Today, we make many choices with an eye to how those choices influence how others see us. For example, we try to give others a favorable impression of our general capacities, such as wealth, health, vigor, intelligence, knowledge, skills, conscientiousness, and artistic sense. With this in mind, we try to appear impressive in our arts, sports, schooling, hobbies, vocabularies, and other markers. For example, we plausibly pay extra for visibly nice clothes, cars, houses, etc., in part to show that we can afford such things. We use big words and witty banter in part to show our intelligence and schooling. We go to school in part to show our intelligence, conscientiousness, and conformity. We play sports in part to show our intelligence, health, strength, self-control, toughness, and cooperativeness. We play music in part to show our intelligence, self-control, passion, and creativity. We also try to give others a favorable impression of our loyalties and connections. That is, we try to credibly show that we feel strong positive ties toward certain individuals and groups, who feel similarly toward us. We can also try to show negative feelings toward rivals and outsiders. With this in mind, we choose with whom we spend our time, who we praise or criticize, and our styles of clothing, music, movies, etc. We follow gossip, news, and fashion in part to help show that we are well connected to respected sources of information. We enjoy stories and participate in politics in part to convince associates of our moral sympathies. We sometimes even cry for help, to show who will come running. Today, we spend a large fraction of our energy and wealth on such “signaling,” both because humans naturally care greatly about gaining status and respect in the eyes of others, and because being rich allows us to attend more to such concerns. As mentioned in Chapter 2, Era Values section, in terms of simple functionality, we seem today to spend excessive amounts on schools, medicine, financial intermediation, and huge projects. In contrast, while ems share most of our desires for respect, they live in a more competitive world, where they can less afford to indulge such desires.
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