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Does Killing and Domination Make Us Smarter?

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"Man has come to dominate the planet thanks to two essential traits. One is intelligence. The other has been the absolute willingness to kill anyone and anything that gets in his way." ~Stephen King

Recently I saw the movie Lucy and while it was entertaining, it's kind of amazing how a movie about using the full capacity of our mind was written with so little mental capacity and imagination. Rather than Lucy using her incredible abilities to develop and provide solutions that could transform our world, she uses her powers for high-speed car chases and overcoming Chinese drug lords.

This reminds me of another movie, Bruce Almighty, where Jim Carrey, playing Bruce, is given all the powers of God. He uses his divine powers to get a newscasting job and girlfriend back rather than making the world more beautiful, sustainable, just and loving. Moreover, even though movies like Star Wars and Avatar are inspiring and entertaining, a common theme is to pit the forces of good and evil against each other, requiring the good guys to compromise their values and engage in acts of brutality, killing and war to emerge victorious.

In Lucy, Professor Samuel Norman, played by Morgan Freeman, is lecturing to a room of academics that we, humans, only use 10% of our brain's capacity, whereas dolphins use 20% of their brain's capacity. This got me thinking, are dolphins smarter than us? What makes us think we're smarter than dolphins? The answer is that we believe that because we can trap them, kill them and dominate them, we are superior.

We have employed this same belief system of destruction, killing, war and domination for centuries - committing genocide on indigenous tribes, destroying nature and conquering nations. We are now at the threshold of foolishly extinguishing ourselves as a species.

So what does smarter and superior really mean? Bacteria, viruses and fungus actually are the most dominant, resilient and adaptable species on this planet. Because they can make us sick and kill us does it make them smarter?

What is it about our culture that perpetuates the belief that killing and domination somehow makes us superior and more intelligent than those we dominate and kill? How can we use our brilliance to create an abundant, well & thriving world?

Maybe true intelligence is using our brilliance, effort and resources to create a world of ecosystemic thriving that is abundant, healthy and peaceful.

The definition of "Human Intelligence" has been debated almost as much as the definition of love, but a commonly accepted definition is one's capacity for understanding, self-awareness, logic, abstract thought, communication, learning, memory, emotional knowledge, creativity and problem solving.

David Weschler, psychologist and researcher, defined intelligence as, "The aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment."

Robert Sternberg, a prominent figure in the research of human intelligence, defines human intelligence as a "mental activity directed toward purposive adaptation to, selection and shaping of, real-world environments relevant to one's life."

Sternberg's Triarchic Theory of Intelligence consists of 3 forms of intelligence, as follows:

1. Practical Intelligence is a person's ability to react to his or her environment and adapt to it or change it to suit their needs. Practical intelligence is the ability to thrive in the real world.

"Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change."~Stephen Hawking

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed." ~Mahatma Gandhi

2. Experiential (Creative) Intelligence relates to the way a person approaches new information or circumstances and is able to develop solutions based upon prior experience or create a new solution based upon innovative approaches.

"Jeff Sachs has the Millennium Villages. He spends $2.5 million in one village. It's an absolutely ridiculous model, because I've said that if you gave me $2.5 million, I can train 100 grandmothers, solar electrify 100 villages - 10,000 houses - and save you 100,000 litres of kerosene"~Bunker Roy, Founder of the Barefoot College

3. Componential (Analytical) Intelligence which refers to a persons ability to analyze information and use logic, knowledge and strategy to develop solutions.

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting"~Sun Tzu

Based on the foregoing, "intelligence" is, in essence, the ability of a person to successfully adapt to environmental changes and thrive throughout their life with the least amount of conflict, energy, violence and harm.

In using this definition of intelligence, it appears that we are actually one of the stupidest species on the planet. Even though humankind has created many wondrous things, we have also created, and continue to perpetuate, a world full of untenable levels of war, toxicity, injustice and over-consumption leading to disease, poverty, irreversible damage to our biosphere and increased risk of human extinction.

We think our industrialized and weaponized "civilization" as progressive and far superior to that of hunter-gatherers. The popular view of hunter-gatherers, as promulgated by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 is that their lives are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." But have we really made progress? Have we really created a higher quality of life with greater health and ecosystemic thriving?

According to Marshall Sahlins, anthropoligist and professor emeritus at University of Chicago, hunter-gatherers only worked about 15-20 hours a week in order to survive and devoted the rest of their time to leisure.

In his "original affluent society" theory, Sahlins shifted the anthropological view of hunter-gatherers from primitive savages to practitioners of refined modes of subsistence. According to Sahlins, "the hunter-gatherer societies were able to achieve affluence by desiring little and meeting those desires with what was available to them. In the industrial society "man's wants are great, not to say infinite, whereas his means are limited" and "the gap between means and ends can eventually be narrowed by industrial productivity."

The issue with Sahlins argument about industrialized society being affluent is that natural resources have been extracted and exploited without restoring and replenishing them and the damage to our biosphere has rendered the once unrecognized and undervalued work of natural capital unable to keep up with human demand and destruction. According to , WWF's "Living Planet Report," we exhausted the carrying capacity of the planet in 1979 while our population and consumption continues to increase. Our society has the illusion of affluence, yet there are billions of humans suffering to support this illusion. For instance, over 3.5 billion people live in extreme poverty ($2.50 or less per day) and another 1.5 billion people live in poverty (less than $10 per day) while 85 of the wealthiest individuals control more resources than 3.5 billion of the poorest.

Additionally, research of animal behavior has evidenced that animals in the wild appear to be relatively free from eating disorders, depression and addiction, whereas laboratory, caged and domesticated animals do have these disorders. So what is it about our society, our disconnection from nature, the cages we create for ourselves and animals that leads to behavioral disorders and sociopathy?

Nature has 4.5 billion years of wisdom and provides us with everything we need to live abundant and thriving lives. Yet we have the arrogance to think that we are smarter than nature and that our man-made systems are superior to nature. For example, it is a generally accepted meme that due to scientific and medical advancement, we are able to live longer, more healthy lives, while our poor ancient ancestors were lucky to live past the age of 35. However, the studies that support this view, skew the results with infant mortality rates and statistical averaging. According to Satoshi Kanazawa, when infant mortality rates were removed from the studies, the life span of hunter-gatherers was calculated to between 70 and 80 years, the same rate as that found in contemporary industrialized societies.

The domination, killing, destruction, increased work and effort of modern society are not the hallmarks of intelligence, but rather stupidity. How can we use the 10% of our mental capacity more intelligently and effectively? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a world of peace, abundance and thriving
  • Develop a regenerative economy with meaningful and fulfilling work focused on ecosystemic and economic thriving
  • Restore, respect and serve the planet
  • Reallocate war spending to projects that benefit people & planet with renewable energy and materials, reforestation, water infrastructure, proliferation of permaculture farms, edible landscaping and smart communities
  • Implement "Living Technologies" that regenerate resources and improve planetary health
  • Localization and "living microgrids"
  • Utilize true cost accounting to acknowledge the value of natural capital and the costs of externalities such as war, ecological destruction, social injustice, cultural genocide and bad health.
  • Share more, consume less
  • Create a balance between profits, growth, social responsibility and ecosystemic thriving, where the social and ecological imperative is superior to the economic imperative

When we can cast aside our arrogance and give reverence to the superiority of nature, we might start using the 10% of our mental capacity in a truly intelligent way.