WAR IS MY BUSINESS
The Human Domain
The Human Domain
In this section we will discuss the nature of human perception, the development of social norms, how these both contribute to the understating of military theory and how we can translate it for use in business. This is important in order to understand how theory is developed for any human endeavor. By understanding how the brain transduces and infers information, you will begin to see that all activities undertaken by humans are irrevocably related.
It is surprising that something as critical to understanding the human condition as the workings of the brain does not receive as much study as it should in public education. Understanding how our minds interpret the information it receives to paint what appears to be such a vivid picture of the universe around us is both impressive and disconcerting once you realize how it actually achieves that “clarity.” In this section, we will touch on it briefly, in order to develop a common understanding of how we interpret and infer patterns, but it will undoubtedly not do the subject justice.
If this topic appeals to you, and if you desire to influence other human beings; which is the epitome of war and business, then you should find the study of the human mind beneficial in your future endeavors. Great resources for this topic that you may find valuable, and to which this section draws heavily from, include:
We are indeed getting to the conclusion of the science of War Is My Business, and the closer we come to see how humans think the more all of these topics we have discussed begin to coalesce. That a Theory of Everything starts with our understanding of the fundamental forces that dictate the rules of our universe through more complex application and on through life, and that the human brain and how it functions is no exception to this realization. Before we begin, however, you may seek the bottom line up front (BLUF) as to how understanding human perception leads to surrogating and developing business strategies derived from military concepts and history. The following nine points will provide a rudimentary understanding of how it works, and will be the outline for the remainder of this section before getting into the meticulous work of analyzing military thought.
- Our bodies have numerous different types of receptors that respond to various forms of stimuli. Through the transduction process, the receptors react to stimuli in certain ways to create action potentials that deliver that information through the nervous system to various parts of the brain.
- The neurons within our brains are the recipients of these action potentials in the form of synapses firing off at various intervals; sometimes one-hundred per second and sometimes none at all, and our brains infer the status of the environment around us by comparing and contrasting this information.
- Our brains make great inferences from all forms of stimuli, fills in gaps of information through that inference as well as confabulation, and produces an understanding of the environment around us that allows us to survive, and hopefully, thrive. Akin to the old saying of, “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck,” the brain takes multiple pieces of information that is has transduced, puts them together and infers the most probable result about what we are perceiving.
- In order to make the most efficient use of our massive, yet still limited, mental processing capabilities our brains are keen to pick up on patterns. Our brains determine and store these recurring patterns, and what they probably mean, so that when we begin to identify those patterns again, or variations on those patterns, we can react quickly with a probable course of action that will allow us to (again) survive and thrive.
- As humans develop more socially complex societies we take this element of pattern recognition to the social level in developing norms for how humans should behave in order to prevent detrimental acts by individuals and groups. Humans assemble in groups in order to improve the probability of survival for the members of those groups, but a natural extension of this is the establishment of self-imposed regulation in the form of these norms.
- These norms are cemented in the pattern recognition parts of our mind as we further categorize and stereotype certain aspects of human endeavors in order to make it more manageable for our brains to interpret the status of our complex human societies.
- The reasons why humans interact with one another is inherently to influence other human beings for their own benefit. While it is fundamentally selfish, most interactions, and the reasons why norms are established is for the betterment of the group and can be mutually beneficial. Business, romance, warfare, sports, and other human endeavors, are at their base level, about influencing other human beings for our benefit, and actions that benefit others in the short-term are usually conducted because it benefits the individual in the long-term.
- Warfare is about influencing other human beings (enemies and allies, nations and transnational organizations, civilians and service members) towards your desired ends; your will. Military theorists competent in their craft are inherently individuals competent in perceiving the environment effectively and bending people to their will; either voluntarily or involuntarily. These subject matter experts have studied and applied military principles and tenets to such a great extent that, like other human endeavors, they have identified the patterns of success. They transduce the stimuli of the environment around them, infer various meanings from it, identify patterns through the variations and develop and employ workable courses of action to deal with the situation.
- Finally, to bring it all together, the study of military theory allows the student to begin to identify patterns in military thought that lead to success on the battlefield. Understanding that all human endeavors are about influencing other humans to your desired ends, the student of military theory means being able to derive tenets that produce success in warfare and martial activities and determine how that may translate to the business world.
In attempting to simplify the complex nature of human activities this book is not the first such attempt. In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie states his belief that the impetus for action lies in some form of self-actualization. Where the sense of self-importance is the greatest motivator for action. In warfare, George Patton believed the primary motivators for human conflict were survival and sex. As he once lectured back in 1927 in a lecture titled Why Men Fight,
“Our effort here is rather to seek those fundamental emotions which actuate men as individuals to expose themselves to wound and death; to trace the growth and development of these emotions and finally to investigate how best they may be utilized and stimulated so as to produce in our armies that fighting spirit which will spell victory in the wars which are to come…”
“In primitive man then it would, by analogy, seem all but certain that the primary emotion inciting to combat with this fellow was the instinct to survive – the belly lust. The next most powerful emotion inducive to fratricidal strife was sex. In its simplest form, this incentive has lost its potency so far as civilized soldiers are concerned… On the other hand, it is clear that some derivatives of the sex emotion still retain the chief place among inducements to combat.”
In the perspectives of both Carnegie and Patton, this book’s underlying argument is not in disagreement. The emphasis that human actions are intended to be beneficial for the actor can be seen in both. When a person executes an action that they determine to be correct and in their interests then their brains release dopamine as a “reward” for favorable action; a mechanism for evolutionary development. A belief in one’s own importance either through self-assessment or, more importantly, by the assessment of others would be a tool to confirm they are conducting favorable action in their interests. Their influence on their surroundings has provided for them a social advantage to which drives further action. For survival and sex, the association with one’s interests is obvious. Offensive and defensive action are undertakings to shape conditions favorable to leveraging influence that leads to increased survivability, and acquiring mates, and showcasing your abilities to influence others to mate with you is of evolutionary necessity. Displaying prowess akin to a peacock’s display of plumage.
A famous tenant of military theorist and Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz states that “War is a mere continuation of policy by other means,” and this is true if one is to believe that all human endeavors, war, and politics, for example, are about influencing others. By the end of this section, the hope is that you will have a better understanding of how the mind operates, how military theory is developed, and how you can use it to better your business; if not every aspect of your life.
If you are interested in checking them out, I would suggest the Audible audiobooks. If you don't have Audible, here is an option for a free trial, and you can get two audiobooks for free.
The Transduction Process: How We Perceive the Universe
The Transduction Process: How We Perceive the Universe
Sensory receptors are nerve endings that respond in a particular way to particular forms of stimuli. These responses, called “action potentials,” occur when the right conditions are met for that receptor to activate. We refer to these collections of receptors, and what they provide for our ability to perceive our environments, as senses. Without them, our brains would operate in a void without data to which they could not infer information about the environment, both internal and external to the body. Even if your nervous system was intact, and your brain could send out commands, you would still perish if they couldn’t communicate back to the brain.
While you may be consciously aware of receptors that provide you information through perceptions, like sight and sound, most of what you truly perceive is subconscious. The pace of your heartbeat, your internal body temperature and whether your lungs are filled with air is information that is transduced by your receptors to the brain in order to regulate them. Imagine the last time you drove or walked somewhere only to realize you weren’t paying attention during the trip, and still arrived at your destination without incident. Without conscious thought, your sensory system will still react to stimuli and transduce that information for the brain to use.
To quote Professor Sam Wang from Princeton University,
“Our expectations also influence the sensory responses in receptors and influence our perceptions. The perception of the body’s sensations comes from the interaction of two processes: 1) signals coming from receptors in your body and activity in brain pathways that control your response to signals, and 2) the gating of the information, including whether information gets passed along at all.”
List of sensory receptors and their activating stimuli
On the table to the left you can see a breakdown of all the known sensory receptors, what their adequate stimulus is, and what information they provide through the transduction process. Some react to certain wavelengths of light, some react to the vibration of objects through physical contact, some assess the orientation of the whole body, and some react to the presence of certain chemicals. The sensory receptors are indeed the tools in which the brain assesses the nature of the universe around it, but how does the brain use the information derived from the sensory system to create our perception. A few thought experiments may assist in further developing this understanding.
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
No, but it would still make vibrations as it crashed to the ground. These vibrations will be carried on through mediums like air, water, and soil. If these vibrations are within the range of 20-20,000 Hz, and if there is a creature with a functioning auditory system, then sound can be generated.
Without a living creature that can transduce the sensory information of vibration into sound, which is a construct of the brain, then sound will not be produced. The two things required for sound to exist are a system of functioning mechanoreceptors that detect frequencies of vibrations; like the cochlea, and a brain that is able to interpret that information; and for human’s that is in the auditory cortex of the temporal lobe. In a technical sense, falling trees do not make sounds for humans, but humans do make sounds from falling trees.
“If a green book is sitting in a room by itself in perfect darkness, is it still green?”
No, there is no color in the universe except in the brains of certain creatures. Like with sound, the ability to see light requires a functioning system of receptors, in this case, photoreceptors, which are able to transduce information from photons that come into contact with them. For the color green, however, you require different types of photoreceptors that react more actively to certain wavelengths of visible light.
Most humans are trichromats. This means they have three types of photoreceptors, what we call cones, which react differently to certain wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. For humans, those wavelengths that exist within the range of 400nm to 700nm, to which the receptors respond, are what we refer to as visible light. For the brain, all colors that we perceive exist within this small window. The cone that we associate more with long-wavelengths of visible light, the L-Cone, peaks its action potentials when exposed to electromagnetic radiation at 560nm. For the medium and short-wavelength cones, the M and S-Cones, they peak their action potentials at around 530nm and 420nm respectively.
For every color a human perceives, it is actually the result of an inference made by the visual cortex from information provided from all three cones. In the case of the green book, the material absorbs all wavelengths of light except around 500nm through 530nm, which is reflected back towards the retina of the human eye. Each of the three cones produces certain action potentials based on their preferred wavelengths. If the book was reflecting light at 530nm then we would see the M-Cone react fully with the L-Cone reacting less and the S-Cone barely at all. The three pieces of information are compared in the brain’s visual cortex where it infers a color, in this case, green.
So to reemphasize, there is no green book only an object that reflects light around 500-530nm. In order for there to be a green book in this room there first needs to be light for the book’s material to reflect, and there needs to be a creature with the capacity to detect light and infer color. Without light, and without a human with an adequately functional visual system, there is no “green” book.
“If a person with no tongue consumes saltwater, is it still salty?”
No, while the water may indeed contain sodium chloride (NaCl); i.e. salt, without chemoreceptors that have developed to detect that chemical then the person will not taste any salt. The term “salty” derives from the sense of taste that is associated with the sodium chloride content of particular solid and liquid foods. Whether something is salty is not directly related to the presence of salt, but instead in the relationship of that chemical to that of other chemicals. The brain infers flavor from the presence of these foods, much like color, from the mental aggregation of the various chemoreceptors that react to different chemicals.
While eating and drinking, if you have ever had a stuffy nose which prevented you from adequately breathing in and out through your nostrils, or if you simply close your nostrils with your fingers, you will have probably noticed that it significantly impacted the taste. The chemoreceptors within your olfactory system; i.e. smell, work in tandem with the receptors on your tongue to produce that complex aggregation of information that your brain uses to infer flavor. Most foodstuffs we consume contain some sodium chloride; e.g. soda and cake, but wouldn’t necessarily refer to them as salty. That is because our brains have assessed all the information received from all the chemoreceptors, and have constructed in our brain, “flavors” that are associated with the presence of those specific chemicals in those specific quantities they detected. Sodium chloride would have produced a reaction of action potentials in those particular chemoreceptors, but not in sufficient quantities when compared to the action potentials produced by all the others.
Saltwater consists of water; i.e. H2O, which doesn’t have associated chemoreceptors in humans, and sodium chloride. You will find with every gulp of saltwater there is the presence of large quantities of salt, approximately 3.5% in ocean water, that can activate many associated chemoreceptors, while no others are activated, the aggregate within the brain, therefore, determines that the liquid being consumed is salty. For the individual with no tongue, and therefore no taste-based chemoreceptors that can detect sodium chloride, while they may be able to still smell the salt it would not be salty per se.
The Loneliness of Perception: We Are Alone in our Own Minds
The Loneliness of Perception: We Are Alone in our Own Minds
In discussing the nature of taste with a friend who researched flavor, Professor Peter Vishton from the College of William and Mary pressed her to discuss the attributes of a newly found chemical receptor. Previously, most understood taste to consist of receptors that detect chemicals that lead to flavors associated with saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and sweetness, but in recent studies, they discovered a fifth category that they called “umami.” It was described as the taste that one usually associates with metallic and fatty foods, but was difficult to describe adequately. As he paraphrased her words,
“How would you describe salty to someone who couldn’t taste salt? How can you put sweet into words except maybe to cite the foods we associate with it? I think the answer is that you can’t, or at least that it is very hard. Perhaps requiring the skills of poets rather than scientists.”
“There is something very profound here I think. We have fundamental, sensory, perceptual experiences and we can only relate some aspects of them to each other. Other parts we just can’t relate to each other, and only then in terms of how they relate to other perceptions that we have in common. Failing that there is something inherently private about perception.”
Indeed, how do we know how others perceive things, and more importantly, how can we tell if others perceive them the same way we do? We know that the color green falls within wavelengths of 500-530nm as previously stated, but we don’t know if within our minds we perceive green the same. From a young age, we teach children their colors. We hold up green objects and say they are “green,” but in actuality, we are holding up objects that reflect light at 500-530nm and tell the child this is what we call “green.” How do we know that in their minds they see the same inferred color that we do? The answer is we don’t. All we know is that we all see the same wavelengths of light, and have associated words for those colors our brains construct based on those wavelengths. What about for taste, smell, touch, and the numerous other perceptions that exist within our minds? You will see the answer is the same.
Looking at how this all occurs within the Theory of Everything, we know first and foremost that transduction, the process of relaying sensory information from your receptors through your nervous system to the cortices of your brain, is based on the transfer of chemical energy. Chemical energy is a part of thermodynamics, and thermodynamics is a complex application of the fundamental force of electromagnetism. Potential chemical energy stored within the cells of our nervous system await for certain activating triggers from adjacent cells before triggering that release of energy to others, carrying that chemically electric message forward.
Indeed most of the information our bodies need to interpret our environments are fundamentally electromagnetic. Our photoreceptors receive their activating events from photons; the gauge boson of electromagnetism. The chemoreceptors that support our capacity to taste and smell are activated by interactions with certain chemicals; chemical interactions that occur from the properties of electromagnetism. Thermoreceptors for heat, nociceptors for trauma, mechanoreceptors for vibrations and movement, etc. receive information from thermodynamic activity; which again is a complex application of electromagnetism. Proprioceptors, in regards to balance, comes from the positioning and movement of liquid within the inner ear, which is affected by gravitational forces, but even then it is that movement of the liquid against those receptors that relay information through the nervous system; which is possible because of electromagnetism.
Our array of sensor systems that allow us to gather information provided our distant ancestors advantages to survival. Simple photoreceptors that allowed for simple organisms to detect where the light was, gave them the ability to better employ photosynthesis. As they improved over time, some expanded into the niche of searching for energy sources instead of, or as a compliment to, photosynthesis, while avoiding threats at the same time. Being able to sense prey and avoid predators via photonic activity would provide great advantages and allowed them to excel, which then allowed them to continue to pass on those beneficial genes to future generations. As it is with warfare and business, the more information you have the better you can act so as to survive and thrive in hostile environments. Better clarity, more focus, and diverse sources of information allow all to develop a more accurate understanding about their environment. Electromagnetism is the fundamental force that runs the transduction process, and it is our transduction process that allows us to understand what is going on outside of our brains.
In both a philosophical and physiological sense, as far as humans are concerned, the universe only exists thanks to the transduction process. Our sensory system receives information and our brains infer the nature of the universe from it. Everything you know, everything you have experienced, and everything you will do is fundamentally based on this system, and that applies to all human endeavors. This being the case, however, why should the individual understand this in order to understand the successful application of military theory? How does understanding how human perception works lead to the development of courses of actions and their successful execution? The answer to these deals with the complexity of human perception, and both a personal and societal emphasis towards the immediate assessment and response to the environment.
Human Pattern Recognition: Making Efficient Use of Limited Brain Capacity
Human Pattern Recognition: Making Efficient Use of Limited Brain Capacity
The human brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons laid out in such a manner that information transduced by the sensory system is received, processed and able to be reacted upon according to its design. These neurons, and the neural network that allows them to communicate electrical information to one another, is literally what makes you, you. 100 billion neurons may appear to be a significantly gargantuan amount, but in reality, is not nearly enough to properly process every bit of stimuli you receive and still accurately assess everything.
For example, each retina contains around 120-130 million photoreceptors that have associated neurons in the brain to which the electrical information is delivered. That is around 250 million neurons or 1/400th of all the neurons in your brain dedicated to receiving electrical information from your eyes. That information still needs other neurons to transfer it to and even more neurons which then process that information in the visual cortex. Upwards of around 30% of your neurons are dedicated to processing visual information that the rest of your brain will then utilize. Once you include the rest of your body’s sensory receptors that have associated neurons, and the connecting neural pathways between each cortical system, we start to see that there is an apparently finite amount of neural power available to our capacity to process and perceive the universe.
Due to its limitation, and the nature of life itself, our brains have evolved to be very complex inference-based computers. Our brains save neural space by inferring the nature of something from multiple sources of information provided by our sensory system. You saw this earlier as the brain is able to perceive colors throughout the range visible light, 400-700nm, by comparing and contrasting three types of photoreceptors that have scaled reactions to wavelengths of light instead of dedicating three-hundred photoreceptors that react only to specific wavelengths. Your brain does this for temperature, balance, taste, smell, pain, depth, texture, sound and every other mode of human perception. Naturally, because these are all inferences and not precise measurements, you can easily fool the sensory system and trick it to perceive something that is not true. As stated by Professor Steven Novella from the Yale School of Medicine, “Illusions are by definition times in which the brain constructs perception in an incorrect way.” Professional magicians, for example, are subject matter experts in tricking your sensory system to make you perceive things differently; e.g. sleight of hand and misdirection.
The other way our brains make the most of its limited neural capacity, and where we begin to get to the crux of this book, is through the ability of the brain to assess data, identify and store patterns, discriminate variations on those patterns, and determine courses of action in response to them. While many parts of the brain are involved in the process of identifying patterns in the universe, much of how the brain accomplishes this is still being thoroughly studied. One thing many are sure of though, is that the inferior temporal cortex, located at the back of the brain as part of the visual cortex, plays a crucial part in the visual aspect of pattern recognition.
Pattern recognition allows us to quickly identify important information, exclude irrelevant information, and perform an effective course of action in a timely manner. This is easily seen in our ability to recognize specific human beings by identifying the patterns of the features of their face, the proportions of their bodies and the pitch of their voice. Each of us are expertly skilled in this capacity. Except for those that may have experienced some form of traumatic brain injury to their inferior temporal cortex, which in that case they may not even be able to recognize themselves in the mirror; visual identification and recognition of individual human beings happens in less than a second. If you were to watch the movement of electrical information throughout the brain you would see significant activity in the inferior temporal cortex when a person sees the face of another human being. You also see similar activity when that same person identifies patterns, visually.
For example, the head chef of a restaurant who has spent years perfecting their craft may be able to visually identify stimuli from the food they are cooking, and prepare a perfect dish without referencing a step-by-step guide for that particular recipe. The chef can visually assess a quarter cup of diced onions. The chef can see with their eyes the simmering broth, and know that it is exactly at the proper temperature for this dish. If you were to see the workings of this chef’s mind you would see significant activity within this visual pattern recognition area of the brain. Conversely, if the chef had a chef-in-training that lacked this level of expertise you would see a slower and more methodical brain at work as it tried to assess what to do next. You would see a greater amount of activity in more areas of the brain as they tried to leverage more neural capacity to work through the current activity. With time, however, as the brain continues to identify patterns you will see the trainee rely more effectively on their inferior temporal cortex as they visually prepare food, making them quicker and more accurate in the development of their dish.
Other sensory systems communicate with the brain in similar ways. Studies have shown that performing specific actions in martial arts, acquiring proper body positioning to shoot a firearm, gymnastic maneuvers, and even hand-writing the notes and typing the lines for this section, required the use of proprioceptors that inform the brain of specific body positioning to accomplish a task. Proprioception, the sense of body positioning, probably arises from constant communication between the somatosensory and motor cortices. In these cases, “muscle memory” is the result of the brain’s ability to identify the best pattern of your proprioceptors, and execute the most efficient muscle actions in order to, for example, deliver the most powerful punch or the steadiest shot you can muster.
John Harrison and his Golden Spoon
There is a man by the name of John Harrison who, at one point in his life served as the official taste-tester for DREYER'S ice cream corporation. From a young age, he had been exposed to ice cream. His family ran an ice cream factory to which he learned the intricacies of ice cream making. Constant exposure to the taste of many variations of the delicious dessert allowed him to easily and expertly discriminate their chemical contents. He could identify individual ingredients and even differences in butterfat content; for example, 12% and 11.5% butterfat was easily distinguishable to him. He even used his capacity at flavor recognition to develop combinations of ingredients that would be appetizing, and concocted new flavors of ice cream; to include Cookies ‘N Cream, an American favorite. John Harrison’s taste buds were so valuable to the DREYER’S corporation that they insured those taste buds for one-million dollars.
He was an expert in the use of his olfactory and gustation systems; smell and taste. Even with his natural abilities to sense the flavor patterns of the content of ice cream he further enhanced his ability by changing the conditions of the environment in which he tested them. He perfected a daily process to make the most of his limited capacity to transduce and infer information about the batches that were made ready for him every morning.
- He first ensured the ice cream looked appealing. That it has a proper distribution of ingredients within the batch. If it wasn’t evenly distributed then there wouldn’t be an even distribution of flavor.
- The ice cream was warmed to around 10-12 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the cold did not numb his taste receptors, and that their molecules could easily enter the air to assist in smelling.
- A golden-spoon from his pocket was then used to scoop a pad of ice cream. Plastic, wood, and silver spoons can leave an aftertaste that would have prevented him from isolating just the flavor of the product.
- The spoon was inverted to ensure the ice cream was the first to touch his taste buds.
- He placed the mass of ice cream at just the right spot on the tongue to ensure maximum employment of all his taste receptors.
- Breathing in through his mouth and nose multiple times he was able to bring the ice cream molecules into the back of his olfactory system, and continually activated and reactivated his taste and smell receptors.
- Using his well-developed patterns for recognition of flavors and textures he was able to identify the specifics of the ingredients of the ice cream; vanilla, cream, sugar, etc.
- He compared this data to the wealth of previously stored information on the subject in his brain. He evaluated the differences and similarities, and determined those recognizable patterns for what “good” ice cream is like, flavorful and consistent.
- Finally, he applied his judgment based on all this transduced information and provided fellow colleagues and supervisors that “subject matter expert” assessment, to which the lot of ice cream was either shipped out to the distributors or discarded.
Rhodesians scouts execute tracking operations.
Similar concept to that of Mr. Harrison, there is also a related activity for small-unit dismount infantry that can be found in the many editions of the US Army Ranger Handbook. There you will find a technique called SLLS (pronounced SILLS) which is an acronym that stands for Stop, Look, Listen and Smell. It calls for a small dismount infantry patrol to:
- STOP: Halt movement, remove their caps, and attempt to hone their sensory systems in order to root-out possible human activity.
- LOOK: They look around attempting to visually see deviations in the natural environment. Things like footprints and tracks, broken or disturbed vegetation, and remnants of human waste, trash, and fires.
- LISTEN: They will then close their eyes to focus their hearing and attempt to hear activity that is out of place. Like voices, excessive brushing of vegetation, and motors from generators and vehicles.
- SMELL: They will finally smell about their current position, and attempt to notice unnatural odors. Like the pungent and out of place scent of human feces, smoke, gas and other petroleums, and food.
For both John Harrison and skilled dismount infantry, they share this commonality. In order to be more effective at their work they need to accurately assess the environment; be it ice cream or the battlefield. Through their training, they have become experts in the use of their sensory systems. Even amplifying their ability by altering its conditions in order to gather as much information as possible. Their brains use this wealth of information, compare and contrast, consciously and subconsciously, the nature of the environment in order to identify patterns, and variations of patterns, that will lead to the execution of actions favorable to them. In this case, the quality of a batch of mint-chocolate chip to be shipped or the direction of travel of an enemy patrol to be engaged.
Most patterns are the result of numerous sensory systems and cerebral cortexes assessing various sources of information in tandem, but the emphasis of this discussion is that efficient human action is the result of being able to recognize patterns and act accordingly. The military theorist who is able to understand the nature of armed conflict of their time are the ones who have identified those patterns most applicable to a particular operational environment. They are able to identify a pattern, delve into the vast neural network of their brain to pull from the ones stored in their memory, then assess the variations, and possible courses of action in which to respond. The businessperson who successfully completes a profitable business investment didn’t accomplish this by throwing money randomly at any investor that approaches them. They succeeded, because they identified the patterns of their economic environment, and assessed that the patterns that they were perceiving, and the actions they should take, would result in a profit if they responded accordingly. But how does the receipt of sensory information in the brain result in a decision to act?
Deciding to Act
Deciding to Act
When discussing the reasons why people do what they do there is a philosophical argument going on behind the scenes. Is the universe random, or is everything bound by laws? Do humans have free will, or are they predetermined to act a certain way based on conditions? This debate is being waged between the camps of the free will “libertarians;” not affiliated with the political party, and the predestined “hard determinists.” There is an inbetweener philosophical camp called “compatibilists,” but the other two don’t view them as a viable argument since they logically can’t defend their position. Why is that? The reason why is because of the following premise.
If determinism is true, then humans don’t have free will.
Libertarians and hard determinists both agree with this premise. If all things are determined, then since human thought processes are encompassed in “all things” then it must be true that free will is merely an illusion. For libertarians, they simply think that there are elements of our universe that are not determined, and therefore there lies the potential for free will to exist. The hard determinist simply sees all things as being determined by fundamental laws via a Grand Unified Theory that underpins the Theory of Everything. Compatibilists merely think the premise is incorrect, and that you can have both determinism and free will; which is, of course, absurd to the other two camps.
Hopefully, it should be apparent which camp War Is My Business resides. We have discussed from the very beginning that you can apply military principles and tenets to business plans and operations since all human endeavors are irrevocably linked. We covered fundamental forces as a part of that Grand Unified Theory which lead us to cover their complex applications, the development of life, and its changes through the evolutionary process. Which takes us to modern homo sapiens, and how we decide to act upon our circumstances. We have planted our flag in the camp of hard determinism, as it justifies our presupposition for everything we will discuss in War Is My Business. So, in this case, we need to first see how it is we actually come to a decision through a determined neurological process, or at least as best as science has discovered over through studying the workings of the brain.
From the words of Professor Sam Wang,
“Scientists studying decision-making on a cellular level have found that the parietal cortex is a region that seems to accumulate evidence the way that we accumulate evidence during a task. Groups of neurons work together to integrate information, accumulating information until some threshold is reached and a decision is made. Neuroscientists don’t know whether this threshold in the parietal cortex is the final choice—whether that brain region drives the final choice—or whether there’s some other structure deeper in the brain that drives the choice. But it’s brain activity that corresponds to the collecting of evidence.”
The brain, through its lifetime of experience and shared knowledge, associated certain stimuli from the environment with requirements to perform certain actions. When the receipt of sensory information reaches a certain point those associated neurons become activated and adds towards collective decision making amongst those neurons. Every action you undertake is the result of certain neurons being activated before others do. All complex actions are made up of many simpler actions working towards a common end, and for each of those simple actions, decisions are made based on this process. Sensory systems receiving information about the outside world activate certain neurons which result in specific actions that change your perception. That new perception provides new sensory information that, in turn, leads to new neural activations that lead to further actions, so on and so forth until the day you die. As a result, when we commit to an action that is because elements of our brains, outside of what we are consciously aware of, automatically do so.
“Awareness of a decision can come much later than the commitment. We can be committed to a decision and not be aware of it. We are often unaware of our internal commitment to a choice. The commitment is made, but we don’t know about it yet.”
Every action that is executed can provide us with immediate feedback as to its success. If positive, we may seek to execute a similar action in the future. The more certain neurons are activated in certain sequences, the stronger those connections become, allowing for more effective and timely activations later on. This neurological path-making that the brain utilizes leads to things like pattern recognition and the delineation between amateurs and experts, which we have already discussed, as well as the establishment of norms amongst individuals and groups. All of which help develop those principles and tenets that lead militaries to success, and of which we want to appropriate for business purposes.
Norms: The Nature of Categorizing and Stereotyping
Norms: The Nature of Categorizing and Stereotyping
As humans identify these successful patterns consistently within nature, and within our social groups, the natural evolution of that recognition is to presume that this is the nature of how things are. Once people start to perceive the world in that fashion we begin to see the establishment of individual and societal norms that dictate how we should act. If this is the way things are then naturally there are ways in which we should act accordingly. It is a matter of survival for our ancestors to establish norms for how to act given certain conditions, because that had increased their chances for survival by reducing the amount of time it takes to think about what to do in various situations. You see an apparent pattern, you have associated a certain meaning to it, and then you respond appropriately.
We seek to simplify complex problems, as its uncertainty breeds discomfort, and this feeling of discomfort was the result of an evolutionary incentive to solve those problems which may threaten the lives of ourselves and the members of our family and social group. This deals with our ability to control the environment around us, and therefore control the conditions of our survival. If you don’t understand something you can’t control it, and if you can’t control it then it may kill you. Professor Steven Novella stated thusly on this particular human condition:
“The simpler things are the more control we can have over them, and we certainly don’t like feeling overwhelmed; by our environment, by the tasks that we have before us, by things that are happening in the world. So we tend to oversimplify the things that we are confronted with. We are motivated to oversimplify. We pigeonhole and we stereotype. It enables us to boil down a very complicated set of data to some simple rule.”
This simple rule, Professor Novella discussed, can be seen as a principle or a tenet when it comes to military and business theory as much as it does to everyday phenomena. Guiding rules that determine how we should act given a particular set of conditions. If these conditions change, it is expected that some of the rules can change as well, but generally, we see that these tenets, these principles, these norms, these simple rules, encompass everything within a particular endeavor. This allows the individual and the group to determine the most efficient course of action, given the nature of that environment, which provides them the most beneficial results.
The reasons we are able to execute certain actions quickly based on certain environmental conditions is because of our brain’s ability to stereotype those conditions as sweeping generalizations. Without this we may be stuck in a form of unconscious analysis paralysis, unable to act until we have gathered enough information. Remember that our decisions to act are based on specific activations of certain neurons, over others, and that by necessity, because of that finite neural capacity, we need to stereotype complex things into more simpler concepts. Do note though that the term stereotyping gets a bad reputation within contemporary society due to its negative association with the social constructs of humanity; e.g. race, sex, culture, etc. Stereotyping as you can see, however, is a very important mental processing technique. It allows us to apply those sweeping generalizations over most of what we perceive, and provides us the neural capital to focus, analyze, and determine how to tackle those issues that we are most vested in.
During a firefight, the warfighter will focus their attention on the conditions of the environment, the status of their buddies, and the nature of the threat as these are of their utmost concern. They presume at that time and space that their equipment will function properly, and they will act accordingly. They raise their weapon, line up a proper sight picture on the threat and squeeze the trigger. The warfighter made a generalization that the weapon and its ammunition will function according to their preconceived notions, because their sensory system and their brain have not detected any discerning pattern that would make them question that notion otherwise. The warfighter presumes that their boots will protect their feet from debris, that their body armor will protect their torsos from small-caliber bullets and grenade fragments, and that their helmet will absorb some of the blast from an explosion; protecting their brain from catastrophic damage. The only focus of their attention is on those of greatest concern to their interests, and the brain subconsciously handles the rest, only informing the conscious mind if it detects a pattern of information in the environment that requires its attention.
This type of mental automation happens all the time in our everyday lives. Many people drive great distances only to realize by the time they get to their destination that they weren’t paying attention, and apparently traveled on “auto-pilot” the entire way. In these situations, you are usually focused on something else that is of greater concern than just driving. You may be thinking about a meeting you are about to attend, because you want to make sure you are prepared and will not make a fool of yourself in front of your boss and peers. You may be thinking of a dispute you are having at home with a loved one, and are trying to figure out how this came to be. Regardless of what it may be, driving is the least of your concerns at this time. If conditions change, however, your subconscious can identify it and bring it to your attention. While you are mindlessly driving you may become aware of a traffic jam, an accident on the side of the road, a police vehicle that has pulled up beside you, an emergency vehicle blaring its sirens and flashing its light, or the rattling of your own car engine. Your brain has recognized these patterns as being a deviation from the norm; a change to the boring uneventful commute, and you feel oddly pulled back into the reality of what you are physically doing.
The only real problem with stereotyping is when individuals make judgment calls based on those generalizations. Saying or doing what comes to mind is only of benefit in situations where the wellbeing of you and your group are in some form of immediate danger; where you don’t have time to process information critically. If people are aware of this, and they have the time to do so, they can apply the appropriate level of critical thought before carrying out an action. Other than these negative types of instances, the mental process of stereotyping has and continues to serve humanity well.
Steven Pinker offers this summation in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined in the chapter The New Peace:
"People sort other people into mental pigeonholes according to their affiliations, customs, appearances, and beliefs. Though it's tempting to think of this stereotyping as a kind of mental defect, categorization is indispensable to intelligence. Categories allow us to make inferences from a few observed qualities to a larger number of unobserved ones. If I note the color and shape of a fruit and classify it as a raspberry, I can infer that it will taste sweet, satisfy my hunger, and not poison me. Politically correct sensibilities may bridle at the suggestion that a group of people, like a variety of fruit, may have features in common, but if they didn't, there would be no cultural diversity to celebrate and no ethnic qualities to be proud of.".. The problem with categorization is that it often goes beyond the statics. For one thing, when people are pressured, distracted, or in an emotional state, they forget that a category is an approximation and act as if a stereotype applies to every last man, woman, and child."
Cultural Norms: How and Why Social Norms Differ Around the Globe
Cultural Norms: How and Why Social Norms Differ Around the Globe
As humans develop their own individual norms, that help them function efficiently in their environment based on their interests, they will invariably incorporate them into their social group. If these norms serve the group well they may become social norms that members of that group follow. As new members enter the group these social norms are imparted on them, and any norms that they may bring with them could be suppressed if they are not compatible, or adopted if beneficial. Members who leave the group take those norms with them to other groups, effectively spreading ideas throughout regions. Over time, as they establish complex societies their social norms, which have provided them the guidance necessary to thrive, help to identify them as a distinct subset of humanity that differentiates them from other groups just as much as their own racial and ethnic uniqueness might.
These unique aspects of groups are what develop as culture, and therefore these social norms become cultural norms when applied to these subsets of humanity. Merriam-Webster defines “culture” thusly:
- The integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.
- The customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also: the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time.
- The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.
- The set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristics.
From these definitions, be it either from the main social group (the culture) or the sub-social groups (subcultures), you can see the process of how their perception of the universe around them have shaped their norms and produced a shared understanding for how things should be; values, beliefs, attitudes, etc. In this aspect, the development of culture is merely the difference on how our progenitors perceived their specific environment, determined norms specific for their capacity to survive and thrive, and developed, shared, and incorporated these norms amongst a large group of similar people who then passed it onto future generations. Those future generations who witnessed changes to their environment, and therefore adapted to their situation, saw their norms evolve with the times. This means that cultures change with time, and is not a static concept frozen in a particular period. Its norms will be shared, and they will be appropriated by other cultures if they are compatible and desirable, because in the sense of these social norms, if it contributes to the betterment of the group then why not adopt it; much the same way species evolve, so too do cultures.
The following hypothetical situation may be a little crass, but bear with it as it helps the previous point. Imagine a time in the past where your pre-historic ancestors were mere roving bands of hunters and gatherers. They may have had a habit of defecating and urinating anywhere they so desired. At times this would become a health concern as their waste may have contaminated their local water sources or their food making them sick. As they moved to new locations they would return to health; the result of a new water source and fresh food, but then back to poor health as the group brings it unhygienic norms along. In their travels they come across another group of humans, and thanks to both groups not immediately bashing each other in the heads with rocks, they strike up a rudimentary dialogue with each other through body language and simple guttural noises.
During the engagement, your ancestors may have tried to relieve themselves by the water source of their new friends only to be accosted by them. This new group appears to have been able to recognize the relationship between human waste, sources of nourishment, and illness, and have developed a norm in which you mustn’t defecate and urinate in the vicinity of your food and water. The value of this norm is apparent and is appropriated by your ancestor’s social group. Knowing this pattern they begin to see variations and develop new norms associated with it. They have fecal matter on their hands when they eat so now they use receptacles to gather water and cleanse their hands away from their water source. Health is further improved. New people come into the group are now required to cleanse their hands as well. It becomes the norm, because it is for the betterment of the group.
As time progresses, and technology adapts and evolves in this manner, then so do these norms. Defecating on the savannah becomes defecating in a hole, then the hole surrounded by screens to cordon of the act from others, then there may or may not be apparatuses to assist the defecator in the action. Holes become outhouses, become running water toilets, become fully-functional toilet/bidet hybrids with heated seats and scented water for your posterior. It is the same concept with other norms. People communicate with body language, then develop spoken language, then develop written language, then develop more effective methods for delivering information with spoken and written languages, and now you have music, movies, plays, newspapers, magazines, receipts, transcripts, journals, and books; to include every military tome and business guide in existence, even this one.
People sacrifice certain freedoms by being a part of a social group. On the threat of punishment, ostracization, or loss of social standing individuals agree to follow the norms either by compliance or through compulsion. They do this in order to benefit from the added security these norms provide to their interests; improved societal health, reliable sources of goods and services, and socially-funded resources to name a few. Norms can become laws and regulations in which the group has identified as being of the utmost importance for compliance for the betterment of all.
Be it formal or informal social norms, humans engage in these types of social contracts in order to create an environment of trust and security which is to their benefit. This is what the philosopher Thomas Hobbes referred to as a “contract” or “covenant” in that people will agree to some restrictions, in this case, social norms, in order to reap the benefits of the system. We now refer to this as “contractualism.” Respect a neighbor’s property and privacy and they will do the same for you. An individual pays their taxes and the state furnishes firefighters, police, and military to safeguard the citizen’s life and property in case of fire, theft, and invasion.
These are norms at the extreme end of the social contract spectrum, things that are enforced by the group, but the informal norms are still social contracts of themselves. In a group of two people eating at a restaurant if the first person paid the check-in full during the previous meal they shared then it might be expected that the second person will pay in full for this meal if possible. If the second can pay, but chooses not to, or requests separate checks, then the first person may feel insulted or consider the other to be stingy in breaking the unspoken social contract that they shared. This may result in the first person avoiding sharing meals with the second in the future, thereby breaking down a potentially beneficial relationship, by failing to follow through on a social norm. Again social contracts, which are social norms, require individuals to sacrifice a certain amount of freedom in the present for a greater amount of benefit in the future.
Imagine a hypothetical situation in which many culturally different households return home to have a family meal. A Japanese family may remove their footwear as they enter their home. A Christian family may pray before the consumption of the meal. An Arab family may avoid using their left hands when touching their food. An Indian family may never consume beef products. An Italian family, lastly, may spend their entire meal, hours, just discussing how their days went. Compare the ways they conduct themselves to that of an agnostic American family that keeps their shoes on while at the table, and who hold their hamburgers in their left hands because their cellphones are glued to their right.
Has the fundamental intent of the endeavor, the communal meal, changed? No, this social group, a family, has pooled its resources together, and have ensured its members received adequate nourishment for effective survival. Everything else is simply a difference in social norms that have adapted over time as the result of an environmental benefit to do so. It must be noted that the family meal itself is also a norm, as everyone could just provide for themselves, and there is less of an impetus to come together nowadays for a meal than there was in the past. That being said, you could logically see how this type of norm, the sharing of food, would be beneficial to the longevity of our ancestor’s bloodlines as it increases the chances of survival for every member. This is why, therefore, all cultures share some form of communal meal activity.
At this point, as the reader you may be asking yourself, “Why do I need to be aware of differences in cultural norms?” “How does this help the analysis of military theory, and the development of effective business strategy?” Well, simply put, the great military leaders and martial theorists are themselves products of their time period and culture. We, therefore, can find aspects of this in their writings and in their actions.
As we mentioned, the social norms that our ancestors followed were important in their time and place, but may not be applicable in today’s society. Norms do evolve after all. The student of military theory, however, needs to be able to differentiate what may be a kernel of truth about the human condition of conflict and that of what may only be a manifestation of societal norms.
For example, in the Liu Tao, which can be translated as the Six Secret Teachings, King Wen of the small state of Zhou planned to partake in a hunt, and had his scribe conduct divination in order to assess how well the hunt would go. The scribe returned to inform him, allegedly, that he would meet a wise man who would be able to provide him the guidance necessary to defeat the decrepit Shang dynastic king, and usher in a period of virtuous rule over the land. Prior to this heavenly arranged meeting, however, the scribe asked the King to observe a three-day vegetarian fast to prepare, which King Wen did. He would indeed find a man of worth, Jiang Ziya, and took him in as his strategist.
Later on, as King Wen was assessing the future of his people he inquired to Jiang Ziya about how to “preserve the state.” What the King was seeking was knowledge about the conditions in which some nations collapse, or are conquered, while others persist and thrive. As Jiang Ziya states in the Liu Tao:
“ ‘You should observe a vegetarian fast, for I am about to speak to you about the essential principles of Heaven and Earth, what the four seasons produce, the Tao of true humanity and sagacity, and the nature of the people’s impulses.’ The King observed a vegetarian regime for seven days, then, facing north, bowed twice and requested instruction.”
Now for 11th Century B.C.E. China, the observance of rites to ensure proper harmonious balance in the world would have been expected. King Wen had to prepare his mind and body in order to both undertake that calling to seek out a man of worth, and effectively receive the heavenly guidance that he would then impart. Failing to do this particular social norm, by their perception of the universe, would have caused a disruption to that relationship between Heaven and Earth. For them, this connection was of paramount importance for it controlled the aspects of everyday life.
In their second discussion, entitled the Martial Secret Teaching, of the Liu Tao the King saw the suffering of the people under the Shang and inquired as to when would be the right time to conduct a military campaign against them. Jiang Ziya said in response:
“You should cultivate your Virtue, submit to the guidance of Worthy men, extend beneficence to the people, and observe the Tao of Heaven. If there are no ill omens in the Tao of Heaven, you cannot initiate movement [to revolt]. If there are no misfortunes in the Tao of Man, your planning cannot precede them. You must first see Heavenly signs and moreover witness human misfortune, and only then can you make plans. You must look at the Shang king’s yang aspects [his government], and moreover his yin side [personal deportment], and only then will you know his mind.”
From their perspective, it is easy to see that the following of these norms is important to their society. Whereas many believed that an imbalance between Heaven and Earth, as a result of maleficent governments, would result in natural disasters, famine and other forms of misfortune there was also a very tangible non-heavenly consequence. As shown by the actions of the state of Zhou you can see the beginnings of what would soon be open revolt, human conflict, as a resulting effect of natural disasters and human suffering attributed to the Shang. While the origins of ancient Chinese rituals, some of their earliest complex cultural norms, may not be fully understood it is logical to presume that they served the purpose of making a more efficient government that focused on applying “Virtuous” policies that were beneficial to all subjects within these massive Chinese social groups.
In contemporary Chinese society, not to mention other cultural clusters throughout the world, these norms are not followed, however, you may invariably see aspects of these ancient norms in their evolved forms here in the 21st Century. You will find, in traditional rural areas of China, the importance of birth year zodiacs on the future prosperity of their children. You will have families that either hold off on having children, or induce labor early, in order to ensure those children are born under more favorable zodiacs. Even in some business circles you will see major Chinese companies hire astrologers to provide guidance in the development of yearly business strategies.
In the Zulu culture of southern Africa their traditional belief system was based around the worship of ancestral spirits and the dynamics between the activities of spirits and those of the living. In the Zulu society, witchdoctors were employed heavily to root-out bad spirits by identifying or “smelling out” the living individuals responsible. The culprit would usually be an individual accused of some serious crime to include acts of witchcraft. Much like in early Christendom, many Zulu would unabashedly use the institution to deal with competing members of their society in order to gain from their loss; usually in cattle. The Zulu king, Shaka, and his successors would use witchdoctors as a means to leverage effective control over the populous while maintaining spiritual immunity from being “smelled out” themselves.
Zulu spiritual beliefs would be carried on through their post-battle activities. When a human dies and their body begins to decompose their bellies start to putrefy as bacteria begin to eat away at the intestines. The process builds up a large quantity of gas inside the body and the stomach begins to inflate as a result. As the gas escapes the body through the mouth, posterior, and any opening created through putrefaction, noises can be heard. While this process can take a week or two, the heat of Africa can speed the process along to just a few days. Upon witnessing these natural events, the Zulu and the greater Bantu ethnic group assigned spiritual connotations to them.
They believed the bloating and the noise of the escaping gas was the spirit attempting to leave the body. They feared that if the spirit was trapped for an extended period of time then it would eventually turn maleficent, and spread misfortune. To prevent this, Zulu would disembowel the dead in order to free the spirit. Naturally, they provided this service to their enemies be it other tribal warriors, Boer settlers, or British Soldiers in order to prevent widespread evil after the conclusion of a battle. This is a cultural norm done out of what the Zulu people saw as a necessity, but what the British, unfamiliar with the intent of the ritual, saw as a savagely disrespectful act that would create much animosity during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. After the Zulu’s eventual defeat, and the subsequent chaotic infighting, the strength of the Zulu culture, after being forced to abandon many of their more “barbaric” customs, would slowly wane.
As War Is My Business progresses into the actual analysis of military leaders and their history, we will invariably encounter evidence of cultural norms being utilized. We will seek to properly identify these norms and let the reader now of its meaning as separate from norms that may be universal to all human conflict. They may not be overtly omitted, because those cultural norms do indeed have an impact on conflict whether outside observers ascribe to those norms or not. You may not believe in astrology, certain religious tenets, or archaic forms of early scientific understanding, but make no doubt about it they were influential in their time. If armies of thousands of men believe the planets are aligned in their favor, or if they believe they are blessed by the heavens, then at the very least the resulting confidence in victory will have an impact on their morale and capacity to wage violence against others. Perception, whether accurate or illusionary, has an impact on human action and can’t be ignored.
Differences in Human Endeavors: Influencing Humans By Ways and Means
Differences in Human Endeavors: Influencing Humans By Ways and Means
As we have discussed so far, people are individuals with limited neural capacity to accurately assess everything in their environment and with limited efficacy in applying critical thought. When the aware mind is able to apply critical thought to a problem, or when the subconscious executes some form of automated response to stimuli, our brains do so with a perception of the universe that is built from an inference of limited data. To ease the pressure on our finite capacity to process information we have developed an evolved ability to identify patterns in our environment, and apply meanings to those patterns. These meanings are generalized and sweeping across everything that we identify to fall within the bounds of those patterns. A preconceived notion of what things are and what they must be, in order to produce a shortened response time by reducing the amount of mental processing that needs to take place. This results in the establishment of norms that become shared within particular social groups as they prove themselves beneficial to the members of those groups.
For humanity, to simplify the complexity of the world, we categorize human endeavors and apply sweeping generalizations to make them easier to understand. You can see this on the playground, at school, or in the home when children, in the process of learning, will roleplay various types of human activities: Pretending to be a chef and cooking plastic food on a fake stovetop. Playing house where they create a fictional family where children assume the roles of adults. Pretending to run a grocery store and work a cash register; exchanging play-money for goods. Playing “Cops and Robbers” or “Soldier” using toy weapons or sticks.
These showcase the simplistic nature of how humanity stereotypes particular human endeavors. You don’t need to understand the complexity of the culinary arts to understand that chefs take raw ingredients and prepares them into delectable dishes. You don’t need to understand complex arrangements of familial duties to understand that mothers do some things and fathers do other things. You don’t need to understand supply and demand to know that stores provide goods and people exchange money for those goods. You don’t need to understand the complexity of law enforcement protocols or the dynamics of international politics to understand that when people can’t come to an agreement then sometimes they commit violence towards each other. Imagine yourself in a heated discussion with another in your past. How often did the conversations that led to nowhere end up with you having to suppress an urge to lash out? When we fail to influence others that ever-present final option, violence always rears its head, tempting us to conflict to enact that influence. Yet, we understand that by the consequence of violating norms can be even worse, we see that line to stay clear of crossing it. However, history and police blotter reports are rife with stories of those that were compelled to cross it or lacked the will to stop themselves from partaking in that temptation. We can easily categories things from an early age, how far we should take things in order to influence others, because we are hardwired in our brains to do so. It provided our ancestors with an evolutionary advantage against other species, to include fellow hominids.
When it comes to human endeavors we easily categories them by the nature of their conduct. In warfare, groups of humans employ measured violence against other groups of humans in order to impose their will. In business, groups of humans employ economic leverage against other groups of humans… to impose their will. In sports, groups of humans employ their athleticism against other groups of humans… to impose their will. In romance, a human will employ their skills and character against another human… to impose their will.
The statement about warfare’s intent to impose your will upon another is a very Clausewitz-like perspective, and is held in high regard in contemporary military and political organizations. Clausewitz states in his treatise Vom Kriege (On War), “War, therefore, is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.” That perspective, however, is also very human. Mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, and even filing for bankruptcy are courses of action that businesses take in order to influence others for their benefit. Exhibitions, competitions, training camps, and community service are courses of action that sports teams can take in order to influence others for their benefit. Dating, showcasing accomplishments and assets and portraying empathetic characteristics are courses of action that individuals take in order to romantically influence others for their benefit.
Another aspect that may compel humans to keep pigeonholing particular endeavors into categories is not just the ways and means utilized, but also the nature of their consequences. Especially in regards to violating norms and failing to achieve certain objectives, the consequences can be orders of magnitude apart. Failure in war leads to subjugation, usurpation, and humiliation for a people while losing fights results in death, imprisonment, or enslavement. Violating norms, regulations, and laws of warfare; all elements deemed important in the conduct and aftermath of conflict, have their own punishments: dishonor, fines, severance, imprisonment, and execution.
Failure in business has consequences that are less extreme, but nonetheless devastating for those involved. People’s livelihoods, their property, and stability of their families are at stake to some degree. A loss in business is less fatal, in the figurative sense, to one’s future success, but their ability to recover is based on their ability to pull resources to rebuild; much the way a military would after a defeat. The norms, regulations, and laws of business have their own punishments, if violated. Loss of patronage, severance, bankruptcy, and, finally, imprisonment in the most extreme cases.
In the end, the reasons why humans associate with groups of other humans, and the reasons why an individual or group of people undertake any human endeavor, is to influence others for their benefit. This may seem like a cynical outlook, but humanity has done well downplaying its apparent negativity. Given the opportunity, in contemporary society, most people would prefer to conduct a course of action that is mutually-beneficial and symbiotic, as opposed to one that is parasitic or one-sided. They would find greater benefit through cooperation in the long-term than they would otherwise get in submission in the near-term; if they could ensure it.