Civilization, Culture, And The Human Brain

We become cul­tured through train­ing in var­i­ous activ­i­ties, such as cus­toms, arts, inter­act­ing with peo­ple, the use of tech­nolo­gies, and the dis­cov­er­ing of ideas, the learn­ing of beliefs, shared philoso­phies, and reli­gion. Our brains are mod­i­fied by our cul­tur­al activ­i­ties.

Since all our brain mod­ules are plas­tic to some degree, we have the abil­i­ty to cre­ate sig­na­ture cul­tur­al activ­i­ties and to respond to chang­ing con­di­tions. This cog­ni­tive flu­id­i­ty is the human equiv­a­lent to Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence. The human cor­tex has 30bn neu­rons and is capa­ble of mak­ing 1 mil­lion bil­lion synap­tic con­nec­tions, at least 10 fol­lowed by a mil­lion zeros. Know­ing that the uni­verse con­sists of 10 fol­lowed by 79 zeros par­ti­cles, it becomes clear why mind­ful­ness beats AI. We call the shots to fully cap­i­tal­ize on our inher­ent capa­bil­i­ties.

Ten­u­ous Civ­i­liza­tion

Civ­i­liza­tion is a com­bi­na­tion of high­er and lower brain func­tions and the plas­tic brain can always allow these func­tions that it has brought togeth­er ear­li­er to sep­a­rate. That said, a regres­sion to bar­barism, a civ­i­liza­tion break­down in civil wars and bru­tal instincts, such as theft, rape, mur­der and destruc­tion, is pos­si­ble any­time. Civ­i­liza­tion will always be a frag­ile affair that has to be taught in each gen­er­a­tion anew. Many of today’s soci­etal chal­lenges can be ascribed to a nec­es­sary, but stren­u­ous neu­ronal rewiring process in human beings‘ brains.

Cul­ture Shock Is A Brain Shock

For the adult brain, immi­gra­tion is a bru­tal work­out, requir­ing a mas­sive rewiring of cor­ti­cal real estate. When a new cul­ture plas­ti­cal­ly com­petes with lega­cy neur­al net­works of home coun­try ori­gin, suc­cess­ful assim­i­la­tion requires at least a gen­er­a­tion. Most immi­grants expe­ri­ence dis­ori­en­ta­tion and trau­mas. In the same way, peo­ple liv­ing in the coun­try that wel­comes immi­grants, have to cope with dif­fer­ent cul­tures, often asso­ci­at­ed with sig­nif­i­cant­ly lower liv­ing stan­dards fol­lowed by respec­tive ways of life that immi­grants have been accus­tomed to.

With­in one gen­er­a­tion, it proves to be extreme­ly dif­fi­cult, if not impos­si­ble, to com­plete­ly rewire in order to fully under­stand anoth­er cul­ture. Faced with a mas­sive migra­tion chal­lenge, it‘s our duty to enrich our edu­ca­tion­al cur­ric­u­lae at (pre-)schools and uni­ver­si­ties with as much infor­ma­tion about dif­fer­ent cul­tures as we can. Since cul­tur­al rewiring takes time, we must edu­cate our chil­dren and enable them to devel­op culture-rich neur­al net­works at a time they are most sus­cep­ti­ble to learn­ing. This could become a rel­e­vant fac­tor for the coex­is­tence of future soci­eties.

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