I think that with over 6 billion people on the planet and no natural predator, that our individual survival instincts have become dulled, if not eliminated.
I used to think that it was pure self involvement that allowed people move about texting, listening to music or even watching movies while driving or cycling or walking around the city.
A kind of everyone is responsible for my safety but me mentality.
But then I thought, what does make people pay attention to potential dangers? How do they not realize that texting and driving are a dangerous mix?
It occurred to me that we as humans do not have any natural predators and we do not regularly encounter danger.
Yes, some humans are dangerous, but how often does a serial killer try to catch you in any given month? We have created a great stranger danger panic when it comes to children, but the reality remains that the majority of child abductions are done by the non-custodial parent, not a stranger.
Killers, rapists and pedophiles are not average people they are a throw back or aberration. They would always have been some small portion of the population and with 6 billion plus people on the planet, their numbers are increased, but not likely their percentage of the total population.
That’s when I had the lightening strike. There weren’t always this many people.
In pre-historic times, we lived in small groups – so cooperating was critical for survival. No stealing, no raping and no killing each other. Anti-social behaviour threatened the entire group and wouldn’t have been tolerated.
In pre-historic times, there were a lot of predators of humans – lynx, hyenas, wolverines, wolves, cave lions and, the animals that we preyed on Mammoths, Whoolly Rhinos, bison and any large heard animal posed a risk for death to the human hunter and required the co-operation of many hunters to be able to successfully hunt the large prey animals.
Humans, lacking claws or teeth that could be used in combat, developed technology to level the playing field. Now, there’s no animals that intentionally seek out humans to eat. Animal attacks occur and are still fatal, but usually it’s because the human has blundered into the animal territory or been mistaken for other prey.
Our species survival no longer turns on individual survival either. So we can collectively relax, since there’s so many others propagating the species that it doesn’t matter if a large number of us don’t survive to breed or chose not to.
The dangers that could wipe out our species in pre-historic times are very different than the mass extinction ones that we face today.
In pre-historic times, it was drought, disease, crop failure, inter-group conflicts and natural disasters that threatened us as a species.
75,000 years ago, the eruption of supervolcano reduced the global human population down to approximately 10,000 individuals. This vastly reduced the gene pool and made cooperation far more critical for long term survival.
Now, we still face the same dangers as our pre-historic counterparts, but drought, disease and warfare is not likely to end all human life on earth. Though, if any war or conflict does go nuclear – and there’s apparently enough nuke weapons to kill every person on earth 5 times – then, it’s probably better that humans cease to be part of the Earth biosphere.
The species ending dangers that we face are too big, not predictable and there’s nothing we can do with the current technologies. These would include asteroid strikes and global climate change.
Since there’s nothing we can do, there’s nothing to consider or do or dwell on, unless you’re into general anxiety attacks.
Since we do not face danger every day, or struggle to obtain enough food, water and creature comforts, we are greatly distanced from our pre-historic ancestors who, if they didn’t go out to hunt and store food, had to go without.
Today, urban dwellers are so removed from the food supply that we often don’t think of steak or bacon or chicken wings to be related to an animal at all. For me, I prefer the shape of the food to not be from an obvious part of the animal because I don’t want to think about it. Animals that are close to me are pets and food animals are some misty, distant, theoretically concept that has little to do with me.
I probably should be a vegetarian but BBQ meat tastes too good to pass up.
Without having to be dealing with danger, without having to struggle to survive, we just don’t need as much brain capacity as we used to.
It turns out that our brains are smaller than our prehistoric ancestors. By about a tennis ball.
It’s not just down to less danger, but that we have by domesticating animals and plants, also domesticated ourselves.
The wild ancestor of any domesticate animal has a larger brain, larger head and body, is often stronger and with more canny behaviours.
Domesticate animals tend to be smaller brains and bodies, shorter and rounder heads, more colour variations, floppier ears and often curly tails.
Dmitry Belyaev experiemented with foxes, breeding only the most docile and 40 years and 45,000 foxes later, the foxes not only show the physical differences, but have different behaviours than wild foxes and their brain chemistry is different. They respond to sounds sooner and develop fear much later. They are interactive with humans and as eager to please as any dog.
Humans, by living in larger and larger groups that required co-operation, basically bread out a lot of our aggression that we needed in prehistoric times living in smaller groups that competed with other groups for resources.
Trade of goods and culture between groups, groups merging, the creation of villages, towns and eventually cities makes aggression an undesirable trait for sexual selection.
As it turns out, we are only distinct from other animals, not because of opposing thumbs, since this is a primate trait – but rather the ability to self-domesticate and the capacity we have to live in our own waste.