Improving our status in society, our reputation, is one of our strongest motives, probably because status increased the odds of reproduction (1). Status, or reputation, is what we strive for. Lack of status causes stress, which reduces learning ability (2). Money or power would seem mere means to achieve status. Effective ways to influence civilization would have to account for our longing for status. Reduction in birth rates seen across the globe in the past decades are strongly linked to the decrease in perceived status associated with having children. Being materially wealthy took the place of having large families.
Status is currently closely linked to the consumption of resources (e.g., property, travel).
Once most people realize that consumption prevents future civilization, it will reduce reputation. We will then reduce consumption and look for ways to live without consumption as a result. Communicating the need to find ways to continue without consumption and making consumption of resources socially unacceptable thus helps to create conditions for civilization to continue.
Perception of status is a strong motivator. If it can deliberately be adapted it will be a crucial tool in sustaining civilization with current humans.
- 1 Why we are, as we are. The Economist, Dec 18th 2008
- 2 Evans GW, Schamberg MA: Childhood poverty, chronic stress, and adult working memory. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Apr 21;106(16):6545-9. Epub 2009 Mar 30.
- 3. Conference on reputation September, 5th-7th, 2012 in Tilburg