Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Human Social Evolution

If you are like most people, you have been influenced to think that, as human beings, we are living in a fully evolved civilization that has been around since the early days of the universe. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Contrary to popular opinion, human beings are in the early stages of their social evolution. Many well respected scientists have said that if the history of the universe were condensed into one full year then humans would have been on the earth for less than two hours.

Infancy of Human Evolution
Using the one year time frame, the Big Bang would have occurred on January 1st; Earth would have been formed around September 25th; and, the first humans would have arrived between 10:00pm and 11:00pm on the last day of the year - December 31st.  As amazing as it may seem, we are therefore in the infancy of human evolution.

Most people don’t believe this because humans can send a person to the moon, fly around the world in a few hours, use smart phones to communicate and process complex equations utilizing powerful computers. However, one of the little known secrets of human evolution is that throughout history most people remain satisfied with their world because they believe that they have evolved to the highest extent possible. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and even the Nazi Germans all thought that they had evolved to the highest level possible for humanity. However, history has proven that they were very wrong.

The case can be made that biologically we are extraordinarily advanced. However, the wide-spread prejudice, poverty and violence in our global society indicate that we are in the very early stages of human social evolution. The world is comprised of people of different experiences, genders, races, cultures, physical features, religions, sexual orientation, financial means, etc. It is logical to assume that the most advanced human society would celebrate and support this diversity in a way that would lead to wide-spread prosperity and peace.

Unfortunately, human society has not come close to evolving to that stage in social evolution. Intolerance-the lack of respect for people who are different, and the lowest level of human social evolution, is the rule not the exception. Tragically, the manifestations of intolerance (prejudice, discrimination and hatred) are commonplace in every country in the world.

The good news is that there are many people who demonstrate the second stage of social evolution-Tolerance. They recognize that diversity exists. They may not like or agree with people who are different. However, they choose to tolerate them. This reduces the violence caused by intolerance. However, it does not lead to a harmonious society.

There are a smaller number of people who demonstrate the third stage of social evolution-Concern. They do more than tolerate others. They are concerned about the well-being of people who are different from themselves. Unfortunately, this concern is frequently pity for the plight of the people who are different.

The fourth stage of social evolution is Empathy. In this stage people have an intellectual identification with the perspective of people who are different. The individuals who demonstrate this social ability are often extraordinarily successful in society because they have the ability to connect with many more individuals than people without this skill. Empathy is not the highest state of human social development because it inherently is rooted in a subtle arrogance of the people demonstrating the trait.

The final and most complex state of human social evolution is a state that I call “Interness.” In this state people may maintain many of their personal perspectives, however, they develop a deep emotional connection with the perspectives of people who are very different.  They approach human interaction from a state of perfect equality where neither party is superior in any way. This is the highest state of social human evolution because it creates the perfect balance between human beings who are inherently different. A society demonstrating this state of social interaction will celebrate and support diversity in a way that leads to wide-spread prosperity and peace.

Diversity Matters
People evolve socially when they interact with diverse groups of people on a regular basis. Fortunately, globalization and the internet have exposed more people than ever before to diverse groups of people. This has rapidly moved the youngest generations of people away from the stages of intolerance and tolerance. As a result a higher and higher percentage of people are moving toward the evolutionary stages of concern and even empathy.

However, Interness is an extremely difficult state to attain because it requires that people internalize the cultures of diverse groups of people around the world. This stage of social evolution can only be reached when most people on earth spend considerable time on a daily basis with many people who are very different. The good news is that the world is on a path to this stage of human social evolution. The bad news is that we are evolving very slowly.

What stage of human social evolution are you in? What are you doing to move to the next stage?