Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saving the Sweet Life: Dopamine drives the best the hardest

Saving the Sweet life

Iconically, the sweet life, aka the good life, is a radical condensation of all that is the best of the good, which is the best life has to offer. Saving the sweet life is the ultimate motivation for any member of our species, the highest need, beyond the need for any one aesthetic (beauty) or self-realization.

The last post implied the following: first, that the iconic sweet life may be souring. Second implication: this endangered icon and its constituents might yet be saved; and third, the ones who can save it, the elite or noble of the 21st century global culture, have already been selected for and need only accept their designated mission according to the behavioral code of noblesse oblige. The nobility are the elite, and the elite are the leaders. Leaders are responsible for showing the way. But not all selected have chosen to accept their calling.

Noblesse designates those who have the greatest access to the largest portion of the most valuable resources for most of the time. Access to more resources means more possibilities for realizing whatever it is one is striving for. In post industrial societies, the ones who strive with the greatest access to the most resources are the de facto nobility. Who specifically are the designated drivers of this mission? What are their obligations? How can they save the good life so that each of us might continue to hope to attain it?

Noblesse oblige mandates saving the sweet life. If you are among the elite, if you are living the good life or if you have ever even tasted of that sweetness, you are among the virtually elite and consequently obligated. You know what is good and (if you are healthy) you will inevitably strive to achieve or acquire it. So simple. Except now you must also preserve, restore, and sometimes create that best. Not so simple.

Speaking for those of us who live in the Central Coast/Santa Barbara area, the chosen stewards (perhaps many, given that we live here in Santa Barbara), can be identified as anyone who has ever tasted or produced a wine rated 95 or above by any of the apex raters of wine. These wines have been identified by the gold standard experts as the best of the best.

You consumers and producers of the best are the chosen ones. Each of you who has either produced or tasted a wine rated 95 or above from the wineries listed below is called upon by Evolution itself to become the steward who does the right thing by the environment. More about right in the next post.You have been selected for by both evolutionary and cultural processes to save the sweet life. Others have been also chosen, but the context of this blog is Santa Barbara and the framework is evolutionary aesthetics. The metrics of stewardship are 96 points or above.

As the alpha dopamine species, Homines sapientes necessarily are driven to attain or achieve the best, towards more, better, new or just plain different, but striving is the hallmark of the species and striving begets more striving. Dopamine drives, and dopamine is a runaway motivational system. Humans are programmed to never being satisfied. That is the way we are.

In the best cases, the ones living the good life right now strive to improve the world through good deeds, and they are notably successful. These elites lead and effect transformational changes. They change the world for the better. .Stewards are driven to do what is right and good and best for the future of the world as they understand best, and that inevitably involves doing right by the environment. Better means a more vibrant ecosystem. The fittest would include Al Gore, David Suzuki, and environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, comprising individuals that act together to change the world

The strategic role of experts

While another biological mandate of most species is what can be called judgment, or evaluating one choice as better than another,  part of the specialization tendencies associated with the economic development of human societies is the emergence of experts who are the best judges of the best things and processes and outcomes. Experts are highly valued and in most cases, their judgments can be viewed as one very useful strategy for managing complexity. They are not flawless, they each have their own aesthetic, but they can be very useful.

Gold-standard wine critics/experts contribute to informed decision-making

Consuming the world's best food and drinking the world's best wines is one characteristic of living the good life, and which foods and wines are considerd best is continuously re-evaluated by a few experts-raters. This series of posts recommends using with monitorng the expertise of the following wine critics to indicate best quality in wines:

Robert Parker  from The Wine Advocate 
Wine Spectator magazine
Allen Meadows'

Quality is not everything, but without quality, nothing really matters

The above experts rate quality according to their individual or collective aesthetics. They do not consider ecology. That is my job. But for me, as author of Reward in the Cognitive Niche, quality is the gatekeeper and most important value in the equation of ecological sustainability optimization. The desired goal for this optimization is global pleasure, which is the sum of all the pleasures of all the individuals of all the species in all of the ecosystems that make up the global ecosystem at its most biodiverse. An indicator for global pleasure, or ecosystem vibrancy, is biodiversity. While not itself equal to any measure of quality, biodiversity is the palette from which great paintings may emerge.

The values input to the optimization process of ecological sustainability for Reward in the Cognitive Niche are: quality, diversity, individual aesthetics/ individual pleasure, and adaptability. This compares to the triple bottom line approach to ecological sustainability, which inputs the values of economics, society/community, and environment, in that order of valuation. In my equation, anything not of the highest quality is not evaluated or in the running for fittest.

My rationale for excluding social equity or economic issues is that in a global (more or less) free-market economy, cost-benefit calculations will definitionally, over time, work to optimize economic outcomes. The less fit will not survive.Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet work towards optimizing social outcomes. This is my rationale for using top quality as indicator of those who have been selected for stewardship. Knowing, appeciating and enjoying the sweet life, which is the best that all life has to offer, regardless of whether the constituents involve wealth or voluntary simplicity, are key to the intent to care for, which is the core of stewardship.

Does being a steward imply saving the sweet life? It does, and the reasons are suggested above. Since we are biologically driven to seek the best, we are also driven to create better and better as part of this search. The constituents of our creations are our responsibilities.

Anyone who consumes or produces wines rated 95 points or above is automatically mandated by the status of best/fittest to behave according to the code of noblesse oblige. In 2012 this code indicates saving the sweet life. Anyone currently producing or consuming the best wines and foods produced in the world today is a member of the elite class of humans selected as stewards of a vibrant global ecosystem. The elite leads, and others follow. The elite must do whatever they can to save the sweet life and show others what to do. This is incumbent on the privilege of being the best.

Some of the selected stewards with whom I am familiar through their outstanding wines are named here (in alphabetical order):

In the best cases, the ones living the good life right now  will improve the world through accepting the privilege of global stewardship  and the actions incumbent. The above list of producers in collaboration with their consumers can work together to save the sweet life.

Iconic of the Sweetlife

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