We are still Cavemen

TC_HominidTimeline_curved

We may think a lot of ourselves because we have conquered many diseases, coerced electricity into giving us the Internet and Social Media, and managed to make air travel a normalcy but the mindset has not changed much since the dawn of humanity.

We still behave like cavemen.

For instance, men automatically consider an attractive women to be available for sex, period. That is what happens in Nature, candidates to mating are prepping themselves so to be attractive to their other half when mating season is on. Men brains still equates attractiveness to sexual readiness. It was true for the last 7 millions years, our 5,000 years of civilization has changed the social construct around the instinctive behavior but this is it. Men and women still tend to blame rape victims for being provocative. (One problem humans have is that mating season is open year round…)

Man is still the worst enemy of man. It does not take much for people to loot, rob and mug each other. In normal times we justify greed and call it business or scam, but dire conditions will bring the worst out of everyone in no time.

We may think that a lot has been achieved and we sit on millions of years of knowledge but the timeline is showing that most progress is recent compared to hominid history. Our nature did not have time to adapt. Technology has changed, living conditions have changed, but the wiring of the brain has not.

One indicator is that a lot of behaviors did not change at all since the beginning of recorded history 5,000 years ago.

The earliest inscriptions considered as actual writing are estimated to be around 3500 BC,
Early hieroglyphs date back as far as 3,300 BC and people jumped on the opportunity to express what obviously was important back then.

The idea that the young have no respect for their elders or traditions, that things are falling apart and the good old days are bygone has been recorded as early as 3,000BC

We can think of City Harvest and other charitable organizations that feed the needy as a long awaited solution to a long ignored problem but the poor eating the scraps of the rich has been recorded as soon as royal feasts were depicted.

BuddhaOntheRocks_2

Meditation can be retraced quite far, like 1,500BC in Vedic text of the Hindu tradition and all religions have involved repetitive chants (mantras) and called transient states since day one.

Why these people needed to meditate in the first place? Supposedly the times were slower and a lot less distractions were available. Obviously the need to quiet the mind is not new.

People always tried to cheat each other. Flatterers thrive on Fools’ credulity and other moral stories on human behavior in Aesop’s fables have been written around 600BC yet modern scholarship reveals fables and proverbs of Aesopic form existing in both ancient Sumer and Akkad, as early as the third millennium BCE. (Wikipedia)

Regardless of what can be said of the Bible, it clearly describes events happening about 4,000 years ago and already tries to manage the problem of high interests and debt reduction.

If you lend money […] you shall not exact interest from him.
— Exodus 22:25
You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, […] You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest.
— Deuteronomy 23:19-20

Nevertheless, artifacts identified as money can be traced back to only 17,000 BC and the first evidences of writing (4,000 BC) were actually bookkeeping.

Gaming started as early as 5,000 years ago as some mancala found in Sumeria can attest.

CopyrightOLD

3,500 BC was also the advent of the Cylinder Seal confirming that the need to seal, stamp and brand items to assuage property rights was already a concern and finally someone came up with a solution.

Just in case we had thought prostitution would have been a more recent institution, in Genesis 38:12, Judah left his seal (among other identifying personal items) as a pledge to pay for sex with a prostitute. When Judah sent payment to the lady, she could not be found and people asked about her where obviously not shocked at the idea of a prostitute in the vicinity.

The archeological site of the Turkana Basin has revealed proof of cruelty and warfare dated 10,000 years old. The remains of a pregnant woman executed with her hands tied was found among the remains of a total 27 brutally killed individuals, including at least eight women and six children. So much for the gentle hunters gatherers who supposedly supplanted the allegedly barbaric Neanderthals. (there were no Neanderthals in Turkana but you got my point)

You may think all that is fairly recent and Cavemen were of a different era but Cave Painting is mostly dated 40,000 to 10,000 years old, the Cro Magnon and Neanderthals lifestyle was still in fashion until agriculture started 15,000 years ago and the first cities emerged 9,000 years ago.

You may stop and say, waaait a minute, all that is waaay back now, things have changed nowadays.

Actually not. What has changed is the advances in technology and social constructs we use to lead our lives, but not the way we think. We still have the emotions of our ape ancestors.

Consider this.

Writing, technology, exchange, money, lending, interest, painting, bookkeeping, social organization, rules, laws, stealing, lying, bitching about the old times, are all functions of the most recent part of the brain, the Neocortex a.k.a. Left Brain a.k.a. Brain 3.0. (so is masturbation and sexual obsession, by the way)

In the timeline of our History of the Mind, you can see, that even basic stuffs such as Control of Fire, Tool Making and Weapons or Mortuary Practices, which all stem from the brain 3.0 that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom, are respectively 700,000, 300,000 and 100,000 years old.

HominidTimeline

The part of the brain that handles Fear, Anger, Sorrow and all the other emotions has been set in its current configuration at least 25 millions years ago (the Limbic system, siege of emotions first appeared in early mammals, 200 millions years ago).

But let’s give ourselves some slack and let’s say our emotional brain was wired 7 millions years ago, when humans started to really differentiate themselves from the other apes. That means what we call civilization started after humans spent 6,995,000 years living quite close to Nature. There is no way that Evolution created new emotion handling gray matter devices in 5,000 years when it took 6,900,000 years to create the emotional circuitry in the brain to get us feel obligated to bury our dead.

Even if we were ready to admit it would take 1,000 generations to have a new blob growing in the brain to handle a new set of information, we would be short: 5,000 years is barely 250 generations.

Pictures, videos, emoticons and smileys seem to be more intuitive to a lot of people than writing. Why do you think a picture is worth a thousand words? Because the brain had longer training at handling images (at least 25 millions years) than writing (5,000 years) or even verbal language (est. 50,000 years). That is why language is barely 7% of communication. The rest is handled at a way more perfected level of perception, the 25 millions years old Limbic system.

And as science fiction and apocalypse movie suggest, we seem to be absolutely OK to go back to a dog eat dog world where Survival of the Fittest is the rule. Sure, we all agree that this is pure fiction, that zombies, vampires or aliens will not roam around anytime soon, but we also all agree on what is right or wrong to do in these depictions of a more challenging world.

Because we are still Cavemen

There are many humorous things in the world;
among them, the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.
— Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World