Humans: Current Status

The advancement of humans and our civilizations has been truly amazing.  We can see it in our lifetimes.  The first emergence of our human ancestors from the apes was approximately 6 million years ago.  If we treat the entire human period of development as a 24 hour day beginning at midnight, we don’t see the first use of hand held tools until 2:00 PM – 14 hours of relative inactivity in human development.  There is another long period of time until we see the first emergence of homo sapiens – not until 11:36 PM - only 24 minutes left in the day.  But, then the pace quickens.  With only 2 minutes 24 seconds left in the day we see the earliest signs of agriculture, with 1 minute 12 seconds left we see the first major civilizations such as Egypt.  The American Revolution occurs with only 3 seconds left in the day.  The very last second before the stroke of midnight sees humans develop electricity, cars, planes and computers.  The pace at the end of the day is dizzying.

Mithen creatively likens man’s development to a play with acts and scenes.  He describes the final (and current) scene as follows:

“As soon as the third scene of Act 4 begins, we see people in the Near East planting crops, and then domesticating animals. Events now flash past at bewildering speed. People create towns, and then cities. A succession of empires rise and fall and the props become ever more dominant, diverse and complex: in no more than an instant carts have become cars and writing tablets word processors. After almost 6 million years of relative inaction, we find it difficult to make sense of this final hectic scene.”

The current advancement of human civilizations is truly phenomenal - almost beyond comprehension.  One of the earliest major technology revolutions in our history was the development of agriculture, which resulted in periodic doubling of our food production and likewise freed our time to perform other tasks that helped advance the group.  Today we have overlapping technology revolutions.  Look at the current advances in computer inter-connectivity, information flow, voice communication (cell phone), advances in medical care, and advanced manufacturing techniques.  Each of these interacts with the others to result in exponential growth of our civilization.     

Human groups have evolved from small groups of hunter/gatherers, to small agricultural communities, to towns, cities, and nations.  Each increase in the group size required a more sophisticated social organization – one that could both serve and hold together large numbers of humans.  The Western Civilization of which we are a part leads the current developments that are spiraling upward. 

The civilization we have developed is amazingly complex.  Have you ever wondered how it all holds together?  I am continuously amazed that our systems of government regulations, company rules, wage structure, natural resources utilization, manufacturing capability, taxes, forms, machinery, food production, scheduling, entertainment, etc…..actually “works”.  Think about what you and others that you know do in a typical day.  How is it all orchestrated to work in harmony? - water comes from my faucet, electricity from the wall socket, clothes in my size are readily available in numerous stores, I have a laundry machine to clean them, a newspaper is delivered to me each day, I can rely on TV news precisely at 6:30 PM each day, my car starts when I turn the key, fuel is readily available when I need it, I can address a letter and it will be delivered anywhere in the world, and I can send an e-mail message to anyone almost instantaneously.  How does this all work? 

We are each highly dependent upon one another, but it is “organized” through our systems of commerce, business, social organizations etc. such that we don’t usually think about it or even realize it. 

The individual contributions of each person are very well coordinated by our systems.  Each person goes through their week and contributes to the whole by way of the job they perform along with their other daily activities that contribute to the health, welfare and/or general well being of others in the group.   We each largely proceed through our daily activities without even thinking about how inter-reliant we are, or that our individual activities are contributing to the benefit of the group. Also, when we think of “group”, we are more likely to think about our department at work, the club to which we belong, our athletic team, our minority group, etc.  We don’t usually think of our group in terms of the civilization to which we each belong and contribute.  However, we each definitely can feel the ties to our country and to our western civilization.  Just recall your feelings and the outpouring of feelings from others on 9/11/2001.  We each felt that we had been personally attacked.

We each are normally so consumed in our daily living that we fail to recognize the significance of what we have around us.