Natural Born Killers and Friends
The Evolution of the Warrior Archetype in Society
According to military historian Gwynne Dyer, approximately 2% of men constitute what he calls a “natural soldier”.
There is such a thing as a “natural soldier”: The kind who derives the greatest satisfaction from male companionship, from excitement, and from the conquering of physical obstacles. He doesn’t want to kill people as such, but he will have no objections if it occurs within a moral framework that gives him justification-- like war-- and if it is the price of gaining admission to the kind of environment he craves. Whether such men are born or made, I do not know, but most of them end up in armies (and many move on again to become mercenaries, because regular army life in peacetime is too routine and boring.)
But armies are not full of such men. They are so rare that they form only a modest fraction of even small professional armies, mostly congregating in the commando-type special forces.
From War (1985)
These men represented the Pareto Elite, getting a huge majority the confirmed kills in every combat theater.
Lt. Col. Grossman, author of On Killing, goes on to suggest that this rare breed of man seems to be immune from the natural Resistance to Killing that most people experience.
Unlike most, these “2% killers” don’t need to be conditioned to kill. They are naturally good at it. They also don’t need the reintegration rituals that regular people need, and are far less likely to develop PTSD.
Major Dick Winters, portrayed in HBO’s Band of Brothers, confirms this in his memoirs. He notes how a very small percentage of his men in the famed 102nd Airborne were “killers”. These men were particularly hard to control in peacetime, but they were invaluable assets on the battlefield.
In Episode I, we estimated why such natural killer exists, and why only 2%:
Pre-agricultural tribes were limited in size by Dunbar’s Number— about 150 persons.1
A tribe of < 150 persons would likely have ~ 50 adult males.
Tribes with 0 killers would be absorbed by other tribes. Whereas tribes with 2 or more killers would end up breaking apart as each killer would endlessly fight for alpha male status.
Therefore having ~1 killer per 50 men evolved as the Nash Equilibrium (stable ratio) amongst men. The human genome evolved such that the “killer gene” was distributed to only ~2% of the male population for the sake of social stability.
These men epitomized what can be called the Warrior Archetype: The traits and behaviors that ensure physical survival.
This primal expression of testosterone is responsible for most of the happenings in history— good, bad, and ugly.
The Warrior Archetype is an extension of male-male competition.
Testosterone primes one for competition (via aggression, anabolic tissue, motivation), sometimes at the expense of longevity or self-preservation.
This makes sense from a genetic perspective. If you “win” enough mating opportunities when you’re young, it doesn’t really matter if you live to be old.
Cortisol does the opposite. It makes one more risk averse, fearful, and even breaks down muscle tissue to help one get away from danger.
Testosterone and cortisol are made from the same compound DHEA, so they have an inverse relationship: The more stressed you are, the less manly— and vice versa.
And the more willing you are to fight, the less interested you are in self-preservation.
The 2% killer, in a sense, shouldered the “burden of violence” on behalf of the tribe.
He might win more mates and get more praise. But he was also the most likely to die young.
Creation of the Social Role
As social animals, humans form groups in order to maximize individual survival.
The Warrior applied his testosterone-driven instinct to fight on behalf of the group because even if he died, the group would ensure his offspring carried on.
The 2% killer was a model example of a protector. But larger tribes needed more than one fighter to survive.
If they could get the other 98% could embody the Warrior Archetype to some degree, the more likely the group would survive.
So primitive cultures developed customs to instill and reinforce the Warrior in it’s men, such as rites of passage for adolescents.
Tribes with a strong collective Warrior overcame those with weaker ones. So like a dominant gene in a gene pool, Warrior memes became universally-perceived virtues in men.
For most of existence, testosterone’s best ambitions were always contained by some force of nature.
But by the Neolithic Era, man developed technologies to outpace nature’s limits.
The same Warrior instinct that evolved to defend the perimeter, carried on to expanding it.
We can see on a macro-level as many imperial powers started out simply trying to prevent themselves from being conquered.
Many of the early conquerors were likely 2% killers themselves— they had the greatest urge to keep “competing” against the world.
Violence Sublimates to Money
As tribes evolved into states, more and more of the population was pushed into the Interior— where one isn’t directly responsible for personal, and is “protected” from the outside world.
Most modern people don’t need to be concerned about security. We (mandatorily) defer that to the State— the military and police.
Instead, one’s material survival is instead represented by money—The more of state’s currency you have, the more stuff you can do within the state.
So the Warrior archetype expresses through the pursuit of the money.
Entrepreneurs become the sublimated equivalent of warlords or explorers— seeking to “conquer” parts of a market, or discover new ones.
Employees, depending on job autonomy and pay, become the equivalent of yeoman or conscripted peasants— doing work to further the earnings of the company.
Due it’s potential for risk and reward, the finance world is a primary arena for the modern Warrior Archetype.
Killers on Wall Street
Wall Street trader turned neuroscientist John Coates found that a traders relative testosterone level at 10am could predict his relative earnings that day better than any other indicator.2
Coates also found that one’s prenatal testosterone exposure (estimated by 2d:4d ratio)3 was a better predictor of a trader's earnings than education or years experience.
Yes, this suggests those with the “killer gene” put up the biggest earnings.
And they also post the biggest losses.
Coates goes on to blame young male traders for the market bubbles and crashes. Their testosterone-cortisol profile leads to market exuberance followed by harsh corrections.
They are basically like the young high-T warriors who get themselves killed due to excess of hubris. Except instead of getting themselves killed, they crash the market for the rest of us.
As in the age of conquerors, it’s the actions of the hyper-virile minority that ends up shaping the material world… for better and for worse.
Beyond the Warrior
The Warrior archetype comes from the most primal male instincts. It was the first social function of men, ensuring group survival.
This archetype has been most greatly expressed by a ~2% of men. These were the prehistoric alpha males, early conquerors, modern market movers, and historical killers both literal and figurative.
But most men aren’t killers.
Nor are we meant to be.
The 2% that fit this profile represent only the first of the critical Archetypes of Nation-building.
After the Warrior secured the perimeter, another archetype had to evolve for the tribe to be able to function as a group—the Chief.
This is the first in a series on The Archetypes of Nation-building.
The Chief is next.
Make sure to subscribe (free) to History of Man.
If you haven’t yet listened to the History of Man Podcast:
Episode 0 covers the biological aspect of testosterone and male behavior.
Episode I covers Stone Age warfare and the creation of masculine proto-virtues
Episode II covers the rise of states and the stratification of men in the Bronze Age
Episode III covers the relationship of culture and warfare via the Greco-Persian conflict.
Dunbar’s Number = the maximum number of intimate connections a person can keep track of, based on the limitations of the limbic brain.
The Hour Between Dog and Wolf (Coates)
The Virility Paradox (Ryan)