I experienced an interesting parallel today while reading The Selfish Gene before my history class. I had only just opened the book and was reading then introduction about the lack of true altruistic species when I was approached by a female student who asked me to watch her bag while she went to the bathroom. This was the second time that we have spoken. The first time she had asked me for a dime to replace the one that the vending machine had stolen from her.
I found myself laughing inside at how much of an example of selfish altruism I was displaying by watching this girls bag, just as I had done a few days prior by offering her a dime. While I would like to think that I gave her a dime purely be cause it was a “nice” thing to do, subconsciously I suppose and am almost certain that I had other motives driven by both social and genetic reasons. By giving her a “dime” when she needed one I have opened the door for future “dimes” to be bestowed upon me when the time comes that I am out of “dimes”. I speak of “dimes” with quotation marks because while it serves fine as an example, “dimes” are not the only thing that I could get back out of my one seemingly selfless act. Perhaps I might need a quarter at some point in the future. Maybe I could find myself without a pencil and for whatever reason desperately need one then. Delving further, I could in theory use this situation to begin striking up conversation with her. Conversation opens the door to flirtation, which opens the door to possible sexual reproduction. Regardless of what I may need in the future I could turn to the recipient of my altruism and expect it to be returned in kind. I expect it to be returned because of the simple fact that if it is not, the recipient would be cutting themselves off from future acts of kindness.
I understand that the last part of that paragraph might make me appear as a lonely blogger trying to gather up courage to talk to a girl. (I assure you this is not the case) I merely wanted to express my belief that in almost all cases acts of selflessness are just selfish acts in disguise. I furthered a type of trust with someone who in the future I can now hopefully rely on when I need someone minor. Therefore by acting altruistically now I may have hurt myself ever slightly (I’m out a dime), however, I only did so to selfishly set up a future situation in which I will benefit.