Elon Musk will be responsible for the divergence of Homo sapiens

Why will Elon Musk be responsible for the divergence of Homo sapiens? Sometime in the near future, humans will board spaceships built by SpaceX and venture to Mars. These people will not be coming back. On Mars, there will be an opportunity for humans to begin a new experiment with consciousness, human relationships, and societal structures.

One of the benefits of SpaceX being a private company is that missions to Mars can be undertaken privately. As a result, no Earth-nation can make claims to the planet. Mr. Musk will have the opportunity to do something amazing–create an autonomous planet not under the control of any governing body on Earth. (Though without ion cannons for defense of the settlements, invading humans from Earth may wipe it out before it begins.)

Our current brain situation

On Earth, one only needs to spend five minutes on Twitter to realize that currently, human beings are very emotional and very caught up in identifying with our views. For example, much of the discourse in United States is something like, “Hillary’s a criminal. No, Trump is a criminal. Capitalism is destroying America. No, social justice warriors and socialists are destroying America. Atheists are evil. No, Christians are evil.” We seem to care more about our ideas and the strong emotions associated with them than we do about other people. We haven’t seemed to have grown the parts of our brains that really bind us to each other more than we are bound to our symbols, beliefs, and ideologies.

As long as humans are wired with our current brain structures and as long as we continue to foster the behaviors we currently exhibit on Earth, there are no political systems or religions that will function much better for us than the ones we currently have. As long as Homo sapiens are in charge of a system or ideology, our corrupt, unevolved minds will ruin it no matter how perfect it may be in theory.

What might an evolved brain look like?

Brain science has discovered much about significant structures of the brain. We know that people who are highly altruistic have amygdalae about 20% larger than average. We know that those who exhibit sociopathy have amygdalae about 20% smaller than average. We know that the prefrontal cortex is responsible for regulating behaviors with what is known as executive functioning and that it’s also the relational part of the brain. This part of the brain gives us what Dr. Dan Siegel calls “Mindsight.” This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we have learned about the subsystems of the brain, what they are responsible for, and how to measure them.

How big are Starman's amygdalae?

Homo alter

Imagine if Elon Musk sent as the settlers to Mars only those with altruistic amygdalae but also highly developed prefrontal cortexes–those who have a profound ability to see themselves as a part of a greater whole and genuinely want to participate in this greater whole. Those settlers would be driven to help one another even in extreme circumstances (see this Ted Talk). With highly developed prefrontal cortexes, they wouldn’t be overwhelmed by their emotions either. They would be profoundly in touch with their emotions and those of others but would have the brain structures necessary to still make excellent decisions. Over tens of generations, imagine how this group of settlers’ brains might diverge from the brains of those homo sapiens on Earth who may continue to devolve into something resembling Idiocracy.

I imagine a planet full of beings capable of more connection and relational abilities. Homo alter would be empathetic, altruistic creatures capable of deep interpersonal connection and sensitivity to others’ distress. Homo alter would still need the older parts of our brains to keep them alive and aware of dangers–and they would retain them. However, instead of being primates of aggression, dominance, and stress, homo alter would be primates of altruism, consideration, and calm clarity.

If it happens, thank Elon Musk.

Ian Felton has more than 20 years of professional experience writing software for organizations such as NASA, Mayo Clinic, Thomson Reuters, and many more. He is the author of The Coding Samurai : The Way of the Computer Warrior. His blog, The Coder Counselor, explores technology through the lens of psychology. Ian is also a published author of haibun, a prosemetric Japanese form of writing, mainly centered on travel and journeys to far-off places. In addition to bass guitar, writing and wildlife photography, his interests include practicing meditation, Chinese, and Chinese martial arts. Ian is completing his master’s degree in counseling and psychological services. You can connect with him on Twitter @psychcoder.

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