If laws didn’t govern our world, would you still know the difference between right and wrong? If you desperately need food or shelter, what stops you from just stealing it from someone else?
Well, humans are one of the only members of the animal kingdom that have empathy, and it’s the main thing keeping us from tearing each other apart.
So how would we survive without it? Would we be living in a world full of psychopaths?
Empathy is defined as the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing. If you’re born without the ability to empathize, then you’re most likely a psychopath.
Now, not all psychopaths are dangerous. Not like the ones in the movies. Still, you probably wouldn’t want a world full of them.
How would our society function if everyone was just looking out for themselves? When you stand on a crowded bus or subway train, what sort of connections do you feel with your fellow passengers?
Probably not many. You share the common activity of taking public transit, and that’s about it. If we were all born without empathy, this is how a lot of our relationships would feel.
Our connections would be emotionally shallow, based around nothing more than mutual interests, shared activities, and personal desires. If you want to see what a world full of these types of relationships would look like, just turn your attention to the animal kingdom.
In 2017, researchers from Georgia State University studied a group of chimpanzees who demonstrated psychopathic behavior. Their findings provide an eery window into how our society would operate without empathy.
First off, there would be a lot of deception and manipulation. These chimps were observed regularly faking emotions to get attention and to influence those around them.
Every relationship they had was just used as a means to an end, based on a continual exchange of favors; and they had no problem killing each other to get what they want, as long as no one witnessed it.
So how would these tendencies translate to more complicated minds like ours? Well, for one thing, we’d have a very competitive society, but not necessarily a very productive one.
No one would be afraid to do “whatever it takes” to reach their objectives. So everyone would have a lot of drive, but people would be constantly undermining one another.
The notion of society itself may quickly begin to crumble with this lack of collectivism. If we’re all walking around just thinking about ourselves, then why would there be any reason for technological advances?
You could spend time developing advances to make more money, or you could just go steal whatever you want with no remorse.
Our planet would also be pretty screwed. Why would we put any effort into solving problems that are only going to affect future generations?
We’d be living in a pretty dangerous world that would have to highly structure itself to achieve any level of success.
There would have to be some sort of laws to avoid total chaos, but we probably wouldn’t be able to enforce them through punishment, as we’d all just focus on not getting caught.
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- “What If You Were Born Without Sympathy Or Empathy?”. 2019. curiosity.com. Accessed February 18 2019.
- “6 Obstacles To A Relationship With A Psychopath”. 2019. Psychology Today. Accessed February 18 2019.
- “Psychopaths Feel No Empathy For Others; How Do Their Brains Differ?”. 2019. medicaldaily.com. Accessed February 18 2019.
- “Why A Lack Of Empathy Is The Root Of All Evil”. 2011. The Independent. Accessed February 18 2019.
- “6 Things You Need To Know About Empathy”. 2017. Psychology Today. Accessed February 18 2019.
- “Chimpanzees Display Psychopathic Behaviour In Its Purest Form — And It’s Helping Us To Better Understand Mental Illness”. 2017. Business Insider. Accessed February 18 2019.
- “What would the world be like if everyone was a psychopath” quora.com. Accessed February 18 2019.