I have a fever. It might explain a few things…
I was thinking about evolution and how humans just, well, don’t. We don’t evolve physically but instead adapt the world around us. We’re working with the same genetic hardware and mental software our ancestors have had for thousands of years. The only thing that has really changed is our systems. That’s what humans are all about. We create language and we store knowledge. With that knowledge we build systems, some as small as creating a recipe to make a meal, others as big as creating a global business or dividing our days into a calendar and the globe into time zones.
You could likely pluck a human being up from 5000 years ago and drop him in our world, and as long as he utilized our language and educational system, he would fit in and adapt. But, in the same sense, take those systems away from a developing child and you could watch a process so similar to de-evolution like in the case of Helen Keller. She had all the cognitive software available, but her hardware was broken and it prevented her from getting those language and educational inputs. Once she did get access to them, she became as ‘evolved’ as the next person.
It’s fascinating to me. I’ve been watching ‘Horrible Histories’ and I just keep thinking how those atrocious behaviors happened not long ago. Not long at all. Humanity has a consistent history of violence, slavery, war, and oppression mixed in with innovation. We are currently facing a giant environmental crisis because we had these amazing innovations of technology that created systems–because humans build systems–but these systems are destroying the environment. They destroy ecosystems for farming, oceans for fishing, forests for paper and houses, water sources and ground stability for fossil fuels. Sometimes it feels like we have all been plucked up from the past and placed into this world where we are surrounded by all these systems from government to manufacturing to basic society, and instead of questioning it all, asking what’s the point and trying to avoid the danger, we just go along with the flow learning it all. Because that’s something very human too.
These systems wouldn’t become so overarching and widespread so quickly if we as a species didn’t immediately accept them. We accept the newest phone the same way we accept using plastic bags that are clogging up the oceans. You would think it would make it easy to change a system, but innovation seems slow and rarely accepted while the familiar but slightly different is far more quickly accepted. The new phone with ‘better’ camera instead of trying to solve the packaging crisis that is filling our landfills. The society change of fashion instead of deciding imprisoning people over debt is inhumane and pointless. How many different types of tooth brushes were ‘innovated’ before someone came around with the idea of a waterpick? How many room sized computers before the idea of a microchip? It’s the difference of wandering around searching for food, getting better and more efficient at hunting, before one brilliant idea said to stop and farm some land.
Innovation is humanity’s evolution. It can strike, but before systems were created to speed the implementation of such innovation, there was rare ability to have that innovation spread. In the past, governments were an ideal way to spread innovation. It’s why monarchies were both so damaging when they were destructive, and uplifting when they brought positive change; they were a system in place that could change things quickly depending on the mind in charge. The same with religion–depending on what ideology was passed around, you could be praising some invisible deity one day and murdering ‘witches’ and going to war the next. Governments, when not broken, can bring change immediately, but many are full of people who are mentally living decades in the past.
It also makes me wonder: what would evolution really look like for humans if it occurred in our bodies or minds? Would it be something that gets us through this current crisis, such as bodies that can cleanse the chemicals and toxins now spread throughout every inch of soil from worldwide industry? Evolution is more a lottery than a design; some designs last better while others die out or manage to survive even with the flaws because of other factors. Our current design has gotten us to a point where we can create systems so large that they can destroy the very planet we live on, such as nuclear power or climate change. It also lets us cope with that knowledge by allowing us to block it out, to walk certain on solid ground when we know atoms have so much empty space. We create systems of entertainment to hide away from reality, systems of religion to tell ourselves that death isn’t real and this chaos of life has meaning. We can pick a topic, any topic, and argue for hours with total strangers on the Internet while there are people on this globe facing starvation, dehydration, genocide, oppression and pain.
We are so very smart, and yet, still so damn ignorant.
I realized when I was a teenager that I was joining a world that belonged to generations before me. A world with old ideas that didn’t come from me, didn’t come from my peers or my family, but from people long dead. Humanity is good like that, recycling old ideas again and again with concepts like tradition to reinforce. But they were bad ideas, like women were weak, that money was more important than life, that a job will provide if you are loyal when already jobs were proving the opposite, that an imaginary deity made it okay to be hateful to minorities. We’re living in a world built by the past, a corpse of buildings and dying ideas, trying to follow rules that don’t relate to current situations, and I’m not sure why no one else seems to notice.
Our houses cost too much while there are 6 times the amount of empty houses in America than there are homeless people. Our laws are mostly bigoted with the intent to imprison black people and make rich people safe from the poor. Religion has completely corrupted the American system of government on all levels and is pushing inequality among the genders in the hopes of oppressing women down to their uteruses while also pushing bigoted ideas against minorities. The high school educational system teaches nothing of value when it comes to living in a world where you must work to survive, while less than 70% of students go to college. And college has little to teach of actual work unless you have a career field selected, but still many students experience burn out and fatigue learning things that will have no actual value in their lives–seriously. Many courses are of information that isn’t needed but is required, which you must pay for, and the course load is damaging. Add in the fact that many students deal with paying off student loans for their useless education long into their adult lives while those who never went to college face being shamed in a society who demands degrees for minimum wage jobs.
It’s broken system after broken system and instead of fixing it, or some responsible mind just showing up and saying let’s fix this! people keep doing the same thing, feeding the broken system, showing up to deport citizens because it’s easier to blame a broken system while getting that paycheck instead of questioning and changing something that no one seems to know how to fix. Are the modes of change gone from these broken systems or is it really just no one will be responsible for them from the mob rule apathy once a group of people are involved?
That’s a thing, btw, very interesting to watch. You can observe it in yourself too. The moment an individual sees something that requires action–be it a dog runs into the street, or someone cries for help, or even a piece of trash on the ground–they will be apt to act. Impulse, instinct, morality, etc. But if that individual is in a group, or is joined by a group, suddenly they find themselves waiting for someone else to act, to take responsibility, to fix the problem or give them permission to not act. This is a genetic software thing. I don’t know if it’s a fear to stand out, or sudden apathy, or even politeness. It’s bizarre but it happens all the time. Humans in group settings can be less proactive because of the group, while alone they might sail forward without a doubt in the world. What a terrifying reality when you apply it to congress, huh?
Humans are dragging old genetic software with them into the modern world like tribalism, PTSD, compartmentalizing, and drone like behavior while facing a global environmental crisis of their own creation. And what do they do? Well, in America, they bitch about a wall while imprisoning children at the border and claim how safe they’re making their country.
I wonder if there will be a future where they can have a Horrible Histories of this time and just how will it compare to all those witch burnings, genocides, and slavery of the past? We as a species have pushed our evolution outside of our bodies and into something as intangible as knowledge and language to build the systems we live in all around us. It gives us great flexibility and removes so many limits. Will we be able to rise above our own genetic software, or will our current evolutionary design prove to be too flawed to improve upon?
A Mote In God’s Eye was a fucking amazing book, and this mindset totally reminds me of it.
I have rambled enough, I think, babes. Fevers tend to do it to me. Night. ^.^