Culture is not just music and dance, art and entertainment. Culture is what we use to weave and reinforce the fabric of our society. It provides the basis for our moral compass. It guides our decisions and strongly influences how we see the world. It determines how we treat each other and the ecosystems we depend on.
Our world is dominated by our cultural norms. We find comfort in telling ourselves that our culture is fixed. And yet history has shown that culture has the capacity to evolve much faster than our physical or even our mental capabilities. We constantly strive to improve how we practice medicine, how we transport ourselves and our stuff, and how we communicate. It’s time we focus on advancing our cultural framework with the same methodical diligence.
The primary challenge to deliberate and thoughtful cultural evolution lies in a few fundamental human traits. These traits have evolved over thousands of years to help us cope with the world around us. And while they have served us well throughout human history (hence our dominant role on this planet) they are now preventing us from effectively addressing the global challenges we face in a rapidly changing world.
We can not eliminate these human traits that some say are etched into our DNA, however we can learn to recognize them, first in ourselves and then in others. That recognition can foster deeper engagement, compassion, and understanding.