For some ten thousand years, human civilization has propelled humanity along a course that has ushered in remarkable advances in our collective understanding of how the universe works; of an ever-increasing grasp of the nature of life; and the development of fabulous tools wrought from the basic materials and resources of the planet we inhabit – these tools provide glimpses into our future potential.
However along with this progress, the flaws in our biological nature especially the architecture of our organic brain have been magnified and left us a burdensome legacy of prejudice and bigotry, extreme narrow-mindedness and avarice, destructive wars, and needless suffering. Ideologies based upon beliefs in wildly erroneous suppositions have imposed an often-horrendous burden on human societies that have created great divides amongst the wondrous diversity of humans on this planet, earth.
All of this represents a paradoxical and complex mix that suggests a wild array of possibilities for the future of the species known as Homo sapiens. Human history has been earmarked by inflection points throughout the timeline of human existence – from the first appearance of self-consciousness in our earliest ancestors to the transition of the human family from hunter-gathers to agriculturally-based societies, and to the current industrial and technologically-driven age.
What makes this particular inflection point so different from all that have preceded us is that the juncture we have collectively arrived at is the result of a convergence of factors that could conceivably lead to a decimation of the entire species. In my mind, this is not an exaggerated claim, for individual humans now live in a world where communication is global and immediate; where a significant side-effect of our technological advancement threatens the very fabric of natural world that sustains us, and where needless wars and unsustainable violence has successfully thwarted many aspects of human progress and have even propelled some societies backwards.
The threat to humanity’s future does not lie in over-population, for we do have the collective capacity to feed, house and nurture everyone. The threat to humanity’s future does not lie in the unfettered increase in green house gases, for we do comprehend the nature of the threat, the ultimate consequences of climate change and the capability of countering this trend. The threat to humanity’s future does not lie in the onslaught of illness and disease, for we have the conceptual and practical tools to handle any crisis in regard to public health.
The real source of the current state of the human condition lies within the realm of the human brain and the manner in which the intrinsic reality of the external world is processed. Data from many sources constantly stream into the human brain. Data from the external world comes in mainly through the senses and data that is generated internally from within the body is channeled through the systemic nervous system. Most of this data is stored and subsequently processed. The result of this processing is an analysis of that information. This analysis occurs on two levels. One is on a higher level within the intricate circuitry of the cerebral cortex and especially involving the frontal lobes. The other involves the lower or more primitive brain where the seat of the emotions lies. Ideally the analysis generated from these two processes are then successfully integrated to produce a relatively accurate representation of the external environment and its relation to the state of the individual. The final conclusion reached then becomes the basis for either action or inaction.
However, more often than not, the reactive emotions can hold sway and override a more rationally-defined conclusion. An example would be the behavior of a white male when confronted by a situation in which a black man, at a social gathering, approaches and asks a white woman of his acquaintance to dance with him. An individual without any bias based upon the color of one’s skin would interpret this as a quite ordinary event that does not substantively involve him and is therefore of no consequence. But, to a male harboring an unshakeable belief in white supremacy, this scene could take on a completely different meaning that may require him to take some kind of precipitous action. In this latter case, the emotional response supplants a more reasoned analysis that could precipitate a violent reaction. In this case, the preconceived idea of being in a superior position, leads to the interpretation of the kind of event cited above as a threat even though the idea of racial superiority has been clearly shown to have no basis in reality. In fact, the concept of racial difference is a contrived construct as all humans are members of the same species.
Human history is filled with horrendous events that are a consequence of collective human behavior that is generated from a perception of reality based upon irrational beliefs that are formulated predominantly from the emotions, and that have little relationship to the truth. The impact of such a pattern of collective behavior over the expansive of time through which human institutions have developed has significantly thwarted true human progress.
If humanity is ever to break free of this constraint, it is absolutely essential to discover through a process of self-awareness our true place in the fabric of existence and evaluate each other, and the natural world of which we are a part, unobstructed by blinding conceptions of ignorance, bigotry, prejudice, selfishness, and hate. If this were ever to be accomplished, the trajectory of human history would be forever transformed.
Admittedly, the likelihood that such a transformation would ever occur amongst the humankind is a small one especially given the tendency towards actually moving backwards to more authoritarian models of societal organization is evident in many parts of the human world. Given this reality, it is the actual history that unfolds, as determined by present and future choices, that will determine humanity’s ultimate fate.