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Human Evolution, Cultural Evolution, and Mass Hysterical Devolution

Human Evolution, Cultural Evolution, and Mass Hysterical Devolution
By Mark Changizi’s Human Factory • Issue #44 • View online
Where humans are going, and how to prevent them from sliding sideways into the imaginary.

The above diagram gives a high-level overview of one swathe of my research over the years, a swathe devoted to making sense of what we humans are.
Human 1.0: A lot of my research, including much of my earlier book, Vision Revolution, concerns our biology sans culture. Research in this vein I refer to as Human 1.0, or about the way natural selection built us. Our organic selves.
Human 2.0: But another push in my research over the years has concerned how it is that we came to have language, writing, and many of the other things that are so remarkably strange among animals. I argue in books like Harnessed (and also in part of Vision Revolution) that, over time, cultural evolution has shaped artifacts and many facets of the built world around us to exquisitely harness our Human 1.0 instincts, and convert them into new powers. We have the 2.0 power of reading only because cultural evolution shaped writing to look like the contour-conglomerations in natural scenes. It’s tricks like that that make us qualitatively different creatures: Human 2.0.
Human 3.0: And, what’s next? I take that up in a hybrid novel (part fiction, part non-fiction) about the sort of future one might imagine for humans. What might Human 3.0 look like?
Human i.0: But over the last year and a half the world has seen more clearly than ever that we all – and not just “those faraway weird cultures” – are susceptible to mass hysteria and subsequent delusional mass movements. It is events like this have always plagued societies, and account for the worst episodes in history. But now we’re all connected by social media, and the dangers are even greater. These issues come up in my book, Human 3.0, but at FreeX we’re devoted entirely to understanding these emergent psych-societal forces. One might call these humans – rather than getting a 1.0 or 2.0 or any normal number – “Human i.0,” as in the imaginary number i. Why? Because mass delusions of this kind push entire subsets of a society into believing imaginary things, via strong difficult-to-unravel social narratives.
In a sense, then, at FreeX we’re trying to understand the rightward-pointing arrow so that we can stop it. We want us moving upward, or, at any rate, not rightward.
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You have entered the realm of my inner creative thoughts aimed at connecting science to the broad issues that affect us all, but with a special focus these days on the science underlying free expression, the topic of our new research institute, FreeX (

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