At the very core of science lies a simple principle: when new evidence emerges we should change our minds. In theory, the scientific establishment’s record on this is perfect. In practice, scientists are humans whose whole living rests on their ideas. The destruction of their ideas is the destruction of their life’s work. Scientists defend their pet theories tooth and nail because that is what their livelihood, their identity, their status and their legacy depends on. Early in their careers scientists build their careers on pioneering new thoughts. Later in their careers scientists defend their careers by quashing new thoughts as a way to secure their continuing power. Anyone who has studied the history of science or worked in science understands why German physicist Max Planck said “Science proceeds one funeral at a time.” And yet, we can no longer afford that timeline. We can’t simply wait for the old guard to die out. The world moves too quickly and academia continues to bring book lists to a meme war. NISIS don’t play that way. NISIS realizes that it must not only promote the latest scientific thinking but it must hijack people’s attention using social media.
To that end, we at NISIS think it’s time we realize that Science has misclassified the dominant species on the planet: humans.
How we classify things (taxonomy) is something that is constantly under revision. In fact, the flood of genetic data over the last few decades has led to a massive reclassification of the entirety of biological life. Humans were classified as Homo Sapiens in 1758. Has no new data emerged in over a quarter of a millennia that might make us question how we classify ourselves? Well, in the last few decades it has. It’s now time that we acknowledged that and reclassified ourselves. We are not sapiens. We are socialis. And one simple image will reveal it. It is the core data behind humanity finally understanding humanity’s superpower.
The mistake of Carl Linnaeus in thinking humans were wise is understandable. After all, humans have made ships, guns, the scientific method, languages, painting and massive structures like The Great Wall of China. Whatcha got chimps and orangutans? Nothing. Clearly, we are far wiser than those other primates.
Except, of course, many of us are not. At this point in history, more humans have been fools than wise men. Should we really be classed as sapiens, the Latin word for wise? Before you answer, spend five minutes on the social media platform of your choice. Yeah. Humans are many things. Wise is what we aspire to be. It is not what we are. However, what social media does reveal is just how social we are. We want to know what other humans are up to. We’re concerned with what other humans think of us. And we gossip. We LOVE to gossip. We tease. We organize into companies, religions, countries and online communities. It is our hypersociality that is our defining characteristic. To build The Great Wall of China or accumulate the kind of insight necessary to make a language, gun or the scientific method, you need the ability to both learn from and coordinate the efforts of a lot of humans. Chimps and orangutans don’t have the social intelligence to pull that off. We do. There is no shame in Carl Linnaeus misclassifying our species. The data just wasn’t available. It is, however, imperative that we reclassify ourselves immediately. The price of not designing for humans as they are is that systems fail our people and we blame the people rather than the system.
Nowhere is the price of believing we are homo sapiens more obvious than in school. Kids are lined up at desks in tidy rows and PREVENTED from socializing. The very structure of school is set up to prevent humans from learning the way we learn. Why? Because the designers of the modern school system had internalized the same sort of bad assumptions that Carl Linnaeus had and combined them with the narrow-minded priorities of the Industrial Age. They aimed for the orderly nature of the production line and the isolation of the medieval scholar. And yet, in the process, they designed a system that got in the way of generations of humans using their superpower.
The reclassification of ourselves is not some academic question. It’s a smart social media strategy for getting the word out and changing our society for the better. Remember when Pluto was reclassified and no longer was considered a planet. It got a lot of attention. The reclassification of humanity will dwarf that controversy. As we #CreateTheControversy, we can then #TeachTheControversy grabbing attention from much of the silly nonsense that dominates people’s news feeds and letting them quickly know that we have the key insight on which to build a better world than any that has ever existed before. Now that we know humanity’s superpower we can do a very simple thing: we can design our whole society for humans as they are and not as we thought they should be.
The world can seem pretty bleak. Fear, anger and outrage is dominating the conversation at humanity’s first family dinner. However, there is one emotion that outcompetes those emotions: awe. How awe-inspiring that all this time we didn’t know what made humanity special? How awe-inspiring to imagine what we can achieve now that we understand humanity’s superpower? Our journey has only begun.
Katie O’Brien and I ended The Straight-A Conspiracy with a section called Generation Genius. That section began with this quote:
“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.” — Pablo Picasso
You were never told what you are. You are marvel. You are a member of homo socialis. We all are. We always have been. And now, it’s time to dust ourselves off learn from our many mistakes and finally make the world worthy of its children.