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George Price: the Genius, Saint, Suicide story you haven't heard

(Books, Nonfiction) Permanent link

George Price killed himself because he couldn't help homeless people enough. Think about that for a moment. He gave up all he had, became poor and hungry. Helping strangers was the only thing that made him happy, yet he still died in a nasty England flat with bloody sissors in hand; love sick, poor and depressed. Forgotten.

How he got to that point is even more fascinating. He was a true genius, working on evolutionary theory, game theory, computers. Much like Forest Gump, he was around major technological and world events of his time. Much like Newton, he was reclusive and awkward. (Also like Newton, he became deeply concerned with theology). He became obsessed with trying to explain how altruism, or selfless acts, could have evolved. If evolution is all about gene-copying, why does the antelope jump in front of a lion to save others? Why do humans help strangers? Is it all....selfish in some way? After failing to answer these questions scientifically, he tried to answer them with his life. He tried to transcend biological necessity. Did he succeed, or fail?

I'm amazed at how biographies [we have a HUGE section on the 2nd floor] can be used for more than a life story. They tell the history of the times, the major players, the ideas. I learned a lot about animals, evolution, game theory, religion. I'm also amazed that as soon as I diverged from my readings on "love," I come to perhaps the most potent expression of it.


The Price of Altruism

Posted by Matt Smith at 01/16/2012 09:16:14 AM