For centuries, humankind has evolved through two mechanisms – one, the growth & evolution of a few individuals which has resulted in new products of a civilization (science, art, culture, philosophy, etc.); and two, the spread and acceptance of these products of civilization through education, cultural & social movements, institutional mechanisms like government, and through imperial and government diktat in some cases.
This has largely served humankind well. Various societies and cultures have gone through waves of cultural & social flowering shaped by a small group of creative leaders who have influenced people around them through compelling ideas about why we live, methods to answer the question – How to live better, and tools & technologies to implement these ideas in practice.
Yet, despite all these waves of cultural, social, technological, and institutional evolution, some things have remained unchanged – wars, greed, exploitation, human selfishness, the destruction of the many for the good of the few, the cynical use of great ideas like freedom & equality for furthering power & control, etc.
In these fundamental respects, humankind does not seem to have evolved at all.
Recognizing this dichotomy enables us to see that there are two kinds of evolution at play – one, social-cultural-technological-institutional evolution, and two, the evolution of human beings in terms of their psyche and their interactions with other human beings. We call the first kind of evolution functional-social evolution; and the second kind of evolution psycho-social evolution.
When we seek that human beings, communities, and societies evolve, we want both kinds of evolution – functional-social evolution and psycho-social evolution.
The present explosion in communication, information sharing, global access to ideas, etc. seen across the globe, has already driven and will continue to drive rapid functional-social evolution across the globe – societies & cultures are rapidly changing thanks to personalization of devices, personalization of content, and personalization of communities (as people select & log-in to communities that match their interest). The rapid expansion of digital technology almost needs no mention. Institutions themselves have begun crumbling/ changing with the onslaught of digital technologies, globalization, and due to unexpected human crises like covid.
In short, a rapid functional-social evolution of human society is already underway – more so in some countries & regions, less so in other countries & regions.
In all this, are we forgetting the need for concomitant psycho-social evolution of human society?
The challenges due to the absence of such an evolutionary impulse, is there for all to see. Besides the age-old challenges of humankind like wars & human exploitation, we also face new challenges like the indiscriminate exploitation of planet earth, whose consequences can only be horrendous.
In the din & bustle of glamor, and noisy functional-social evolution, is there a need for creative leaders across the globe to think about the systematic psycho-social evolution of humankind? To truly evolve on a collective basis will mean not just glamorous new technologies & multi-media cultural products, but also evolved human beings, evolved inter-human interactions, new frames of thinking about how humankind develops & sustains itself, and new models of capacity building that focus not just on functional capacities, but also human capacities.