by The Unsliced
The next stage of human inellectual evolution
|What really separates us, people, from the animal world? Is it our use of tools?, the development of language?, the application of social hierarchy?. It is not exclusively any one of these. If you look hard enough all of these things can be found in the animal kingdom; apes use tools, dolphins communicate through a series of squeaks and squeals, and even ants have a system of social hierarchy. The true separation from the animal kingdom comes in the form of man's freedom from natural population control through the unique application of these characteristics. There have been three critical hurdles in freeing our race from the bounds of population control that will be identified by phases one, two, and three.
In the beginning, man and his predecessors were insignificant in number, and weren't much different from the animals that inhabited their era. As long as our ancestors continued to be eaten by the gigantic predators of previous archeological eras, such as saber-tooth cats, their population was kept in check by the same method that has always kept animal population under control. Besides the animals that kept early hominids in check, there were the constraints of latitude. As long as the hominids had no means of staying warm other than their own hair, and perhaps the skins that were on their backs, they were limited to latitudes near the equator where the climate was rather mild. Phase one involved solving these two problems through the discovery/mastery of fire, and the development of more complex tools. Besides having a little help from climate change, the discovery of fire allowed man to expand his borders, places that were once to cold to survive in were now open to "colonization", so to speak. Fire also helped early people prevent their own depredation, along with improved tools, such as weapons, that enabled them to defend themselves.
At this point, human kind still remains at fairly low numbers due to the simple fact that we were hunter/gatherers. The number of people a given area of land can support is limited because there are only so many edible animals it can support, and only a small part of the plants on it are edible. Phase two didn't take place until the advent of recorded history. The answer to limited supplies of naturally occuring food was simple, create our own food. With this conclusion, the farmer/animal herder were born. Perhaps the discovery of farming was accidental, but it is one of the single most important developments in population expansion. Before, nearly every minute of the day was devoted to finding food. For this reason, prior to farming and the domestication of animals, virtually every artifact of human kind is food related, once farming was developed, a small number of people were capable of providing food for many. With this, the stage was set for phase three.
With farming developed, there was now time for more intellectual pursuits. At this point in time (today), man kind is still in phase three of this process. This phase is characterized by two major intellectual developments. The first is a matter of social hierarchy. Prior to Hammurabi's code, the first recordable instance of a law set, social hierarchy amongst humans is very animal-like. Within groups, one especially powerful individual establishes themself as "alpha" human, and rules at their whim through sheer force. With the advent of Hammurabi's code, there is a shift to the rule of ideas and ideals. Granted, it is a rudimentary form of rule by ideals, but it is the basis of government for every modern "civilized" population of humans.Even today, we are still in the process of developing rule by ideals as there are still totalitarian leaders and monarchs. The second major development of phase three is the most recent. Even in the relatively recent middle ages, man is still plagued by, well, the plague. We were still victims of disease and other ailments until the discovery of modern medicine. The result of over-population without solving medical problems were apparent after seeing what the black death had done. Once we had reached a significant number and population density we were victims of our own success, because this facilitated the rampant spread of population-controlling disease. With the advent of things like vaccines and microscopes, we were able to free ourselves from the last major boundaries of natural population control.
What is the point of all of this? you may ask; the point I must make is simple. These three major steps of freeing ourselves from the bounds of population limits have been largely about improving quality of life and preventing our own demise, but in doing so we have created a catch-22. All of these things intended to defend and protect us are also destroying us. As our numbers continually expand we begin to see a decline in quality of life, increased rates of illness from our own pollution, an inability to provide sufficient natural resources for ourselves, and the wars that result from groups trying to monopolize these resources. In order to further our cause that has been millenia in the making, we must take a step back. If we are to prevent our own extinction there must be a phase four that consists of controlling our own population. In order to move forward, we must move back. Once this has been achieved, we will have truly reached the pinnacle of human existence.