Programming vs. Strategy

Let’s assume that the biologists are right, and that all the games and endeavors in our lives have evolutionary origins. Mozart composed the music he did as an evolutionary strategy, as his evolutionary niche in a highly evolved society. Some show their fitness and gain status by hunting or fighting, some by acquiring wealth, and some by composing great music to entertain the rest of the tribe. Mozart did the latter, and, as elaborate and extraordinary as his compositions might have been, they were all just a means of demonstrating his genetic fitness.

But his music would not have been as great if he had been consciously thinking of it those terms. In fact, his music was so elaborate and complex, that it may have been partially self-defeating as an evolutionary strategy. Most of his tribe failed to appreciate the greatness of his music during his lifetime. He was revered and respected, but he probably could have achieved greater renown during his lifetime by composing less complex music. He almost certainly knew this.

So he created music that he thought was extraordinary, perhaps knowing that in so doing, he was not maximizing his status-raising capacity. Perhaps he was making music in the way he did because he believed it had intrinsic value, even to the extent that it was self-defeating.

Why did he do this? Stated another way: must our genetic programming always dictate our strategy? And when if it doesn’t always dictate our strategy, then what does?

In a sense, this might just be a reframing of the free will vs. determinism question.

Most of the literature on evolution is descriptive. These are the reasons species do what they do. And so on. But I have not found enough literature as I would like on what strikes me as the follow-up question.

And then what?

Yes, Mozart was an evolved ape, and so are we, and that may have been the source of the instincts to do what he did and what we do. But how does the knowledge about our programming impact what we do and how we live?

How does the knowledge of our programming impact our strategies, if at all?