We’re Just A Confused Species In An Awkward Transition Phase

Caitlin Johnstone
4 min readMay 17, 2022


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Really, when it comes right down to it, things are a mess because humans are in a very awkward and confusing stage in our development as a species.

Our giant brains evolved faster than we could adjust to, and now we’re these scared little apex predators stumbling around the earth with massive prefrontal cortices overlaying a bunch of deep primordial conditioning. A rapidly developed capacity for language and abstract thought strapped on top of a fear response that our distant evolutionary ancestors developed to help them run away from long-extinct monsters with big sharp teeth.

This sudden change has left us in a transition stage where we haven’t yet gotten the hang of the immense power which now erupts from within our skulls and gives us the ability to shape our world to our will. Like how the ancient mammalian ancestors of whales probably looked awkward when they first began reentering the sea, before they got the hang of swimming and their nostrils moved to a location more conducive to breathing in the water.

It’s left us at this weird, uncomfortable stage where we have the intelligence to do amazing things, but haven’t yet developed the wisdom to use this newfound capacity in a harmonious way.

We now have the ability to conquer our own ecosystems using technology, but we lack the wisdom not to do so.

We have the intelligence to invent nuclear weapons, but we lack the wisdom not to build them.

We have the ability to plan for our individual futures, but we lack the wisdom to make sure our species as a whole has a future.

We have the ability to think abstract thoughts, but lack the wisdom to refrain from building identities out of them.

We have the ability to ask questions, but lack the wisdom to deeply question our own true nature and whether the world is really as it seems.

The ability to write vast tomes of philosophy that contain not one line telling us how to be content on the planet we were born on.

The ability to construct entire belief systems that are completely useless for learning to live in harmony with what is.

The ability to discover spirituality only to use it for vapid escapism and tyrannical psychological domination.

The ability to research human psychology only to use it to convince people to buy junk they don’t need and support wars they don’t want and vote for politicians they don’t like.

The ability to invent mass media only to use use it to promote and normalize a status quo that is killing us all.

The ability to invent something as transcendental as music only to popularize songs about owning stuff and getting money.

The ability to technologically link billions of minds on the internet only to spend all our time arguing about nonsense.

The ability to tell stories only to spend our energy using storytelling to manipulate and control each other.

The ability to intimately appreciate beauty and mystery with a profound depth and complexity only to spend our entire lives frantically doing anything but that.

We have the ability to do all these things skillfully and harmoniously; we just haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet.

It’s like when you got your first bike for your birthday and you knew it could make you go a lot faster than you normally can, but it took a lot of practice before you went from training wheels and painful falls to swiftly breezing through the neighborhood. These giant prefrontal cortices we got on our birthday give us so much potential, and we’ve been bumbling around on training wheels and taking nasty spills when we try to take them off.

I’m sure the early evolutionary ancestors of birds were awkward as hell too before they finally got the hang of flying. They would have looked ridiculous, and it wouldn’t have been immediately clear from an outsider’s perspective exactly what nature was going for there. Like biological baby scribbles.

The only difference is that the awkward evolutionary transition phases of birds and whales did not involve giant neural networks which make childbirth painful and could easily lead to the death of all terrestrial life.

The birth of a human baby is difficult due to the size of our enormous, rapidly evolved brains relative to our more slowly evolved pelvic bones. The birth of a sane humanity will be difficult for similar reasons.

I do believe we have the ability to make the jump from this awkward transition phase to become a truly conscious species. But it looks like if we do make it, it’s going to be by the skin of our omnivore teeth.


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