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As we work our way through Kevin Dutton’s The Wisdom of Psychopaths, the book keeps coming back to one central question.Does society actually need psychopaths so it can function properly?
If Dutton’s sources are to be believed, then yes, we as a society couldn’t survive without them.
Dutton describes psychopaths as brilliant, calculating, often highly intelligent people, who feel no emotion and don’t even understand what an emotion is or why non-psychopaths feel them.
“I think every society needs particular individuals to do its dirty work for it,” Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford, told Dutton, who’s a research scientist at the same university. “Someone who isn’t afraid to make tough decisions. Ask uncomfortable questions. Put themselves on the line. And a lot of time those individuals, by the very nature of the work that they’re tasked to do, aren’t necessarily going to be the kind of people who you’d want to sit down and have afternoon tea with.”
And it seems Dunbar isn’t alone in his hypothesis.
Psychopaths account for one to two per cent of the general population, suggesting they can’t all be bad, according to an article that bioethicist George Dvorsky wrote for io9 in June.
“[C]learly, given that nearly 2 in every 100 persons is a psychopath, they can’t all be bad — otherwise society would have completely imploded by now,” according to Dvorsky.
In an interview with Smithsonian.com, Dutton stressed his belief that psychopathy, in the right doses, is actually a good thing for society.
“Psychopaths are assertive. Psychopaths don’t procrastinate. Psychopaths tend to focus on the positive. Psychopaths don’t take things personally; they don’t beat themselves up if things go wrong, even if they’re to blame. And they’re pretty cool under pressure. Those kinds of characteristics aren’t just important in the business arena, but also in everyday life.”
Do you think psychopaths are necessary to society? Let us know in the comments.