We are living through the most prosperous age in human history, but we are hurtling toward destruction. People are more listless, divided, and miserable than ever, and our civilization faces numerous existential threats, any one of which could take us out – whether it’s climate change, a Carrington Event, a nuclear exchange set in motion by wealth inequality, a refugee crisis, or revolution. We modern humans have become a threat to our own existence, yet we are resting on our cultural laurels, lulled into a false sense of security while speeding toward disaster.
In their new book, A HUNTER-GATHERER’S GUIDE TO THE 21ST CENTURY: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life (Portfolio; September 14, 2021), evolutionary biologists Heather Heying & Bret Weinstein argue that the problem is clear: our world has become so hyper novel that the pace of change has outstripped our ability to keep up. Humans are an evolutionary phenomenon, and while we are designed to adapt to change, it took hundreds of millions of years for humans to become who we are today. We may live in a modern world, but our brains, bodies and social systems are ancient. They are now perpetually out of sync with the modern world, and it’s making us sick—physically, psychologically, socially, and environmentally. If we don’t figure out how to grapple with the problem of accelerating novelty, humanity will perish, a victim of its own success.
In this interview, I speak to evolutionary biologist and professor, Bret Weinstein who- alongside his co-author, Heather Heying has done empirical work on sexual selection and the evolution of sociality, and theoretical work on the evolution of trade-offs, senescence, and morality. In this interview, Bret distils more than 20 years of research and first-hand accounts from the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth to offer a robust scientific framework for understanding ourselves – both as individuals, and in relationships with others – and why the novelty of the modern era is killing us. We discuss Bret’s empirical research, fascinating lessons from his global travels, and practical, evolutionary-based advice for protecting ourselves from self-inflicted harm so that we may live better lives. And regarding the very real existential threats to our species, you will hear that Bret authors argue that we are not destined to ride our destructive trajectory to the end. Humans are explorers and innovators by design, and the same impulses that have created our troublesome modern condition are the only hope for saving it.