The question behind what is it exactly that makes us human comes with a few, historically (and politically) loaded ones on what rights exactly do we have and how do we protect them: http://goo.gl/HdGtwH
. Of all the species on the planet we are perhaps unique in our approach of enshrining the essence of our nature in legislature which then becomes the means through which we recognize our uniqueness on the planet.
It is our uniqueness, or rather our sense of uniqueness, that troubles us. We desperately seek to understand just what steps led us “here” from “there” (http://goo.gl/5JVDVl
), mining our ancient past for validation of superiority: https://goo.gl/PgPGAm
. We want proof that rather than our existence being part of an accident created by nature’s organic, multi-faceted system of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks” we are evidence of some evolutionary pinnacle. Here because we deserve to be which means we are then, in turn, deserving.
There are those who are willing to say almost anything to suggest the opposite (https://goo.gl/NIYdRg
) because controversy sells. We desperately want to believe that we are so special that we can dictate our behavior in ways that is not determined by evolutionary biology alone (https://goo.gl/JE4LSe
Writing in The Selfish Gene
(whose title should not be taken too literally) - https://goo.gl/VYdfR
ethologist and evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, (https://goo.gl/i0L9xg
) argued that "It is finally time to return to the problem with which we started, to the tension between individual organism and gene as rival candidates for the central role in natural selection...One way of sorting this whole matter out is to use the terms ‘replicator’ and ‘vehicle’. The fundamental units of natural selection, the basic things that survive or fail to survive, that form lineages of identical copies with occasional random mutations, are called replicators. DNA molecules are replicators. They generally, for reasons that we shall come to, gang together into large communal survival machines or ‘vehicles’."
We are, in his mind, complex organic machines led by a ‘prime directive’ hidden in the lowest common denominator of our make up. A guide that is as relentless as it is mindless, it would appear. And yet our sense of uniqueness continues (http://goo.gl/ITceZ6
) just as evidence mounts that suggests the opposite: http://goo.gl/uUKwLg
Yet, as our intense interest in the behavior of our early ancestors reveals, we’re interested in the past for the same reason that we are interested in the future: we believe that in our ability to sense and create and then communicate abstractions: http://goo.gl/HhB4rK
. In our ability to momentary believe in fiction or momentary suspend our disbelief (http://goo.gl/mDfvHF
) we want to find some sense of an ultimate purpose.
We are a collection of evolutionary wins: http://goo.gl/thdPg5
. Bits and pieces falling together at some point in the past that gradually became part of us until here we are, standing (or sitting) here today, reading the outcome of 1s and 0s processed by a machine and considering a reality that is made up of several levels of abstraction.
What makes all this possible, possibly, is our ability to balance the real and the seemingly unreal and consider both with the same mental mechanism suggests one author: http://goo.gl/6Iomcv
and yes, that –beyond anything else, may be what actually makes us so unique and arguably, uniquely special: https://goo.gl/r0AcO9
There is a focus on our humanity in our times. Access to Big Data analytics has shown us that we can be very predictable: http://goo.gl/qCvnBD
. Our behavior reduced to a handful of patterns: http://goo.gl/qBdrQM
. And though we may now, the argument goes, be uniquely suited to recognizing these patterns: http://goo.gl/QFQIQs
, adapted for studying them in a way that surely reveals we have a greater purpose, we are still not sure: https://goo.gl/122Gc0
We are at the cusp of another evolutionary leap. We are creating machines that mimic our cognition: http://goo.gl/KPuyB3
and mimic our biology: http://goo.gl/8Wf2FD
. And even as we marvel in our abilities to do so, we also secretly worry that we may really be nothing special. A fact that makes us replaceable.
No answers to any of this. At least nothing in black and white. And though we are trying (http://goo.gl/ASrflS
) we are really making up things as we go along, balancing seemingly irreconcilable beliefs on a cognitive razor edge so we can just get to the next thing, take the next step. Maybe, arguably, evolution in the grandest sense of the word, also did just that. And if it did, if we are simply a sum of averages that won through by accident and circumstance, then, maybe we should truly behave as if that has so much meaning that wasting the opportunity this confluence of events gave us would be a crime.
The experiment that created humans about to transhumanize (to coin a verb) just as gender, which biologically also has its differences deeply rooted in evolutionary choices: (https://goo.gl/4ogiFd
) may be morphing as we live longer and learn more: https://goo.gl/cUOfZL
. If our time in evolutionary history is about to end. Maybe, just maybe, we can create a uniquely special moment by taking some advice from the brilliant minds behind The Wild Stallions
and just being excellent to each other! (http://goo.gl/7VCOhF
I hope you’ve made all the cognitively right choices this week in which case now you’re looking at a pile of donuts, croissants, cookies and chocolate cake and you have an endless supply of coffee to go with all that. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.