on humanism and environmental crisis

Shared Reality

Our environmental and social crisis has many unexpected repercussions and consequences, not all of them negative. As we are running out of the Earth’s resources, it made us think about and research nonmaterialistic societies, the origins of altruism, and human nature. Our collective unconsciousness, as whole humanity assumed more of the undertone; “what’s wrong with us?” And because the niche crisis obviously plays itself in the broad dimensions of time and space, these questions force us to be more aware of our deep past and (unfortunately) not-so-distant future.

The new data from neuroscience, prehistory, and linguistics allowed us to rethink human origins.

The discovery is simple and (like the notion that we come from monkeys) startling. Our reality is created by the human mind. Without the human mind, there is no reality. While the construction of this reality started recently, about 50,000 years ago by our human hybrid mind, it is based on our brain’s ancient algorithms and perception systems millions of years old. 

Since this new reality’s construction started, in the Upper Paleolithic period, every infant repeats this feat and builds reality simultaneously with building language, and selfhood in the first year of life. Every animal has its own world, only one, but we have two- an ancient, instinctual world of algorithms and the new one, shared with the rest of humans, symbolic, linguistic, attached to consciousness. As I will explain later, it started from sharing and naming simple things- like the baby does- but it is the only reality we know! And the only reality there is. ( “is”, the concept of existence, is the intrinsic part of this new system, and is related to  the concept of “self”)

What does it mean for the everyday person? How do these instinctual and new systems work together in our brains? The ancient, instinctual system works all the time-breathing, feelings, and moods- but when we talk to others, write, and use the language, this new system seamlessly piggybacks on the old one.

The things are real, the stone when kicked- hurts.  But: as everything is invented by the nervous system of our ancestors, so all kinds of extraterrestrials and supernaturals are also invented. And all cosmos to add. And everything that exists. Existence as a concept is probably a very recent invention. 

But, how about evolution. This new thing couldn’t have sprouted out of our brain suddenly, out of blue. 

 That’s right, it couldn’t. This is the hypothesis explaining the possible origins and the mechanism of the generation of this strange hybrid system. 

This is the new sequence of events:

 Some of them will appear in boldface, denoting my hypothetical thinking, the rest is well known. I do not need to defend my hypotheses, it will be written soon in detail by some super-professors from MIT or Oxford. ( I am going to be like Alfred Russell Wallace of shared reality).

8 million years ago: split from bonobos: both branches “worked” on the social niche, possibly our ancestors benefited from some minor mutation making it easier to communicate by sound.

Bonobos stayed with social communications via grooming, pheromones, and sex. Homo was improving a variety of sound production and/or discerning. It might have forced parietal hearing and memory centers to grow, made brains even bigger and childhood even longer. The sound system was perfect for prelinguistic algorithms improving cooperation, band organization, and defense. We can imagine that these improved signs and sound utterances are short outwardly but in the brain, they were part of algorithms growing longer and clumsier, part of million years of building, and very difficult to teach, especially without the concept of self.

4 million years ago: another split- “Robustus” branches worked more on using the big brains to defend themself against changes in the environment, mostly glaciation periods. They culminated in producing the Neardenthal, extremely strong, practical, “street-smart”. The “Gracilis “ branches continued with prosocial communications with homo Erectus sporting some evidence of the concept of the unknown, awe, burials, curiosity, and altruism. The benefits were slowly increasing but liabilities and dangers were enormous. Without the concept of self and of names of objects, the algorithms can do only so much in the material world.

Still, some of them managed to escape the climate deterioration- “first diffusion” 1, 7 million years ago. 

500 000 years ago, the last split into “Robustus”- Neanderthal and “Gracilis” -homo sapiens. The sapiens were eusocial, emotional, and emphatic, but still prelinguistic.

( I realize, that for many it will be impossible to imagine such a sophisticated and mature culture without symbolic language).

This gave us, our ancestors, some advantage over other groups but changes in climate eventually killed everybody except a few thousand sapiens remaining, somehow overlapping (Southern Europe or North Africa) with the dying remnants of Neanderthals. They kept improving proto-language, cooperation, altruism, and friendship, but the progression of the material culture was very slow.

My hypothesis suggests that the advances of social intelligence, with big brains without selfhood and language reached its limits– like many of the other intelligent and social species. At least 26 branches of hominids died and the Sapiens population was reduced to several thousand. The formidable social skills couldn’t protect against their environment, especially considering periodical glaciations and the eruptions of the mega-volcanoes during the last 100 000 years. 

50,000 or 40,000 years ago: This small group of brightest, most altruistic, and eloquent homo sapiens survived, they are our ancestors. I imagine a combination of three major factors and a lot of luck. 

  1. Close-knit family, they are on the move,(escaping cold or drought or other animals) trying to survive, and a lot of talking.
  2. Extended childhood, toddlers practicing talking, adults listening. 
  3. Possible elements of translation, desperate contact with other groups or Neanderthals with a different language, and utilization of a child’s learning process.

This is the imagined sequence of events: Proto language communication with sound being a part of a complex algorithm is understood by a child or foreigner as the name of the simple thing. Repeated back as such it creates a circle of people sharing a reality. The name and its meaning are attached to the person who used it. 

( the woman says: “ apples need to be picked up”,  the child cries pointing: “apples, apples”, and a foreigner says: “you called it apples?” and the woman repeats: ”yes, apples”)

Enormous social advantages are immediate. 

My hypothesis is that symbolic language, shared reality, selfhood and consciousness are the same thing, started together, as recently as 50,000 years ago, and are responsible for our survival and success.

50000 to 10000 years ago: The event described above ushered us into the next 40,000 years of the “Golden Age”.

The climate was excellent and shared reality and linguistic skills spread with trade, social life, art, and religion. It was the world before the Big Flood.

It took many generations for the concepts of ownership have become connected to power and pleasure. Humans were non-materialistic, so inequality was different than we can imagine. It could be appearance, being “close to higher powers”, personal skills, the rhetorical skills.  The “power”, still without material wealth, could be more fluid, societies changed from season to season. Huge monuments and mounds were built and destroyed without hierarchy, bureaucracy, and much of inequality. New archeological discoveries in Turkey, Stonehenge, and Meso-America suggest that.

10.000 years ago to the present. Domestication of people, plants, and animals. The “primordial sin’- materialism, eventually caught up with us. Shared reality allowed for agriculture, technology, and inequality. A thin layer of greed spread over our bran new world of things, relationships and gods. Empires and Religions rose and fell until the circle seems to be closing up and we are facing… each other again.

This timetable, based on the development of a hybrid brain changes the evolutionary view of human nature.

Homo sapiens emerged with an almost suicidal drive towards sociality, empathy, altruism, and emotionality. We used primates’ big brains, and rich sensory worlds fueling curiosity, especially the curiosity of others. Then we “bet” on sound-mediated communication, which turned out to be the “winner” bringing us off the brink of extinction.

The sound-mediated communication culminated in the invention of the language-selfhood-shared reality complex. 

This new toy combined with the relatively good climate gave us the abundance of the “Golden Age” with gods, art, and technology. Humans flourished spreading all over the planet.

And then, just recently,10, 000 years ago, let me repeat it: a thin slimy layer of greed appeared. 

How, why not earlier? It seems that the domestication process and concentration of the huge amount of people created the all-pervading illusion of happiness based on ownership.

Materialism, then capitalism and now we have to tame it or die. 

But, evil is not in our nature, we know that the happiness and satisfaction it gives are not real. Can we teach the new generation to get high on experiences?

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