Evolutionary Law and the Collapse of Society

Segment 1: Navigating a High Failure Rate Environment.

On this edition of The Doug Noll Show we speak with Rebecca Costa, an American sociobiologist who offers a genetic explanation for current events, emerging trends and individual behavior. Rebecca’s first book, The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse, questions our ability to thrive in the complex world we have created. Her website is http://www.rebeccacosta.com/.


When Rebecca lived in Silicon Valley in the 1980’s, she observed the exponential rate at which the pace was moving and came to the conclusion that there was little chance we would be able to keep up with that pace. She says these days we’re all struggling with a high failure rate environment. It’s difficult to sort through all the information that bombards us each day and decide what’s relevant and what’s not. The odds are stacked against us to pick the right career, the right health care program, etc. There is too much information, and the number of wrong choices is exponentially greater than the number of right choices.


Evolution is lagging behind what is needed to succeed in society. Our brain is not designed to deal with the complexities and the great amount of information coming toward us each day. It exceeds our physiological and cognitive ability.


Segment 2: The History of Human Civilization.

Evolutionary Law says we need to adapt or die. However, we can only adapt at a certain rate. Rebecca sees a consistent pattern throughout history: First civilizations hit a cognitive threshold, where the problems are beyond their “pay grade” and they become gridlocked and unable to act. Next, there is mass confusion among leadership and individuals in the society between what is an empirical fact and an unproven belief. Public policy becomes highly irrational because it’s based on unproven beliefs instead of empirical evidence. Lastly, an event comes along that “does a society in” and the society collapses. This doesn’t mean that everyone dies; it just means that the society breaks into smaller units and then starts to ascend again. This is the history of human civilization.


Segment 3: Insight.

So what tools do we have to prevent an ultimate collapse? Rebecca sys for the first time in human history we can use science and medicine to watch what the brain is doing. For instance, scientists recently discovered a third form of problem solving: insight. Insight is the ability to connect two pieces of data in a novel way. Scientists can now predict that a person will have an insight about 300 milliseconds before they actually solve the problem. Our brains need to be consistently exercised and “warmed up” to deal with the complex problems of our day-to-day lives, thus stalling and perhaps preventing an ultimate collapse.


Segment 4:  

We are dealing with environmental changes that are beyond what we’re designed to do. We are not designed to respond to a long-term threat. The solution is to try to mitigate and train and catch up the brain. We can turn to neuroscience to help us adapt at a faster rate. We can train our brains and recognize that when we have a complex problem to solve, we need to invest in multiple solutions and expect a high threshold of waste.


To listen to the entire interview:


Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Segment 4

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