What are the strengths and weaknesses of humans as a species?

“Humans are an exquisitely intelligent and capable species of ape. Our physiology has been fine-tuned for efficient long-distance running; our hands are elegantly dextrous for manipulating and making; and our throats and mouths give us astonishing control over the sounds we make. We are virtuoso communicators, able to convey everything from physical instructions to abstract concepts, and to coordinate ourselves in teams and communities. We learn from each other, from our parents and peers, so new generations don’t have to start from scratch. But we’re also deeply flawed, physically and mentally. In many ways, humans just don’t work well.

We’re also riddled with defects in our biochemistry and DNA – data-corrupted genes that no longer work – which means, for instance, that we must eat a diet more varied than almost any other animal to obtain the nutrients we need to survive. And our brains, far from being perfectly rational thinking machines, are full of cognitive glitches and bugs. We’re also prone to addictions that drive compulsive behaviour, sometimes along self-destructive paths.”

These are the opening paragraphs of a long read article in the “Guardian” on human use of recreational drugs with particular reference to the historic opium trade in China.


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