Fall Of The Baby-People

Why getting what we want is bad for us

Allan Milne Lees

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Image credit: Pixar/Disney

Someone once condensed the last thirteen thousand years of human history into one brief paragraph:

A peaceful tribe of pastoralists is living in a fertile valley. They grow crops, tend their cattle, and enjoy the comforts of mud-brick houses and the various domestic implements that collectively make storing, preparing, and cooking food much easier. Then one day a tribe of aggressive raiders comes over the hill and, seeing how peaceful and poorly-prepared these pastoralists are, descend into the valley to slaughter and enslave them. The raiders then consume everything the pastoralists had, and when it’s all gone, the raiders have a choice: move on, or remain and attempt to develop skills similar to those of the pastoralists they so recently slaughtered. Some move on, and some remain. Those who remain gradually learn to plant crops at the right times, herd and manage cattle, and make artifacts like mud bricks and pots and hand-tools. In time they forget their formerly violent ways and become more peaceful and more productive in the pleasant fertile valley. Then one day a tribe of aggressive raiders comes over the hill and, seeing how peaceful and poorly-prepared these pastoralists are, descend into the valley to slaughter and enslave them.

The great triumph of the last two centuries has been the development of technologies that amplify our capabilities. Whereas Leonardo dreamed of powered flight and drew impossible pseudo-machines on parchment, for the last six decades ordinary people have been able to buy cheap tickets on huge metal craft that transport them effortlessly across vast oceans and continents. Whereas for all of human history prior to the last few moments calories were scarce and uncertain, the last six decades have presented a deluge of ultra-high-calorie processed foods that are intentionally designed to trigger addictive behaviors that lead to ever-greater consumption and thus ever-greater obesity. Whereas until very recently we humans had to exert some degree of manual effort in order to obtain the things we need for life, the last six decades have seen indolence and passivity that former generations would have imagined to be impossible. And for well over a century now, our hardwired desire for the simplest-possible concepts has been gratified by a…

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Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.