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I'm no biologist or scientist of any sort, but it seems this is a problem with all apex predators to some degree. You get to the top of the food chain by adapting to and being highly reactive to short term and catastrophic risk. Once you get there you have to do a 180 and suddenly be highly attuned to subtle and long term issues to stay there. It's simply a different skill set and frame of mind.



It's probably not very informative to think of humans as apex predators. Yuval Harari in "Sapien" puts forth the interesting point that we were catapulted suddenly from cautious foragers to extreme lethality by our harnessing of fire and other technologies. We likely never had the chance to grow into the role of most dangerous animal. Thinking along those lines, our cautious forager ancestors probably did a lot of responding to short-term and catastrophic risk.

My dog may well have better apex predator instincts than I.


Is there anything in all of biology that IS attuned to subtle and long-term issues? I think I would argue that we are the closest to that.


You are right, there is pretty much nothing in biology that is. Humans are no exception, but until recently it was not a big problem because we did not have the power to significantly damage the climate and the biosphere (though the megafauna would probably disagree).

Fossil fuel powered technology has changed that, but we are psychologically and socially ill-equipped to deal with its transformative power.


Yes, of course. Long-term issues aren't any different than others; they only need longer (more generations) to manifest.

One class (meta-)examples are all mechanism actually promoting mutation, or other methods of genetic variation: Horizontal gene transfer is interesting in this regard. It's the ability to incorporate snippets of DNA the organism comes across.

These mechanisms are an adaptation to the "known unknowns": what if a new pathogen appears, or the environment (temperature, radiation, salinity etc) suddenly changes? To achieve some flexibility, these mechanisms make trade-offs, usually sacrificing short-term reproductive success.


The way humans tend to overvalue short term gain and underplay long term consequences is well covered. This line of thinking bleeds heavily into politics and how our societies organize. Would like to know if it is actually an apex predator thing, it might just be part of being a mortal animal.




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