The First BBQ
There are many reasons not to be a full-on vegetarian. However, the grandest, and most important reason of all, is the fact that humans evolved from being able to cook meat. Most people dieting in the western world don’t realize this, or refuse to look at the scientific evidence. We’ve all heard of the “Paleo diet”—the attempt to eat like hunter-gatherers before the invention of agriculture, with the idea being that we don’t need bread because we still had the same nutritional needs before its cultivation. While this diet isn’t necessary, because (healthy) bread actually has a wide array of nutrients, the idea behind it is sound.
Humans evolved with BBQ’s. You wouldn’t be here today, at your computer reading this, if it weren’t for fire + dead animal. It can be argued, and is by some scientists, that language would have never been possible without those very first open-fire grills. So, what is it about cooking food over a fire that enabled us to become smarter?
Suzana Herculano, in her TED talks video “What is so special about the human brain?,” explains why human brains have so many more neurons than other primate brains of equal size. Gorillas and orangutans spend about 9 hours a day feeding to fulfill their brain energy requirements. This takes up the majority of their day, so finding food and eating is pretty much all they think about. Humans have more than double the amount of neurons in their brains than apes do. How was it possible for us to fulfill our massive energy requirements?
The process of cooking makes foods easier to chew and thus easier to digest in your gut. Because cooked foods can be fully digested, this means more nutrients can be sent up to your brain. Cooking food also gave us more free time because we didn’t have to chew non-nutritious leaves and roots 24/7 anymore. Are you at least starting to see why a completely raw diet just makes absolutely no sense? Jerry Adler, from the Smithsonian, says “It is literally possible to starve to death even while filling one’s stomach with raw food.”
“It is literally possible to starve to death even while filling one’s stomach with raw food.”
Since the dawn of fire, about 1.8 million years ago with H. Erectus, up until we emerged, human brain size has nearly doubled. Cooking food, and the influx of nutrients that came with it, gave our species a massive intelligence advantage. Darwin considered language and fire the two most significant achievements of humanity. If he were alive today, what would he call our third greatest achievement?
The Internet and Human Evolution
Food, more importantly, cooked food, let us absorb more nutrients and do it faster. This, of course, allowed our brain to grow in size and adapt to the new, high levels of nutrient intake. So…how does all of this relate to the internet? First, let’s discuss what humans did before the dawn of the interwebs.
Much like the way humans used to sit around chewing one nut at a time, we used to live in an age where information and news came to us slowly, one page at a time. Sitting down and reading the same paper, from the same source of information, every single day was common. You’d go to work and likely talk to someone in your office about politics, the weather, or that new panda the zoo is getting. During this era, a person had little difficulty concentrating on information and text—it was usually just one option, placed directly in front of your eyes. If you needed information for your research paper due in a week, you had to visit a library. If you wanted to see what your best friend has been up to, you had to call or visit them. If your aunt wanted a picture of you graduating, you had to mail it to her. These are just a few setbacks people had to cope with before the internet. If the invention of the internet solved all of these issues, shouldn’t it have given us more “free time?”
The internet is the never-ending door to humanity’s curiosity. Just because sending a photo to your aunt has become much easier, doesn’t mean we haven’t thought of more places we “need” to place our photos. Humans are social animals—the internet has just allowed us to become more (virtually) social than ever before. Our news is now hotly debated and critiqued by “blogger journalists.” Our friend groups have grown in size to include people you’ve only met once in your life. We now have a million places to receive our news and information online—including your friend who just shared an article with you that he found in an online forum that his old classmate shared with 900 friends on Facebook. That may seem like a lot of social, friends-to-friend-to-friend connections, but that’s just the smallest piece of silk on the spider web. The internet, much like the universe, is a complex system of connections that is forever expanding.
If you think of anything—no matter how random or original your thought may be—-odds are it’s already on the internet. Search engines like Google operate in a way that allows them to crawl through the internet and search every word on every page to create a collective memory system. Scientists are even starting to see the human brain and the internet as two very similar complex systems. What will happen after these two very similar systems are connected to one another for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years? You might be thinking, yeah, but we aren’t technically “connected” to the internet all the time. This is true, but it won’t be for long. Devices you never thought would have internet access 5 years ago are just now becoming “online.” T.V’s and even houses themselves are being built with a “smart” feature, meaning they allow user control via any internet connection. If you always have your smartphone with you (the Millennial Generation), and live in a “smart” house with “smart” appliances, than technically you are always connected to the internet. The path we are headed towards is obviously one that tries to make humans one-with internet. What does this mean for our brain, if anything at all?
History Repeats Itself…With a Twist
Seeing that I am not an expert, and merely a blogger with deep interest in the subject, I can only offer an estimated guess for what will happen to humanity and its evolution. If cooking food freed up time for us to socialize and develop language for communication, then the internet, as it continues to make our lives easier, become available to everyone, and thus free up more time, will also cause our brains to evolve and adapt to the immense social networks that we are incorporated with online. However, there is one thing that may actually beat nature to this “connected” evolution—humans.
The idea of a hive mind has been talked about for quite some time by scientists. A hive mind, according to the popular futurist blog io9, means that “each individual is prepared to sacrifice everything, including their lives, for the survival of the group.” Bees and other insects are considered to have a hive mind. So, how could humans quicken the onset of a universal hive mind (if they wanted to)? According to Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading, “we have sufficient hardware available now” to connect our minds over the Internet. The possibility of being able to connect our brains to the internet means that one day we could telepathically communicate with one another. Considering the amount of sci-fi technologies that have actually turned into reality, the future of telepathy looks hauntingly close.
Leave it to humans to think that they can beat nature at its own job. Considering the time-crunch on life, I think I speak for all of the Millennials when I say please hurry up cybernetics scientists.