The world is changing too fast: where are you, brain?
About 200,000 years ago, the first modern humans (homo sapiens) walked our earth. These modern people mainly lived to survive. People had to hunt for food themselves, create their own shelter and find potential partners. The brain has been able to adapt continuously over the years, but how does the brain do that in a world that changes very quickly? Grandpa and grandma even complain that it is all going too fast. Can the brain survive in twenty-first century modern life?
Grandpa and grandma still know it all so well. Life used to be a lot slower. Less stress, less worries and delicious greasy food in the evening with the stove in the background and the box bed nicely made. Today’s world is moving a lot faster and has become a lot busier. The brain is an extremely complex organ that still largely turns out to be a mystery. Every moment new discoveries are made in the field of neuroscience. Despite our modern techniques, we are still not quite sure why certain human behaviors evolved in the way we encounter them today. For example, how does the brain deal with stress and how does the brain protect itself against it?
How it used to be
About 200,000 years ago, the first modern humans walked our planet. This one primitive had to survive in a world of which we can of course hardly imagine anything anymore. There was no supermarket and unfortunately no flat screen for a bit of entertainment. No, our distant ancestors had to hunt for food themselves. As time went on, certain qualities became more important for survival. Better analytical skills, for example, went hand in hand with more food and thus an increase in life expectancy and, if all went well, an increase in reproduction success.
More children means that your genes are being passed on to the next generation. This process repeats itself over and over again and ultimately strong genes remain that have optimally adapted to the environment. Because this process can only repeat itself when a new generation is born, it is therefore also an extremely slow process. What if the environment changes faster than children are born who have optimally adapted to the environment? In a way, this has already happened. Look around you. Take a look on the street. Do you see something that scares you terribly?
All over the world, many accidents occur every day involving a car. Often these accidents are fatal. The question is, of course, why we as humanity continue to ride in that steel coffin every day. We should actually be terribly afraid of all cars on the street because they are apparently life-threatening! The strange thing is, of course, that there are indeed objects or animals that cause great fear in many people.
Baked in fear!
Consider the house spider. Imagine that there is now a five centimeter large house spider nestling on the back of your back. Do you already get jitters? Fear of spiders comes from the primal instinct to avoid danger. Spiders, especially the venomous ones, were a danger and should be avoided. The fear that is generated when you see a spider is therefore very beneficial to survive. You start to sweat, get clammy hands and prefer to stay as far away from the animal as possible. So long ago this response was essential and very important. Today, however, we are still afraid of spiders, while most of them are harmless to humans. So the world around us has changed too quickly for our brain. The brain couldn’t keep up, resulting in an unreasonable fear that was essential only hundreds of years ago.