We recently had a new addition to the household: a Siberian Cat called Willow. We got him as a kitten and something struck me as interesting the other day: he has never had any real interaction with other cats and yet he knows exactly how to be a cat. He knows how to catch food, how to clean himself, how to walk precariously across a fence, and how to beg for love. We on the other hand, are born with inbuilt instincts and capacities but few innate skills or solutions that can be used almost immediately without supported development. If you left a baby to its own devices it would struggle to cope alone.
Sea turtle hatchlings are an even better example of this in-built ‘innate behaviour’. Their parents leave them to hatch alone, and so there’s no chance for them to learn how to survive. Instead their genetic programming tells them what to do: to dig their way out of the buried hatchery, and to do so without getting eaten, which they do instinctively and precisely at night.
Humans haven’t changed much in terms of evolution in 3 million years. Yet we have surrounded ourselves with innovations which have enabled us to have evolved capabilities: greater speed, powers of flight, greater immunity and defence, etc. With innovations increasingly affecting the biological, not just the material world, I wonder how long it will be before we find the need to equip people with inbuilt skill-sets.
For example, imagine how useful it would be if we didn’t have to learn how to walk, or to write, or even to talk.
Here’s a potential future scenario for why this might come in handy: the way that we are changing our planet is unsustainable currently. There are two possible outcomes: either we get a grip on how we currently manage it, or we don’t. Let’s say we don’t sort it out, living as we do on Earth would become unbearable difficult for many societies, we may invent interplanetary travel and start colonising new worlds. Either way the ability to cope in harsh conditions with very little resources will become a key capability. What if we could equip humans with innate skills they would need to survive in such conditions?
If this was an option for your child, would you do it? If so what skills would you wish for them?