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martes, 15 de marzo de 2016

Hace unos días os hablábamos de la serie documental “Brain Game” del canal National Geographic Channel http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/brain-games/episodes/the-survivor-brain/
El profesor Javier Baena nos deja en este espacio la respuesta a la pregunta que el canal de lanza sobre el nuevo capítulo titulado “the survivor brain” que se emitirá el próximo 20 de Marzo.

Survivor-style television has grown increasingly popular over the years and done a great job of illustrating our brain's fascinating built-in survival instinct.  What role do you think our ancestral instincts play today in helping us survive, thrive and accomplish our goals?  How much of our ancestral survival instincts are innate verses learned?

There are two main rules that has driven us into the evolutionary process and each one has its own progression in terms of time and intensity. From one part the natural evolutionary laws, and from the other the cultural laws that still has to be define. The evolution of our specie introduced this second factor in the changing process till the moment in which natural processes became residual. During more than three million years our ancestors have introduced gradually different technical and social adaptive solutions in order to survive as a specie. Those solutions are what we could denominate cultural evolution rules.  It is not privative to primates, but this family has the property to improve its application along the time. During the last 10.000 years the change of the social model of hunter-gathers to the productive societies implies a strongly cooperative model in which symbiotic relations of hundreds of people begun. This process derive into a strong acculturative process in which people lose the traditional knowledge to survive.
Now, we still have some traces of what we were.  Individually we have lost many of the ecological or biological data needed to survive (plants and edible roots, natural medicines, recognition of weather changes, etc) or the technical abilities to solve problems (how to make a string, how to make a trap, etc.). But the basic structure is inside us, and of course, the social knowledge have preserved in some individuals those abilities and cultural resources until today.
Of course, we are animals, and as such, we have a survival instinct that provides us with biological and chemical solutions to certain circumstances. In our live, usually we use devices or technical solutions that avoid the use of our biological resources (that is the case of a GPS, a mobile, etc.). In certain circumstances, we could recover some of our natural abilities that are “asleep” during the experience of our modern life.

In terms of mental structure, and in a survival situation, our specie has an instinctive advantage. Even if we have lost particular information needed to survive in relation to resources providing or  finding technical solutions, our mental structure was built up to provide enough creativeness and improvisation to find solutions at any circumstance. And of course one of those solutions is the synergy derived from cooperation. Social relations are a landmark of our powerful evolutionary advantage. But at the same time, this social (versus cultural) strategy has its price; the individual has no value compared with society survival.

This documentary provides excellent examples of the traces of our natural conditions, the one that provide us with enough resources to survive and success during our evolutionary process.
Prof. Javier Baena Preysler
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

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