“The development of symbolic thought and complex communication did nothing less than alter human evolution. For one thing, high tech transportation means that the world, though ethnically diverse, now really consists of a single, huge population. ‘Everything we know about evolution suggests that to get true innovation, you need small isolated populations,’ says Tattersall, ‘which is now unthinkable.’”
“Not only is a new human species next to impossible, but technology has essentially eliminated natural selection as well. During prehistory, only the fittest individuals and species survived to reproduce. Now strong and weak alike have access to medicine, food and shelter of unprecedented quality and abundance.’ “Poor peasants in the Third World” says University of Michigan anthropologist Milford Wolpoff, “are better off than the Emperor of China was 1,000 years ago.”‘
This quote is both profound and thought-provoking and has implications ranging from religious and anthropological ones to global business issues as well. It is not possible to look at the business aspects in total isolation from the influence of the human side.
The true innovation referred to in the quote is the evolution of the small, isolated populations themselves that gave them the best chance to survive, reproduce, and prosper in their particular environment. Different environments produced different variations or peculiarities; in other words, different unique innovations. Meaningful human evolution producing those unique characteristics took many generations. The development of their local technology (tools and their use) was integral to that process and to natural selection.
Michael D. Remonick and Andrea Dorfman, Up From The Apes, (Time Magazine, August 23, 1999), 58.
One of the implications of the quote is that human physical evolution, both now and in the future, is no longer directed by local environment.
Collective advances in medicine and in technology, facilitated by modern communications and transportation, now cause uniform evolution across the world populace. Even evolution of the human brain will become consistent across the entire world population with the interaction resulting from modern communication and travel.
Natural selection: The process in nature by which the plants and animals best adapted to their environment tend to survive and perpetuate the variations or peculiarities that enabled them to survive.
It is meaningful to examine direct consequences of those implications and to draw business parallels from them. The accelerating collective advances in medicine and technology have in effect replaced Mother Nature’s natural selection process for the modern human. Those advances are the direct result of human imagination and energy - energized by free market competition - the modern counterpart of nature’s natural selection process.
Today, natural selection is not competition for food or sustenance. It is the modern, global free market system that continually searches for better ways to provide greater value. The objective is to be rewarded with consumer business time after time by providing that greater value, beating the competition in the process and prospering as a result.
While the words traditionally associated with natural selection, “survival of the fittest,” imply hurt for some, nothing could be further from the truth in modern natural selection. The successful competitor wins the battle at hand, but all humanity benefits from the largest to the smallest advances that result. All can enjoy the accelerating advances in modern medicine and technology. Life quality and life prolonging advances and abundance for all are the natural products of this modern natural selection process.
However, those enterprises that are not continually refreshing themselves, progressing at the rate of the curve and providing competitive value will not survive for long. The “survival of the fittest” phrase does apply to business enterprise in the modern natural selection process. The humans that are involved in that kind of situation, though put at a disadvantage temporarily, do have alternatives that will enable them to recover and to prosper.
In the year 1900, an American male could expect to live to be 46 and had almost no hope of retiring as we now conceptualize it. A woman could expect to survive to age 48. In the year 2001, those life expectancies were 74 and 79 respectively. This is a 60 percent increase in life expectancy. The difference in only 100 years, little more than one lifetime, is astounding! Abundant retirements that last 20 or 30 years and longer are common. It’s obvious that the preceding 95 generations of that period could not achieve the kind of life quality and longevity gains that are now possible. However, we get to live 28 or 31 years longer than those in 1900 and can expect a very nice retirement.
What will that be like for our children, grandchildren?
We have found the essence of a definition of progress that is powerful enough to use in this effort. More follows.
“As late as 1930, most American homes did not have a refrigerator, but, by the end of the decade, most did. By 1970 virtually all families living in poverty had refrigerators. By 1994, most American households below the poverty line had a microwave oven and a videocassette recorder - things that less than 1 percent of all American households had in 1971.”
“Most American millionaires did not inherit their wealth, but created it themselves”.
“Most people who were in the bottom 20 percent in 1975 were in the top 20 percent at some point before 1992. The poor will always be with us, so long as they are defined as the bottom 20 percent, even if yesterday’s bottom 20 percent are now among “the rich” as such terms are defined by those with a stereotyped vision of a static world.”
[6 ]Thomas Sowell describes this progress as “benefits of a free market.”
(National Vital Statistics Report, March 21,2002), Vol. 50, No.6.
[6 ]Thomas Sowell, Free market creates social revolutions of past century, (The Detroit News, January 2, 2000).