Neanderthals and humans split from the same species trunk around 500,000 years ago. Then, for a few hundred thousand years, we kicked together.
But shit happens. The Pleistocene Epoch ended and put a freeze on two and a half million years of Ice Age. Life got hot. Quickly. The freezy pop that was Europe thawed and humans spread out from Africa. Bye-bye Neanderthals.
But don’t get too weepy, they lasted 700,000 years. PGR. Pretty good run. After all, humans aren’t going to last that long. TBSS. Too bad so sad.
Let’s look at the timeline.
From 500,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE Homo Sapiens got by as hunter gathers. PGR. We invented fire along the way, our first technology, and by 30,000 years ago we'd hit our cave art hippy phase, solidifying our second great technological breakthrough - language. (SB. Side bar: Anyone who thinks ‘technology’ is a modern invention deserves a cosmic kick in the icicles. Technology is the ability to transfer information inside a vessel. Words are a base technology; computer code is a variant.)
At 10,000 BCE the human population was roughly 5 million. Then agriculture happened and everything started to change.
From 10,000 BCE to 5000 BCE the human population grew from 5 million to 10 million, that’s a double. (Think Hans Landis from Inglorious Bastards – “That’s a Bingo!”). Things changed dramatically from the previous 500,000 thousand years, but it wasn’t a sprint, 5,000 years is still a long time.
Next up horses got domesticated and conquering culture began, wiping out goddess and fertility worshipping civilizations. War became the way.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. Around 4,000 BCE the third great technological innovation happened, the forge. Fire can now transform metal. We get the Copper Age, the Bronze Age, and notably the end of The Stone Age, which lasted for a couple million years. PGR.
At 500 BCE, Aramaic became an official language, Roman Law was codified into twelve tablets, and the Iron Age took over. The world as we know it hit the stage. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt a hundred years later - cue the dawn of Western civilization.
Population wise, we were at 100 million. Ten times what it was back in 5,000 (Three Doubles!) But 4500 years is still a PLT. Pretty long time.
By the time we got to you know who, when BCE became CE (formerly AD, times change, pun intended) the population was between 200-300 million. Five hundred years for a double. Aqueducts and trade routes and orgies oh my. Cooking with gas.
But then things leveled off when technology and science were subverted by modern religion.
Reminder: the Greeks were onto the concept of the atom before the Catholic church rounded up all printed texts regarding the little bugger and locked them away for 1600 years. It’s not that people got smarter at the end of the Middle Ages, it’s that the printing press broke the church’s stranglehold on knowledge.
Then again, if we blow ourselves up, maybe locking it up was the right call. TBD.
Point being, at 500 CE, when we might have expected another double, we were still at 200-300 million humans on the planet. By 1000 CE we were up to 350 million. Still growing, but not by orders of magnitude.
At 1500 CE we were around 500 million people. It took 1,500 years to double. Things had slowed down, settled in for the long haul, could last for eons. WBAM. Wrong by a mile.
The Industrial Revolution and Enlightenment knocked on the door and population wise we were off to the races.
By 1900, we were at 1.65 billion. 400 years for a doubling and a half. Remember when it took 5,000 years to double? LFTA.
In 1940 we were at 2.3 billion. 40 years to increase by 40%. Electricity, assembly lines, nitrous fertilizer, and modern medicine are taking care of business, but at that rate it would still take 150 years to double. At that pace we’d hit 5 billion in 2090.
Because the one thing electricity and machines and fertilizer can’t do is compute. We can build bombs and planes and skyscrapers and roads and grow mass quantities of food, but only with humans running the systems and machines. We can’t compute faster than human.
Then 1945 happens. The atom got split. But more importantly, in order to do that, the first complete electronic computer got built. We moved computation outside of the cranium; we externalized our intelligence.
Then in one lifetime, 80 years, the population QUADRUPLED. A double double! Bingo Bingo! For all of human history it took thousands, and then hundreds, of years to double our population. Then we did it twice in one generation. UO. Uh-Oh.
We are now at almost 8 billion. The rate of growth over the last century is so far out of any norm for Homo Sapiens that we are all living an outlier existence. None of us know what it’s like to be human during a ‘normal’ human existence.
We’ve been here as a species for over half a mil. As a civilization for 12,000 grand. And as a doubling every 4 decades behemoth super organism for one click.
Not a single Homo Sapien alive before 1940 was part of the ‘species’ we have become. Nomenclature wise we can quibble, but the point is we are not the same. The times aren’t a changing, we’re a changing.
(SB. Living by moors and edicts from earlier ages, be they cultures from thousands of years ago or economic conceptions from hundreds of years ago, is PS. Painfully stupid.)
FYI, there is a BF difference between population size and rate of population growth. It’s not just how many we are, it’s how fast we’re growing.
Visual: There are little elephants and big elephants. But there aren’t elephants that grow 100 times faster than other elephants. That creature would no longer be called an elephant. Because a fundamental change in internal structure is required for a thing to change its growth rate so substantially.
A terminate colony takes around 5 years to build a 15-foot termite mound.
If you woke up tomorrow to find termites could build a 100-foot mound in under a week, would you say ‘same old termites’? Or would you say ‘WTF are those?!’
If you planted a zucchini this evening and woke up tomorrow to find it fully grown, would you think, ‘another damn zucchini’. Or would you call the white coat number.
You’d think it was magic, or mayhem. Or something. Yet those three examples are the exact rate change our population growth has undergone.
LDD. Let’s dig deeper.
A common misconception of evolution is that it’s about constant mutation and change to gain advantage. The opposite is true. As crocodiles and cockroaches will tell you, evolution’s primary aim is homeostasis. A creature finds its spot and sticks.
Until the environment changes. Only when the balance is altered do creatures begin altering themselves through mutation and adaptation. They’re not just adapting for the hell of it, like trying on new outfits.
Humans were humanish for a couple million years (Homo Erectus) and then fully human for a few hundred thousand (Homo Sapiens). A hell of a long time. We had fire, and sticks, and life was FG. For a long time.
So, what changed?
Climate. A global warming. SF. Sound familiar?
The Ice Age didn’t wither away, it melted like an ice cube on a summer grill. It went from ice sheet to present day temperatures in 30,000 years. Species that had been playing it cool for two and half million years were like, um, what, I’m wearing a parka.
And humans were primed for this change in environment. An internal biological adaption created the capacity for unbounded external adaptations in the new landscape: the PFC. Pre-frontal cortex. It makes whiskers and spots look like child’s play in the evolution game. Once the world was no longer an ice rink, outward we expanded from Africa.
Iron. Tools. Lights, roads, castles, clocks, armies, weapons, wheels, irrigation, farming equipment, the printing press, electricity and finally in 1945 we pull off the alchemist’s miracle and split matter itself. Though it’s the machine we built to do it which is the real fulcrum. The game changer. Or rather SP. Species changer.
ETR. End timeline review. Take a moment, the implication calls for it: We aren’t Homo Sapiens anymore.
Oh sure, we share a lot of biological traits with Homo Sapiens (and the same maddening existential experience), but we are not the same organism anymore.
A giraffe isn’t a giraffe because of how it feels about being a giraffe. It’s a giraffe because it has the long neck. It is the thing it has, or does, that no other creature has or does that defines it. For Homo Sapiens it was growth in brain function. All that we have created as humans is a symptom of increased brain function; consciousness is our ‘long neck’. That was the adaption that defined everything about us.
Now we’ve got another adaption. We externalized the brain. We built a species size central nervous system. An outdoor PFC. BTM. Big time mutation. And we did it again right before another massive global warming. (Not coincidentally - we caused it, oops.)
The computer and internet are to our new species what the PFC and consciousness were to hominids a million years ago.
Our food sources, our roadways, our transportation, our fuel, our communications, our electricity and housing, the speaking of our myths and stories, the maintenance of our bodies, the organization of our entire world culture, all of it now depends on computers. The computations required for our entire infrastructure to function can no longer be managed by humans. We are interwoven with data processors so deeply that one could not even choose to step outside of it.
You want to live off the grid? You’ll need a generator. What fuels it? Who builds it? If it is fueled or built by any process which involves computer technology, you’re not out of it, you’re still dependent on it. Can you get gas without a computer used to extract and distribute oil, drive the truck which carries it?
There are no true survivalists left except remote native tribes. Everyone else is cosplaying.
We don’t think about it because it was never true before. We haven’t been taught to plan for it because who would have taught us? We’ve never been here before.
Yes, humans have pooled knowledge for thousands of years in book technology. Ideas and plans were written down and passed along and collected and universally available to the literate. But the book couldn’t do anything with the data in it. It was strictly a repository. Our evolution, this insane adaptive leap we just took, is that our knowledge is now stored AND processed externally. HFS.
We outsourced thinking. There aren’t enough exclamation points for that. (Meanwhile we freak each other out playing adherence sticklers to obtuse desert dweller edicts scrawled out when sunrise, noon and sunset were the only concepts of time. SD. So dumb.)
Some might bristle and scoff at what I’m suggesting.
“80 years ago computers didn’t exist, and humans flourished! We were around for thousands of years before computers! We got here without them, how could we be ‘dependent’ on them now? I didn’t have one growing up and there was still everything! I took a Noles trip and survived almost two weeks in nature!”
I get it. It defies our intuitive sense, because our intuitive sense is still rooted in what used to be. But the birth of the human/external processor hybrid has already happened.
It’s basic math. We’re almost at 8 billion. If every computer and computer functionality disappeared tomorrow, how many would survive?
VF. Very Few.
Yes, the Homo Sapiens species might survive. But only a few of us. Far fewer than were here before the computer, because now all of our supply and demand chains are built for mass populations; pull the plug now and we’d dwindle like snowflakes in August. What we are now depends on our massive externalized brain.
Goodbye Homo Sapiens, hello Homo Digitus!
If you thought you were playing for team human, I get it, this is a bummer.
But if you believed you were only ever playing for team nature, or team god, then this is a divine moment. Truly.
As a species, we have just left the cocoon. We have transformed, and we do not yet know into what.
Like a butterfly that can choose its own colors, our new selves come with a PF handy aspect. We can conceive of and build an entirely new world without leaving this one. We are no longer limited by the physical dimension.
Let that sink in.
Once we put away our kiddie toys, our ism’s and indoctrinations and misguided belief in competition for resources, we can build a world beyond anything our ancestors imagined.
We are a super organism, with a single central nervous system, so we should act like it. It can do what a single human brain cannot conceive of doing, what a single brain would declare impossible because the scope of it exceeds the functionality of an individual nervous center.
(Reminder: there were only a few hundred million people on the entire planet when our 30-something prophets spoke their words a couple thousand years ago. They know as much about being human today as a T-Rex knows about apiaries. Yes, their poetry is still a wonderful primer for inner peace, but none of their prescriptions include the nature of what we are today. So, sorry, but kind of, STFU.)
If we don’t find new voices and paradigms to respond to our entirely new way of being, we are SOL.
We’re wasting the most incredible miracle in 5 billion years of natural evolution and divine creation to play video games, titillate our genitals, and spawn hate like Neanderthals spatting over a thigh bone.
We’re like a Homo Erectus who saw fire and thought, oh cool, I can light my farts. Meanwhile the brand-new Homo Sapiens thought, oh cool, I can cook food and light the night. It’s time to level up again. To do that we have to let go of using computers to feed our amygdalian instincts.
We must stop using computers to play at what we were.
We’re not Sapiens anymore. We’re Digitus. The definition of what that is, is ours to write.