODAY.

Steve says LET'S GET ROBERT
WRIGHT BACK INTO THIS DISCUSSION
HERE, AND I WANT TO READ AN
EXCERPT FROM HIS RECENT BOOK,
WHICH IS CALLED "WHY BUDDHISM IS
TRUE." HERE WE GO.

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Evolution doesn't want you to be happy." The quote reads "You get a pretty plausible explanation of the human predicament as diagnosed by the Buddha. Yes, as he said, pleasure is fleeing and, yes, this leaves us recurrently dissatisfied. And the reason is pleasure is designed by natural selection to evaporate so that the ensuing dissatisfaction will get us to pursue more pleasure. Natural selection doesn't 'want' us to be happy, after all; it just 'wants' us to be productive, in its narrow sense of productive. And the way to make us productive is to make the anticipation of pleasure very strong but the pleasure itself not very long-lasting."
Quoted from Robert Wright, "Why Buddhism is true." 2018.

Steve says THIS NOTION,
PROFESSOR WILSON, THAT EVOLUTION
DOESN'T WANT US TO BE HAPPY IS
INTRIGUING.
WHERE ARE YOU ON THAT?

The caption changes to "Did we evolve to be happy?"

Wilson says IT'S PART OF THE STORY.
IT'S HALF CORRECT.
YES, THERE'S THOSE FLEETING
FORMS OF PLEASURE AND ALSO WHAT
COUNTS AS PAIN IS ALSO ADAPTIVE.
BUT THERE'S ALSO MORE PROFOUND
FORMS OF PLEASURE, WHICH
PRACTICES IN BELIEFS SUCH AS
BUDDHISM PROVIDES.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE DALAI LAMA,
FOR EXAMPLE, HE LOOKS PRETTY
HAPPY MOST OF THE TIME.
AND SO I THINK THAT THERE'S
FORMS OF PLEASURE WHICH ARE MORE
SUSTAINING, THEY'RE MORE
HOLISTIC, THEY'RE MORE
EMPATHETIC, THEY'RE MORE
PRO-SOCIAL, AND ARE ALSO MORE LASTING.

Steve says HOW WOULD YOU REACT
TO THAT QUOTE, PROFESSOR BUSS?

Buss says I THINK ROBERT
WRIGHT IS RIGHT ON, SO TO SPEAK,
WITH RESPECT TO THAT QUOTE.
THAT IS, IF EVOLUTION DESIGNED
AN ADAPTATION TO JUST PRODUCE
CONSTANT HAPPINESS, WE WOULDN'T
DO ANYTHING.
IT'S THE VARIABILITY, THE
PSYCHOLOGICAL PELLETS WHEN WE
ACHIEVE FITNESS-RELEVANT GOALS
THAT KEEP US MOTIVATED TOWARD
THOSE ENDS AND ALSO AVOIDING THE
PAINFUL ASPECTS.
SO LIVING IN A CONSTANT STATE OF
HAPPINESS AND BLISS IS NOT IN
THE CARDS.

Steve says NOW, PROFESSOR
WILSON...

Wilson says LET ME
PUSH BACK AGAINST MY ESTEEMED
COLLEAGUE HERE.
AGAIN, I AGREE HALF.
BUT THERE'S A LOT OF RESEARCH
SHOWING, JUST IMAGINE BEING IN
TWO PSYCHOLOGICAL STATES, ONE OF
FEAR AND THREAT AS OPPOSED TO
ONE OF SAFETY AND SATIETY.
WE HAVE DIFFERENT PSYCHOLOGICAL
RESPONSES TO THOSE.
AND A FEARFUL SITUATION, A
THREATENING SITUATION, IS NOT A
STATE OF MIND CONDUCIVE TO ANY
KIND OF OPEN-ENDED LEARNING.
IF WE'RE SAFE AND SECURE, THEN
WE BROADEN AND BUILD, WE FEEL
HAPPY, WE LAUGH, WE SOCIALIZE,
AND SO I THINK THAT THIS IS
SOMETHING THAT'S AN IMPORTANT
PART OF THE BIG EVOLUTIONARY
PICTURE.

Steve says DAVID BUSS, WE
ACTUALLY ENCOURAGE CIVILIZED
DISAGREEMENT ON THIS PROGRAM, SO
IF YOU WANT TO TAKE HIM BACK ON,
BE MY GUEST.

Buss says YEAH, YEAH.
WELL, I DON'T FUNDAMENTALLY
DISAGREE WITH WHAT HE'S SAYING,
BUT I GUESS I'LL JUST MENTION
ONE OTHER ASPECT OF THIS.
SO ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE ARE
MOTIVATED TOWARD IS ROMANTIC
RELATIONSHIPS AND SEXUAL
RELATIONSHIPS.
AND ONE OF THE INTERESTING SEX
DIFFERENCES IN THE MODERN
ENVIRONMENT THAT I THINK IS
PRETTY PREVALENT IS THAT MEN CAN
GAIN SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS OFTEN
WITHOUT INVESTING IN ROMANTIC
RELATIONSHIPS.
AND I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE
PROBLEMS THESE DAYS. THAT'S
PARTLY WHAT'S RESULTING IN
THE ANOMIE AMONG MEN, THE LACK
OF AMBITION AMONG MEN, AND WHY
WOMEN ARE EXCEEDING MEN ON SO
MANY METRICS ON COLLEGE
CAMPUSES.
SO THIS RELATES IN PART TO THE
ISSUE OF HAPPINESS.
SO YOU HAVE SEXUAL RESOURCES
THAT ARE BEING KIND OF
CONSTANTLY PROVIDED, THEN THAT
LOWERS ONE'S MOTIVATION TO
ACTUALLY DO THINGS TO INITIATE
RELATIONSHIPS.

Steve says NOW, PROFESSOR
WILSON, YOU DID SUGGEST EARLIER
IN OUR CONVERSATION THAT IN
SPITE OF ALL OF THIS DOOM AND
GLOOM THAT WE'VE BEEN
DISCUSSING, YOU DO SEE A WAY
FORWARD.
YOU WANT TO HELP US WITH A WAY
OUT OF THIS?

Wilson says I SEE A
LOT OF THE WAY FORWARD.
KNOWING WHAT THE ANCESTRAL
ENVIRONMENT WAS LIKE CAN HELP US
CREATE EQUIVALENCE IN MODERN
ENVIRONMENTS.
FOR SURE WE WANT TO OPERATE IN
SMALL GROUPS AS MUCH AS
POSSIBLE.
YOU WANT THOSE GROUPS TO BE
EGALITARIAN.
WE WANT THEM TO BE STRUCTURED
FOR FAIRNESS.
WE WANT THEM TO BE CHALLENGING,
WHICH THEY CAN BE, WITHOUT BEING
THREATENING.
BUSINESSES OFTEN PUT THIS TO
GOOD USE BY CREATING TEAMS THAT
DO CHALLENGING THINGS.
I THINK THAT THERE'S SO MUCH
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, AND IN
SOME WAYS, ACTUALLY THE LIMITING
FACTOR IS THAT NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE
ACTUALLY THINK OF THIS AND VIEW
THIS THROUGH AN EVOLUTIONARY
LENS.
SO I'M GRATEFUL THAT YOU HAVE
DAVID BUSS AND MYSELF ON THIS
PROGRAM BECAUSE I THINK THE MORE
YOU SEE THIS THROUGH AN
EVOLUTIONARY LENS, THEN THE MORE
SOLUTIONS COME INTO VIEW.

Steve says DAVID BUSS, SMALL,
EGALITARIAN, STRUCTURED,
CHALLENGING.
WHAT WOULD YOU ADD TO THAT LIST
OF HOW WE GET OUT OF THIS?

Buss says YEAH.
I WOULD AGREE WITH ALL THOSE AND
ADD... AND SORRY TO REPEAT
MYSELF... BUT WE NEED TO
INCREASE OUR ACTIVITY LEVEL.
WE NEED TO INCREASE EXPOSURE TO
SUNLIGHT.
WE NEED TO INCREASE OUR
INVESTMENT IN FRIENDS.
AND WHAT I SUGGEST... I STUDY
MOSTLY MATING, HUMAN MATING AND
ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS.
WHAT I SUGGEST TO PEOPLE WHO ARE
CONSIDERING A LONG-TERM
RELATIONSHIP IS TO GO ON
VACATION TOGETHER IN A FOREIGN
COUNTRY SO THAT YOU EXPERIENCE
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS AND YOU
SEE HOW YOUR POTENTIAL PARTNERS
RESPONDS TO THESE STRESSES AND
STRAINS, AND THAT PROVIDES
CRITICAL INFORMATION ABOUT
WHETHER THIS IS GOING TO BE A
SUSTAINABLE LONG-TERM ROMANTIC
RELATIONSHIP, AND I THINK THERE
MIGHT BE ANALOGUES WITH RESPECT
TO FRIENDSHIP AS WELL.
SO I THINK THE LACK OF THOSE
CRITICAL TESTS IS VERY IMPORTANT
IN CLOSING SOME OF THESE GAPS
BETWEEN ANCESTRAL AND MODERN
ENVIRONMENTS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Eric Bombicino, @ebombicino."

Steve says GENTLEMEN, THAT'S
OUR TIME.
I CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR
APPEARING ON TVO TONIGHT FOR A
MOST FASCINATING DISCUSSION.
DAVID BUSS IN AUSTIN, TEXAS...
DAVID SLOAN WILSON IN ITHACA, NEW YORK.
THANKS SO MUCH TO BOTH OF YOU.

Buss says THANK YOU, STEVE.

Wilson says THANK YOU.

Watch: This Sad, Modern Condition