Humans are Evolving - for better or worse?Dec 08, 2022
Humans are Evolving – but will it be for better or worse?
We’ve all heard of “evolution” – learning at a young age in science class how everything evolves over time to grow in order to better survive. But did you know evolution doesn’t always have to be positive? We can, in fact, experience the opposite.
Evolution does not always lead to more advanced species. Evolution is simply a description of the way change occurs in biological creatures over many generations in order to better exploit a certain environment.
Daniel Lieberman, in his book, Dysevolution, suggests “dysevolution” is the process by which a species changes its environment to become less suited to its own survival and lets those changes persist from generation to generation.
One example of dysevolution is a vicious circle of treating the symptoms of disease instead of finding the cause. As a species, we’ve begun making choices that are impacting our evolution such as processed food, sterilized environments, and sedentary lifestyles. By improving technology, focusing on inexpensive mass production of food, and trying to reduce illness we’ve most certainly negatively impacted our health and well-being.
What is contributing to our choices?
“Our ignorance of delayed feedback loops contributes heavily to the persistence of these diseases. Why stress about cavities ten years from now when you can enjoy chocolate today? To compound this effect, we’ve gotten better at treating symptoms of these diseases. For example, as dental care becomes more sophisticated and less painful, sugary processed food becomes more appealing.
Another reason these diseases persist is that the problems they cause don’t seriously threaten reproduction, even though they diminish our quality of life.
They occur after we’ve crossed our reproductive prime (Osteoporosis or diabetes), or, like cavities - they are mild enough in their early stages to not seriously impact our reproductive success rate. If a disease prevented us from reproducing, those susceptible to it wouldn’t have heirs.
Misaligned incentives in our existing medical and governance systems also contribute to dysevolution. Hospitals and Pharmaceutical companies are incentivized to keep developing more convenient cures for symptoms because it makes them more money. Governments get more brownie points for looking after the sick than they would if they advised the healthy.
And so, the spiral continues.” (Pereria, Louis. 2021. Dysevolution explained in exactly 500 words (complexitycondensed.com))
The example provided above may not seem problematic long-term (although I might argue they will most certainly have long-term consequences), but there is another area that is most certainly a concern.
Mental Health Diseases
We’ve all become more than cognizant of the increase in mental health diseases and issues (especially in children) in over the course of the past few years. A recent CNN poll found that 90% of U.S. adults say the United States is experiencing a mental health crisis.
Currently, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience serious mental illness. One in 10 youth in the U.S. are currently experiencing depression that is severely impairing their ability to function.
Our brains are not wired to live in a world with the massive amounts of information available and the growing lack of connection. People are clearly suffering as a result of the world we’ve created today – a world built upon our current workplace, family, and community structures.
How are our workplaces contributing?
The workplace is contributing to this challenge in a variety of ways such as extremely high demands, insufficient resources, and a lack of meaningful connection to others and the work being performed. As I shared in an earlier article, burnout has become an epidemic as people continue to suffer the effects of a system that is harming rather than helping them.
As people experience extreme stress and burnout, they are more likely to skip doctors’ appointments, have insufficient time for exercise or to cook healthy meals, and struggle to find time for play and building meaningful connections with others. I can speak from personal experience how all self-care began to disappear with higher stress and burnout. In fact, I am still to this day deal with the long-term health consequences of such extreme stress.
Cleary, unless our workplaces are willing to evolve and change, we as a species will continue to experience the negative effects of their choices. If we want to prevent the current dysevolution from happening, we must consider how to evolve our workplaces, homes, and communities to create a different world for us to live in.
What can we do?
Let’s consider how we might look at our life experience through a different lens. Traditional evolution paints a picture of growth for survival with those who are best equipped surviving into the future carrying those traits forward. This approach to evolution generally only considers how the species is responding to changes in the environment in order survive and how those genes/traits are being passed on through generations. It does not take into consideration how the species might change their environments and purposefully adjust themselves during the lifetime to survive and reproduce.
Let’s use an example for physics, we know now from quantum physics that at the most basic level everything is made up of both particles and waves (e.g., light can be viewed either as a particle or a wave). Quantum physics has illustrated that presence or observation can change the particles or waves.
Likewise, can we as humans change our evolution by modifying our environment and purposely, intentionally adjusting ourselves during our lifetime?
I believe wholeheartedly the answer to this controversial question is a resounding “Yes!” Certainly, modifying our environment would change our evolution. But more importantly, if we can intentionally adjust ourselves (evolve ourselves) to produce more positive outcomes maybe we can improve, not just ourselves but our families, workplaces, communities, countries, species, and maybe even the world.
I recognize I might be obsessed with understanding performance and neuroscience in order to truly make a difference in the world. But if by purposely shifting our evolution away from the negative consequences we are currently experiencing (mental health issues, disease, and burnout), we can improve our species, isn’t it more than worth the effort?
- If we can leverage the knowledge and technology that exists today and truly evolve our workplaces to positively impact more people, wouldn’t it be worth the effort?
- If we can transform how we interact and build connection with one another to evolve our relationships and families wouldn’t it be worth the effort?
- If we can shift our level of understanding and capacity to evolve ourselves to be a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled species, wouldn’t it be worth the effort?
I really think, truly feel, and deeply know it is more than worth the effort!
Call to Action!
If you agree and want to begin influencing your own evolution, that of your family, your workplace, or your community here are a few ways to get started:
- Consider ways you might proactively evolve yourself to live a better life
- Look at your environment and make changes to evolve it for the better
- Workplaces could consider evolving to a new model that supports human evolution
- Families can evolve to create an environment conducive to growth
- Communities can evolve to incorporate better practices into their activities supporting evolution
I created my company, Evolving to Exceptional, to do just this! To provide training, coaching, tools, technology, and programs that will support individuals, workplaces, families, and communities on their journey to evolve themselves for better outcomes and results in their lives and those of all people impacted by them.
Whether you use our content and resources or not, I urge you to consider becoming proactive in your own evolution and that of your environment.
Look at your life through a lens where you can not only shape your own evolution and life but that of the entire human species – one small choice and change at a time!
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