KEW Episode 62: Change (cont)

Apparently I didn’t say quite enough about change in last weeks’ Episode 62: Change is Hard, but Resisting Change is WRONG! because when I say down to record this weeks’ Episode I just kept talking about CHANGE.

Change. It’s the one thing we can count on.

Since the Big Bang, the universe has been changing. Changing forms. Changing states. Changing composition.

All around us, change is driving the universe. The Earth. Our behavior. The seasons. . . .

Yet, many of us resist change. We don’t like it. It messes up our scheduling. We OBSESS about predicting the future. The popularity of the Weather Channel is a great example. We believe we can predict the future and CONTROL change. Or even omit it altogether from reality.

Seriously, sometimes I wonder if that’s the state of nature we are shooting for. To have every day be as predictable as the last. The literal Groundhog Day of life. And on the one hand, it’s easy to see how comforting that predictability would be, but also how COMPLETELY BORING life would become.

And I get it. We resist change because it ISN’T predictable. And that makes us feel unsafe. And feeling unsafe is scary and sad. So we are afraid. So we want the fear to go away. So we attempt to CONTROL, and remove change from the world.

But that is literally insane. It is as asinine as removing oxygen from the atmosphere. Not only is it impossible, it would kill us. And I’m afraid the path toward minimal change will similarly cause our demise.

In fact, I believe our resistance to change is somehow related to (or the cause of!) many of our human problems.

In this Episode I continue exploring why change is bad, and further develop my hypothesis about how change is related to the Are vs Should Problem.

Full podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9139084-kew-episode-62-change-cont.mp3?download=true

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KEW Episode 61: The Are vs Should Problem – Change is Hard, but Resisting Change is WRONG!

In the next few videos I focus on CHANGE. I have covered changing old beliefs, changing the way you think, changing your habits. But it wasn’t until Episode 47: Changing Behavior Changes Beliefs that I actually started to realize how critical CHANGE is.

Change is the key. The main element. The obvious, yet hidden mechanism of life.

One of my chief assumptions is that we we are vehicles for, or at least highly influenced by, our DNA.

And change is what our DNA was designed to do.

In Episode 55: The Bully and your DNA Part 2, I go in to detail about how and why I think DNA is so important, but I’ll reiterate here.

The Universe is constantly changing. It’s been well established by multiple branches of science. I’m going to assume most of us accept that tenet. I will further argue that the fact that things will change is one of the few things we can predict about the future. And we can look to the past and see things were different before. So we know that wherever we are today is likely to change. How it will change is hard to say, but we spend a lot of time trying to figure that out.

An unpredictable future is more dangerous than one that is known. Yet we WANT to know what’s coming up so that we can prepare. Will it rain today? Do I need a jacket? Will the weather be good while we’re at the beach? Will my retirement accounts be worth anything when I need them?

So, in essence, the world/universe/environment in which we live is going to change through time. Ok. Got it. So, in order to live in this world/universe/environment we probably need a mechanism to deal with change.

A crystal ball might seem like the most useful tool, but if you think about it, that only helps the individual. Sure, if we could predict how much Bitcoin would be worth next week we could make a lot of money. Or if we could know how many avalanches would occur in a certain area we would know where NOT to build a ski resort. Those things are helpful, but they only really increase the fitness of single individuals. And in the long run, biology is more interested in the whole than the parts. Because we are all connected, after all.

Enter DNA.

DNA is an ideal molecule to facilitate generational changes in individuals through time by allowing for responses to extrinsic environmental changes. In other words, DNA gives individuals the capacity to REACT to environmental changes at a rate commensurate with the changes themselves. Individuals can react, reproductive success is affected, and the environment selects for fitness in future generations. Species persist.

But I’ve talked a lot about that in other Episodes.

The conundrum I talk about in Episode 61 and 62 is how humans seem to resist change. In the past 200 years or so, it seems that human evolution has entered a period of minimal change. We have established cultural norms and rules that select for ‘sameness’ and predictability in individual behavior. In some ways this makes sense for behavior management as the Earth gets more crowded, but I worry about superficial and short-term changes trickling up to affect our general opinion about change.

Because change isn’t going away. We can never control it all. Control is an illusion, anyway, and we will never control the weather or the economy. We can depart Earth to inhabit Mars, but we will eventually have the same problems we have here.

I am concerned that our resistance to change in our daily lives is going to reduce our ability to evolve and persist as a species in the long term. In the short term, we will lose creativity and diversity of ideas and intellect, which will in turn stifle our ability to navigate the future. In the face of change we need creativity and diversity, not sameness and conformity.

I hope you enjoy this miniseries about change. More next week.

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KEW Episode 44: Unnatural Selection

I am currently working on a larger project that will connect my background in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with personal growth, psychology, and finding more joy and fulfillment in our lives. In Episode 43 I introduce some evolutionary evidence that every individual human is born to discover their uniqueness (despite how ‘woo woo’ that sounds), and how NOT doing so goes against evolutionary theory.

I didn’t coin the term Unnatural Selection. People have used it, generally, to describe forces that affect evolution but are not necessarily a part of ‘regular life’. These forces become selection pressures when they influence the ability for a species to persist. For example, invasive species can be physically moved to new areas where they did not evolve and wreak havoc on the species living in that area. These selection pressures are some feature of the invasive organism that gives it an advantage and with which local species did not co-evolve. These forces often include predation, habitat use, aggression, or other forces that negatively impair local species.

The point of the term unnatural selection is that this novel selection force did not co evolve with the species it is affecting. Most of the time this disconnect is about time or space. In the invasive species example, the organisms didn’t occur in the same physical space (like a continent, island, or area) and so the issue is simply about relocation. Other times the unnatural condition is about time, and the obvious example is climate change. Many argue that human activities are a natural part of our evolution, but the key difference is the amount of time it has taken for these changes to occur. Sure, if human induced global changes occurred over millennia, the earth and its inhabitants may, indeed, have plenty of time to coevolve. But the sudden nature of temperature and CO2 changes over the past 100 years did not allow for such a response. Hence, the selection forces are unnatural.

That’s a long way to go to explain the basis for my argument, but well worth it I hope.

So the main argument I am making in this episode is that humans have imposed a few other unnatural selection forces upon ourselves. If you watched Episode 43, you will know that the main force I consider unnatural is that of conformity. Despite the evidence (which I find compelling, obviously, though you may not) that our DNA, by its very nature, demands that every human fully realize our uniqueness, yet human societies impose the opposite.

Societal norms, religions, laws, politics, and even the popular arts impose forces that encourage conformity. Because it is our nature to NOT conform, but to be UNIQUE, these forces are unnatural. Sure, norms and laws are important. Driving on one side of the road, wearing clothes, not punching people in the face. These are good things. Here I’m talking about mechanisms that discourage people from being different or to behave ‘like everyone else’. On the obvious end, ‘white people are better’ is an unnatural selection force. On the more obscure end, publishers requiring all books to be written according to a set of approved literary rules may result in really, really great books never being published.

The essence of unnatural selection is the intention to make everyone the same, and to make life difficult for those who insist on expressing their individuality. You probably won’t have to think very long to find examples of this in your own life. I have experience mdany examples in my life, and maybe that’s why it’s such a big deal to me.

Therefore, the ultimate travesty of unnatural selection is that the ideas, thoughts, and creativity humans need to survive the future may never come to light because they will be discouraged and effectively ‘weeded out’ of society. As the world becomes more crowded and less hospitable to humans, it becomes increasingly necessary to find unique ideas and approaches that will alter that path. Solving human problems, or any problem, REQUIRES unique viewpoints. As many as possible.

I hope you enjoy the episode. Your comments and thoughts are welcome and encouraged as I develop this idea further.

Full podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8198092-kew-episode-44-unnatural-selection.mp3?blob_id=37045344&download=true or via your favorite podcast app.

Full YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/hGtkOih1EC0