The Story Of Our Story
An Anthropological Perspective
“People easily understand that ‘primitives’ cement their social order by believing in ghosts and spirits, and gathering each full moon to dance together around the campfire. What we fail to appreciate is that our modern institutions function on exactly the same basis.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
In the summer of 2001, I visited East Africa — Kenya in particular. The picture looked very similar to the photo just below the sub-title of this story. In fact, I remember dancing with the Masai’s. On a hot and humid morning that summer, I got on to a small, fixed wing Cessna from Mombasa and landed on a single, rough airstrip in the middle of the Serengeti. Our camp was the Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp which meant living inside the Masai Mara game reserve. As soon as the plane landed,we noticed a giraffe eating tree leaves to quell its hunger.
My first impression of Africa was that somehow a time machine had transported me to the beginnings of the Homo Sapiens species. It was a beautiful vista of pristine wilderness — something our ancestors would have been used to without the distractions of the man made virtual world. There was serenity everywhere and the vibrant ecosystem seemed in perfect harmony.
Fast forward today and I was listening to a podcast this summer morning-the James Altucher show with Yuval Noah Harari, author of the book ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind’. Somehow, my memories from 16 years ago just came fleeting back — a delayed Deja Vu of sorts.
Homo Sapiens or Home Deus?
In his book, Yuval discusses how our early Homo Sapiens from East Africa were able to outlast Neanderthals from Europe and Homo Erectus from Asia to eventually become the human race as we know it today. One of the key factors Yuval mentioned is a common belief shared by many Homo Sapiens which allowed them to band together in the thousands and millions which the Neanderthals and Homo Erectus specie could not. The belief can be a story about higher powers that we need to bow down to just like ancient chieftains before.
Homo Sapiens also found a means to migrate to remote corners of the world from northeast Asia. The remnants of common symbols have been found in archaeological digs across the globe. How did they migrate ? The answer still remains a mystery. A brief timeline of human history is illustrated below:
Funnily, Yuval’s ideas reminded me of the social networks of today that disintermediate and reach individuals directly instead of the mass media which can be biased and therefore filters news based on those biases. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter allow us to connect directly to our species across the world including practical strangers.
The Blockchain, which the world is contemplating, is another example of disintermediation and banding together around a common purpose — Greater Trust
Yuval also mentioned that the single most common language is the language of money. Importance of money is understood by all. Therefore, could cryptocurrencies based on Blockchain be the answer that everybody may converge on?
A Common Story To Follow
Call it capitalism or communism, humans seem to be searching for the right organization structure to unite under for survival and growth.
As Adam Smith once believed in the invisible hand in the market guiding common good,Karl Marx once said:
Society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand
However, as capitalism faces challenges, there is a need to band together as a species to either reach a more responsible version of economic systems or in an extreme scenario, succumb to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). Although AGI seems less probable. More importantly, irrespective of whether AGI takes over or not, empathy can never be overemphasized.
Theory of Reflexivity
Reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a relationship in which neither can be assigned as causes or effects (source: wiki)
Utlimately, it is quite reflexive - humans want to teach machines empathy but machines will end up teaching the human race the value of empathy. Ed Hess, in his article “In the AI Age, “Being Smart” Will Mean Something Completely Different” in the Harvard Business Review, writes:
In short, we will embrace humility
It is indeed a mysterious circle of life. Although the tools and manifestations have changed, we still feel the need to come together just as our ancestors did roughly 20,000 years ago around a common quest for survival and growth. Funnily enough, there seems to be a common appreciation of the need for empathy. Is this appreciation born out of a need for self-preservation?
Think about tbt commonality of thought between social media today, cosmopolitan thought in Ancient Greece around 412 BC and our ancestors coming together as one unit until many man made fictions divided us with one common language that everyone seems to understand — money.
If it is a true return to our roots, the question becomes — will it be a return to innocence or like the other contemporaries of Homo Sapiens — a road to gradual atrophy ?
In any case, it will mean that we will have to imitate our ancestors. Retrograde certainly, but will it be effective? I believe history and our story will repeat itself.