We have come far in the past 100,000 years, haven’t we? Technology, economy and population growth have turned mankind from a small, unusually smart species of apes into the dominant force on the planet that is shaping Earth itself to a degree that is both fascinating and frightening. We have mass-media and electronic music, transportation systems beyond the wildest dreams of just a few centuries ago, extensive political systems and global trade. And yet, we have hardly advanced two steps from our african plains dwelling ancestors.
The core of our beings is as unchanged as it was centuries ago, or millenia. We still flirt the same, breed the same, gossip the same as our ancestors did. Language, I propose, is the only invention we have ever made that has made any change whatsoever to what we are, instead of just how we spend our days.
With all the talk about disruptive technology, and the various articles lauding that company or this CEO as “serial disruptors”, and fully acknowledging that the game has been changed many times by inventions and progress, nothing has really changed. The scientific work on what we humans are and how we work at the very core of our being is still in exploration mode, and the many fascinating results we are getting, like Amy Cuddys talk here, just prove how little we, humanity, have changed in all this time, and despite all our progress elsewhere.
Body language and first impressions dominate us to an extend our cognitive dissonance won’t allow us to realize fully. Not one human behaviour, whether good or bad, has not been found to be rooted deeply in our physiology and fundamental nature. From Altruism to Zealotry, when it comes to what we are and how we act, there is very little difference between you and me and our ancestors from tribal times. And this has tremendeous impact on our modern society and culture. We are apes with nuclear bombs and mobile phones.
But while our technology, our political systems, our society get disrupted every now and then, and while we have invented a thousand technological marvels and hundreds of religions and dozens of political systems, and fought over them in wars, revolutions, debate or marketing campaigns, almost the entire body of the social sciences is theoretical. Not in the sense of theoretical physics, there are in fact more experiments and studies under real-life conditions in the social sciences than almost anywhere else, but in the sense of no practical applications.
There are technological entrepreneurs wherever you look. The most valuable company in the world today, Apple, is a tech company.
There are no social entrepreneurs. No company invents changes to humanity. People set out to change the way we search online, or shop for groceries, or fly to Mars. And when we arrive there, we will still be apes with language, because no one set out to change the way we flirt, gossip, evaluate each other, judge and create power differences, communicate non-verbally, and that’s not even considering the entire field of cognition, which defines us even more.
We are powerful enough to change the planet, but we are too weak to change ourselves. Mostly, for lack of trying.