Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bear versus Superape

It was my second day on morphine when I first noticed the SuperApes—Apes with superpowers. Of course I was frightened. Not by the ones around me, they were using superpowers to help, but there were plenty of SuperApes with bad intentions. And we've just given them a whole new set of super powers.

People say that morphine can make you look at the world in different ways, but it wasn’t that. The view of the world I've been working on is already odd enough, anyway there I was thinking about bears. If a bear breaks it’s leg it’s chances of survival become pretty slim. The same is true for an ordinary ape.

To stand a chance of a full recovery from a simple injury an ape needs a lot of super-powers: From being able to travel great distances at high speed, or see through solid objects, to being able to transform rocks and minerals at will. Apes that can do that are truly SuperApes, and there I was surrounded by apes who can do all that and more.

Evolution of SuperApes

The theory of evolution tells us that we are a species of ape, but we have all of these powers, and more. We are so used to humans being able to do amazing things that we do not see ourselves as having super-powers.

 Our species of ape can fly to a different continent, or speak to a person on the other side of the planet and we accept this as ordinary. Humans have developed a system that gives each of us  vastly greater than biological evolution has given our bodies. As apes we can pass on our territory,  tools and our life learning to our great grandchildren.

What makes our species of ape different to other species is that we have developed a second way of passing advantage to our offspring. At its simplest this involves passing extra advantages, beyond the biological, to our offspring. The advantages come in the form of knowledge and rules.

Humans as SuperApes

Thinking of humans extra abilities as super-powers can tell us a lot: From why we wear clothes and don't have sex in the street—my inner teenager had been wondering—to why we have the types of laws we do. It might even possibly explain  why religion has been so important for the development of our societies. It can also tell us a lot about the conflicts that have shaped our society.

So if I was surrounded by ordinary people why was I frightened? It was not because they could kill or injury me. When you think about it you realize that SuperApes are less likely to attack than many other animals.

What is frightening is how the trade off of powers we make in order to get the benefits of relatively easy access to food, energy and all the other things we take for granted, make it possible for some individuals to dominate others Some individuals are able to dominate tens, thousands even millions of people. And the way our super-powers have developed means that domination can last a long time. It can last for decades,  generations even hundreds of years.

We are all vaguely aware that we each play a part in a system that lets us gain from advantage passed on by our ancestors. This brings most of us great benefits. The price we pay for that a few individuals are able to build up so much of a lead that their offspring can dominate societies for generations, sometimes for hundreds of years.

For me it carries a huge warning for where we are headed right now. We have added information

Bears versus Super Apes

How does a bear compare to a SuperApe?  Bears are big strong animals, in a fight they can easily kill a lion or tiger. So if you ever meet one in the wild it’s good to know that—while Darwin says you are only an ape—you’re an ape with super powers.

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