Monkey Logic no.6 – Tough Love!

In the tooth and claw world of Monkey Politics, we might expect it to be the biggest and baddest ape who always ascends to alpha-hood; it is true that often a bullying thug will get ‘elected’ to power-

Note: apes choose their leaders in pretty much the same way as humans do, i.e. with public shows of support, presenting of gifts, and offers of sex.

-The troop’s new Tough-Monkey will terrify his enemies with shock and awe acts of violence and authority. Neighbouring troops will quail in fear. Sadly, the reign of terror is usually pointed inwards too, and the weak and out of favour in the bully’s home troop will also suffer.

More often than we would expect though, it will not be an egotistical thug who ascends, but a wise and friendly contender who is helped by his allies to climb the greasy-branch. A successful Love-Monkey’s authority will not come from threats and fear, but from a coalition network built on trust and reciprocity.

Monkeys are not moral philosophers. These two styles of Ape governance are a record of what works—Darwin has taken care of all the strategies that don’t—and not abstract utopias thought-up by inscrutable bearded academics pontificating about how the world ‘should’ look.

The politics of Love-Monkey and Tough-monkey—the embryonic Left and Right—are both valid answers to the question of how to structure a primate society.

Monkey-left believes that all apes are inherently and fundamentally good, and if you treat them with respect and dignity, they will reciprocate and behave in an acceptable manner.
Monkey-right, on the other hand, understands a tooth and claw world. It knows that when the shit hits the palm, the neighbouring troop will always be looking for an advantage and even unsupervised members of the home troop are watching for an opportunity to cheat and steal.

Taking these ideologies to human extremes:
Right sees a hard-knocks jungle out there,
while Left wants a garden of unconditional love.

Any parent knows that neither extreme is viable.
Too much love without tough discipline builds mollycoddled, indignant, tantrum-prone children—who will probably grow up to take positions as entitled social sciences professors.

Tough discipline, with too little love, will give rise to a brood of cowed, uncreative monsters who will one day make daddy proud by becoming bullying sociopathic CEOs.

Listening to the Monkey within, we recognise that we actually need a mix of both: leaders who are realists and accept the world’s inclement truths, while still possessing enough compassion to protect us from that beastly base reality.

Tough, without the Love, is just survival of the thuggish.
Love, without a dose of tough, only suffices to pave our paths with the fragile good-intentions of wishful thinking.

Success depends on a mix. A society run on only unconditional love will eventually be eradicated by any violent neighbour who sees their world a little less rosy; just as any society ruled by authoritarian tough guys will inevitably become irrelevant as the free-flowing creativity of the peoples around them produces better ways of doing stuff—including napping flint and sharpening sticks…

But I’m repeating myself!
We know all this!
Even Monkey knows this!

So why do we spend all our time fighting about whether Red or Blue is best?

If this was a Disney film, it would probably come back to the pantomime troop of evil baboons hiding behind the curtain of palm fronds… the ones expertly playing one side of chimps against the other so that they can steal all the bananas… [you know who I’m talking about].

Stop wasting time bickering folks!
Accept Tough-Love!
Its Monkey logic!

To paraphrase the economist Walter Williams, ‘Dispassionate analysis [Tough], enables Compassionate policies [Love].’

Monkey Logic no.5 – Stroke the Monkey!

At the moment things are changing very fast. So much upheaval is disconcerting; even to me, who spent my first decades reading science fiction, and the past decade or so writing it. The future is uncertain and uncertainty can create stress. Social and technological disruption is way over Monkey’s head… …It’s a Monkey for flip’s sake!

But Monkey is very capable of picking up on your mood. If the simian-inside notices you are stressed, it will get nervous, and infectious unease will pull you both down into a downward spiral where everything starts to look very glass-half-empty.

We need to break the vicious circle. Unlike last week, where I said we should let Monkey run things from time to time, this is a scenario where we need to take the lead and let our analytical minds reassure ourselves—and therefore Monkey too—that everything will be okay.

I am confident about the future, probably because I have saturated myself with utopian thinking from a life immersed in science-fiction. Perhaps I can share some of the good news hurtling towards us; like a kind of mini-episode of ‘White Mirror’.

So, this week I will talk about Power…

no, not that…


Power; always in short supply: batteries go empty, petrol tanks need refilling, stomachs rumble. On a macro level, power drives our industry. We only managed to catapult the global economy out of the muscle-age by greedily burning through a mega cache of fuel set aside two-hundred million years ago.

Fallen trees pilled up in a time before insects learned to eat wood. As an aside, just imagine all those toppled trees lying on top of one another. A global jungle-gym! A monkey paradise! Sad and somewhat ironic that nothing like a monkey would evolve for at least a hundred million years.

We are not running out of this coal and oil yet, but a lot of what is left is dirty and we’ve ‘recently’ realised that it’s anyway actually pretty bad for lungs and climate. This is one of those sources of stress and disquiet. Monkey notices you’re stressed; like a big friendly Labrador watching your eyes, eager to please; you are making it nervous!

The good news is, there’s actually loads of Power everywhere! Solar is now so cheap that panels are basically free — although fitting them and wiring them still costs money. Very soon [already] power will fall like free Mana from the sky. Even your car will use it.

Before you ask, when the sun stops shining, that same car will send the electrons the other way, back into your house, to power your fridge and TV. This is possible because a typical electric car stores about three days worth of power for a normal home! This is not even some futuristic speculation, some days already nearly 80% of Germany’s power comes from wind and sun.

If you’ve got power [energy] you can make pretty much everything else too:

Water is the easiest.

Food is a little more tricky; but by pumping electricity through vats, special algae can be coaxed to produce proteins, fats, and carbs.

Finally, shelter. Think swooping lines of carbon-fibre like those huge Americas Cup yachts. The material is still super expensive today, but it will soon be free; a by-product of something like reverse-combustion — ‘backwards-burning’ could be a Harry Potter spell: ‘Retro Ardenti!’ — which will pull carbon from the air to make boards of fantastic super-materials with properties somewhere between diamond and wood.

Even with the technologies we currently have, most of the problems which stem from a paucity of power — including big ones like hunger and climate change — are essentially solved. Sure we still need a couple of decades and half a dozen more Elon Musks, but from now on its just honest to goodness engineering!

Keeping this short, I won’t touch wacky stuff like Nuclear Fusion, but let me just add that if we manage to crack that nut, then things get very silly indeed. If any of you are interested, I can do a ‘Monkey Logic 2120’ episode on monkey-compatible far-future conceptions of Utopia.

We don’t get much vision from our ‘leaders’, and when we do it’s mostly fear-mongering. Most forward-looking pop-culture is dystopian or just plain silly too. It’s no wonder we are all apprehensive about what’s coming.

We don’t need to be.

All the big problems can be solved, the only remaining challenge is believing this [and then finding somebody else who believes it too so you can vote for them!]

Relax. It’s going to be okay. Inner-ape will notice you calming down and it will be like you are cooing softly while grooming the irritating metaphorical bugs from its fur. Stroke the Monkey.

I’ll do Money and Health next, that’s pure good news too!

As always, if you’d like to drop me a note, you can email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter at @weston_toby



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Monkey Logic no.4 – Do it for Monkey!

Life should not be miserable. When I say ‘should not’, I mean from an evolutionary perspective. When you are feeling bad, it’s evolution’s way of telling you — based upon opinions grounded in tens of thousands of generations of experience — that you’re not on a good path and you’d better correct your course. Evolution doesn’t want you to suffer for nothing, it only wants you to suffer so that you will avoid similar, sub-optimal situations in the future. A creature suffering is no good to anybody. It will be distracted, expending lots of unnecessary energy getting all tensed up and stressed out.

Passive contentment is what we should feel most of the time; middle of the road; plenty of space at the top and the bottom for evolution to apply its carrot and stick incentives. Chill should be the default. This is simple Monkey logic…

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