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To be human

What makes being human so unique?

We share 98% of our DNA with the chimpanzee, 60% with a fruit fly, 80% with a cow and 90% with the common house cat. Why are we so different? Could it be that that our ability to use language to create an imagined future state is what differentiates us?

Brief history

Research has shown that the DNA setting us apart  (AMH – Anatomically Modern Human), other than the obvious difference in brain size, is the fusion process, which resulted in the second largest chromosome in the human body, the human chromosome 2.

FOXP2, a protein that in humans is directly linked to our ability to form complex speech, is possibly the biggest difference between homo sapiens and other species (Human by Design).

According to Noah Yuval Harari , the human species Homo Sapiens is believed to have survived and eradicated all other human species as a result of their ability to use language so effectively. Even the strong, cold-proof and brainy Neanderthals could not survive the onslaught of the Homo Sapiens.

Noah further states that what makes our language so unique is its suppleness. We can connect a limited number of sounds and signs to produce an infinite number of sentences, each with its own distinct meaning.

The cognitive revolution

The cognitive revolution started around 70,000 years ago and at around a similar time humans started using language as we know it. It is no surprise then that we witnessed an explosion of civilisation around the same time language entered the scene.

We now have intercontinental missiles with nuclear warheads while 30,000 years ago we had sticks with flint spearheads.

The ability to create an imagined reality out of words is what enables groups of people to cooperate effectively and co-create what was previoulsy believed to be impossible.

The average person speaks 860,341,500 words in a lifetime. This is equivalent to the words of the entire 32 volume of encyclopedia Britannica times 19.5 or the words in the King James Bible times 1,110.

Current reality

How are we using this powerful tool today? Is modern technology impacting conversation, turning our key differentiator into clinical one or two word phrases? Is the lack of heart connection which is so critical to being human resulting in the fragmentation of our relationships, widening the gaps between humans?

What is the long-term impact of our ability to maintain emotional distance, largely connecting electronically or on social media? Are we possibly losing some of our humanity, making it increasingly easier to do to to each other online what we would never do in person?

We are all language brokers. We trade in words and what we buy and sell is up to us. Words, our words, shape destinies, change minds and can sway even the most ingrained opinions and beliefs in an instant. This is the power of words.

If you could clearly see the future you are creating, would you change anything?

 

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