What makes us human?
There are 1.3 million identified animals species that occupy the Earth right now. Scientists estimate there are still over 6.4 million left to discover. However out of all these species that walk the Earth, only one of them has built a skyscraper. Only one of them has adapted itself to live on every single continent. Only one of them has figured out how to leave our home planet. Out of all these species, only one of them is human. Humans are different than all other species but what gives us the competitive edge over the rest? The hands we have been dealt have played in our favor. The ability to walk erect, to tame fire, and to grasp firmly has all been part of what made us. It is what brought us from ape to man. But what really makes us man? Our species is what it is because of one core concept: we have the desire to communicate. This one trait separates us from the rest and define us as humans.
By communicating, we strengthen ourselves as a species. We are able to share our knowledge that can mutually benefit us all. We can spread the knowledge that we know through generations and beat the test of time. In the Amazon Rain Forest there is a species known as the Red Fire Ant that is constantly in threat of annihilation by flash floods. However this species manages to hang on by literally joining together and making a raft, holding on for months at a time. Safety comes in numbers. And when you add the power of communication, you can go from making rafts to making cities.
The first Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was created from 340,500 miles of copper and iron wire and was designed to stretch 2,876.95 miles once the cable was in place. Why did we bother doing this? It’s all part of our need for communication. Once the cable was in place, we could use electrical impulses to send any message to the other side of the world. Human beings are hard-wired for the impulse to share our ideas and the desire to know that we’ve been heard. When we die, we want to have left a legacy, something to communicate to future generations who we were and what we did. As humans, we crave the idea of having our thoughts heard.
200,000 years ago one of the greatest evolutionary advancements in human evolution takes place. The larynx, or voice box, decides to descend down the throat of our ancestors, allowing us to make more distinct vocal sounds. This is the first form of communication that sets us apart. The ability to communicate was a survival tactic; it was the power to share knowledge. If one individual knew something, he could share this information with the rest of his pack. Now the individual contained the knowledge of many individuals rather than his own. This comparable to having a stand-alone computer vs. a network of 100’s of computers. But this was only the first step in the timeline of human communication; 180,000 years later, humans will develop the skill that will take their powers of communication farther than ever before. In Northern Siberia, the oldest found representation of “cave drawings” have been found; humans had discovered art. Art allows humans to convey messages more efficiently. Even today, the basic concept of art is still the same, it serves to communicate a message or emotion to its viewer. Finally, 5000 years ago, the final crucial step in making man the social creature it is was the advent of a written language. This new invention allowed us to connect people who may never meet each other. Text can transcend both time and space, connecting an individual with others from the other side of the world or even millennia apart.
Even with these three mediums, man is still hungry for more. He craves social interaction. Two hundred years ago, less than 3% of the world’s population lived in a city. Today this number is over 50%. In the last hundred years alone, communicating our thoughts has advanced more than in the previous 4000. New technologies were invented to transmit our thoughts quicker and farther. The telegraph, telephone, radio, television, internet, email, social networks are all attempts made by humans to bring us closer together by more efficiently we send these bits of information that we desire to communicate and will use to benefit us all. We used these new mediums of communication to accomplish some of our greatest feats. We are able to organize ourselves and contribute ideas to our greatest achievements such as landing on the moon and creating metropolitan cities. We worked together to bring these feats to reality.
Today the average human will say 2,250 words to an average of 7.4 other individuals. We’ll send over 300 billion emails and 19 billion text messages all in attempt to spread our message and leave an impact. Man is not a social creature, rather a social creature is man.