70,000 Years of Cognitive Revolution Led Us Here
Homo Sapiens (or in other words, us) have been known to have existed in the current form on the planet earth for the past 70,000 years. For a very long time, until recently, we were not the most effective species. We had huge brains, children born prematurely, lower muscle strength than other species of humans, and we were pretty vulnerable to nature.
We were originally in the African region and then we expanded internationally. Before Homo Sapiens, we had Homo Erectus, who lived somewhere in the middle of the food chain for 2.5 million years on earth. 70,000 Years back, we also had Neanderthals, and many other species of human beings.
However, Homo Sapiens were the only ones with enhanced cognitive abilities. With the addon cognition, we could form better social ties with better communication. Our investment in the brain, at the cost of a muscular and strong body started paying off very late. However, it was the best investment we’ve ever made a species.
Neanderthals were far more stronger than us, but they couldn’t exist in groups of more than 50 people because their cognition did not allow them to communicate better. Chimpanzees also exist only in small groups of 20-50, each group having its own Alpha male and a social structure.
Homo Sapiens were able to be in groups of 500 or even 1000 people because they could communicate with each other better.
One of the things that brought Homo Sapiens together to form large communities was – stories.
Homo Sapiens are the only species of animals who could imagine something beyond what actually exists. They were able to create stories about God and guardian spirits.
The Lion Man of Hohlenstein-Stadel is the oldest known piece of art by Homo Sapiens. This sculpture dates to around 30,000 years back.
This is proof that, Homo Sapiens were the first species to be able to go beyond communication – and that’s imagination.
Communication and interpersonal relationships brought up to 50 people together – a size of a small tribal group. Their goal was to care for the tribe, and make sure everyone survives. However, if the common goal is to feed and nurture the tribe, it became conflicting with sizes of 100+.
With myths, belief in God and imagination, it was possible to get many people believe in a common thing – a God, or a guardian Lion Man who is the supreme leader, whom we should please. Since then there has been a lot of different Gods and beliefs, but the purpose of creating a God figure was to bring people together with a common thread of belief system.
People are so varied and different and there is no such thing as average. To start with, we are already males, females, and the trans community. And then we have differences in bodily features, lineage, wealth, control, power and so on.
It is very hard to bring people together with commonalities in the current reality, and hence an imagined belief about a God which felt good and was grand, something that gave hope about life after death, was a strong reason for people to come together.
Today, we have more channels of common beliefs and goals. And that’s because of the gift of language and communication. Private Limited Companies, Brands, Gods, Religions, Beliefs, and everything else that brings large number of people together are just stories that bring us together. It lies in our imagination, and the thought is a common thread between a large number of humans.
A corporation with a common goal to create wealth for all the stakeholders is a temple in itself. If the goal of God and religion is to bring people together to work together, a brand is not very different from a religion.
Having something in common brings people of different tribes together and the easies thing to have in common is a belief system. A common belief goes beyond biology and DNA, and that’s how humans are able to mobilize large groups of people from different biological backgrounds to stand for a common goal.
It is known that somewhere 40,000 years back Neanderthals became extinct, and it is most likely that Homo Sapiens destroyed them and drove them to extinction. The earliest form of ethnic cleansing by wiping out an entire race. And one of the reasons Homo Sapiens succeeded in the great war was because Neanderthals lived in small communities of 50 people with little to no contact with other tribes.
Homo Sapiens were able to get in touch with other tribes, trade tools and food with them, imagine up a form of currency, and share beliefs about the world and the existence. Homo Sapiens could form groups of 500-1000 people. Though Homo Sapiens had far less physical strength than the Neanderthals, a small group of 50-100 Neanderthals were no match for 500-1000 Homo Sapiens.
We were able to form large groups because we had the ability to communicate, and share stories, with a large number of people. The stories resonated because it captured people’s imagination, gave them hope, and something to look forward to beyond the daily grind of hunting and gathering. This became a common belief and a connecting thread between different tribes of human beings. That’s how tribes came together to form larger tribes.
The Alpha male in human communities is not the one who is the tallest and the strongest, but the person who can bring people together with a common belief system. Because bringing people together has given us a far more evolutionary advantage than the strengths of a single human human being.
Even in groups of Chimpanzees, the Alpha male of a group of 20-50 chimps was not the strongest or the mightiest one, but the one with the highest ability to maintain social harmony within the group – thus preventing the chimps from fighting with each other for resources such as food and mates.
Today, we have countries with 100s of millions of people, and we have formed larger groups than ever. The concept of a country, a brand, a God, a way of life is something that exists only in our imagination, and the purpose it serves is to connect all of us together with a common belief and makes us work in unison for the benefit of all the parties involved.
Even Tyrion in the last episode of Game of Thrones says the same thing…
What unites us is stories. Beliefs. Something that all of us can believe in, and feel a common connection, irrespective of our ethnic, professional, intellectual and monetary backgrounds.
We are humans, because we can tell stories. Without stories, we would have never defeated the Neanderthals and we might not have existed on this planet in the first place, let alone dominate it.
And the digital revolution in the past few decades has given every man on this planet earth to tell a story, that once published, can be seen by the whole planet, within a few seconds.
We have communication technologies like blogging, online video, live conferencing and a lot more. What we need to use this communication technology for is to tell stories. Stories that unite people together, and can synchronize the efforts of all the people, for the common benefit of all the people involved.
70,000 years of human evolution has led us to this point, to help us communicate our stories better.
So tell a story. People will pay attention to you. Just like this true story about the history of humans I told you in this blog post.
70,000 years of human evolution has given us digital marketing as a gift. Use it.