Human nature is a wonderfully terrifying and equally fascinating thing. Though on an individual level we have such diversity that it makes for a difficult analysis, elements of our nature become quite obvious when we zoom out and acquire a broader and collective picture.
Yuval Harari states that what strongly distinguishes us from other species is our capacity to engage in complex and large scale collaboration. Within this behavior, one trait becomes abundantly clearer than others, a trait that does not put us in a good light but is intrinsically linked to our undeniable progress. Humans are domesticators by excellence. Humankind’s dominance does not relate just to other species, but to all sorts of things we were able to domesticate like fire, land, or even more things such as information.
As you see, the concept of domestication will be used in a slightly more abstract way. Within this post, it refers to the understanding of how something functions to point that we make that something work for us.
I feel necessary to clarify from the beginning that this is not a glorification of human nature, I acknowledge our shortcomings and the harm we constantly inflict on other species, the planet and amongst ourselves. This being said, I will keep things on a positive note and try to paint a picture of progress.
A Brief Journey of Domestication and Evolution
There are those who argue that our cognitive revolution started with the domestication of fire. Besides providing warmth and protection against animals, fire gave us the possibility of doing something that forever changed our biology, it enabled cooking. The thermal processing of food is able to destroy microbes and also acts as pre-digestion. Basically, fire gave us the possibility to outsource a large part of the digestive process. Prior to this, a very large part of the body’s energy went towards digestion, energy that cooking helped preserve and redistribute. Thus, with this newly domesticated tool, the human body was able to distribute more energy to growing the brain, which in turn lead to extended cognitive capacity. If you like numbers and a more scientific approach to this subject, check out this link.
One of the next major leaps in human evolution came with the spoken word, which can be seen as the domestication of sound. The linguistic revolution, in which the use of very specific and complex sounds that are produced on an individual level and without the need of any external resource, is an immense organizational tool. This gave us the possibility to make detailed plans and pass on complicated information onto others. Further upgrades to language, such as writing, helped communication even more and started laying the foundation for civilization.
The agricultural revolution came with humans domesticating animals and the land. We understood how plants and soil work, brought in animals trained to do specific tasks and made them all work towards our goal of growing specific food. This helped out a lot with resource management and was able to offset scarcity in some cases.
We will skip forward to current days and talk about the information revolution. We can see the digital world as being the domestication of information, which brought us a global communication network in the form of the internet. This particular revolution has a very subtle, but profound achievement, it was able to create an abundance of information and this is literally reshaping human civilization as we speak.
What we Achieved
No one thing is just either black or white. In the real world, things have positive and negative aspects at the same time. Such is with our tendency to dominate and domesticate all that we see around us.
With all its faults and shortcomings, human civilization is a truly remarkable thing. We have things of immense beauty that form culture. We have scientific achievements that gave us the power of going to the moon and exploring our solar system. We have a concept called morals, from which an abstract and beautiful notion as universal human rights arose. We have people and groups that have dedicated their lives to creating peace. And all these were made possible by understanding how things around us function and using them to facilitate our goals.
Because we grew to such large numbers, governance also needed to evolve. We went through more autocratic systems like kingdoms or dictatorships, but in most of the world, we now have democratic institutions that help govern society. These institutions have the role of managing systems such as education, healthcare, security, infrastructure or the economy. And we are in the middle of adding one more piece to this wonderful and complex puzzle that currently relies on almost blind trust in human authority in order to run.
The Domestication of Trust
Blockchain is just another step in our journey of domestication, but a very important one. We are on the verge of understanding and starting to use digital trust to our advantage and this will have profound effects on the world.
Just imagine that human authority, which is vulnerable to corruption and blackmail, is replaced by digital authority. In the early days, blockchain has been seen as a distributed ledger solution, but ethereum took it to a whole new level by creating blockchain enforced smart contracts.
Humankind now has a tool to create digital trust infrastructures that have a participatory by choice nature and operate outside the jurisdiction of any institution or nation. This can help us create rules that apply equally to all people, regardless of social status or any other differentiation criteria. We are able to upgrade institutional trust and create more transparent and democratic governing mechanisms, as well as interpersonal trust and create more effective collaboration.
The idea is that configurable digital trust is now at our fingertips. Human ingenuity will play its role in developing and implementing this technology and the world will be a better place because of it.