No two animals see the world in the same way. The structures of the different eyes that have developed over the course of evolution vary depending on a species’ environment. This is relevant for us, humans, too, even though our eye structures are all the same across different groups, the way we process information is different. Not in a physiological way, but in the way we make sense of what we see. It depends on a myriad of environmental factors that we encounter in the course of life. Our brain makes sense out of the world based on what it already knows. Each of us is basically a set of references – the more references you have, the more you have to choose from, therefore your picture of the world has better resolution. This is also true for practical skills – this is where the 10.000 hour rule comes from: more references = more efficiency, because each time you add to them you increase the chance of making a better choice when presented with something new. You have more evidence to base your decision on, thus the level of ability to predict the outcome is higher.
It is curious how we separate ourselves from the natural world, but if we observe it closely enough, there are many things we can learn from. The animal world is based upon the mechanisms that each organism has to go through in order to adapt to its surroundings, caused by millions of years of natural selection. We, humans, do not possess senses as developed and as precisely adjusted for specific environments as in most animals, but we do have them all at once. And depending on what we need in life, we can favor the development of some over others. And this makes me wonder, how often do people think about it like this? In reality, we can choose what senses we want to develop. It is interesting to see it from this perspective. Different species build their picture of the world through senses we could not even imagine are fit for purpose. There are some kinds of fish that build a 3d picture of their environment through the sense of taste, processing information from the chemicals in the water that they receive through taste buds similar to the ones we have on our tongue that are located on the surface of their skin. Bats are basically blind, their eyes are only fit to differentiate light and its absence, but they read the space in front of them and build an understanding of it by sending out ultrasound waves and receiving vibrations that reflect back to them from the objects. For humans, some of the features of the animal kingdom are obviously physiologically impossible to achieve, but I do think that we can learn how to enrich our perception of the world from other life forms. Especially by keeping in mind our own most remarkable feature as a species, adaptability.
There are a lot of interesting human cultures that have developed certain physiological features based on the specificities of their environment. Tribes of sea gypsies that are located in different zones of South-East Asia are a great example of that. Living on water, they have begun developing adaptations to the aquatic environment: the longest diving apnea in humans was recorded in a population of these tribes (up to 5 hours throughout a day of submerged free diving!), some intentionally rupture their eardrums at an early age to facilitate diving. Often their children learn how to swim before they learn how to walk and their ability to see under water is far greater than any other human being. Another interesting example is Khoisan languages – “clicking” languages that are still used by some tribes in Africa. Supposedly, they have developed in this way because of the specificity of the landscape – the clicking sound produces a loud echo that can be heard from the distance and the frequency of it does not disturb prey like the sound of the human voice. Just think about it – you can become better through training in absolutely anything you chose to do. You can learn this language or any other, you can develop underwater sight and learn how to move in the environment that is completely alien to your normal habitat. This is our most remarkable feature – we do not need to pass through years and years of genetic selection for a specific adaptation to happen. It is available here and now.
Humans have dominated the world because of our capacity to adapt, but while moving forward in technological advances we are forgetting to look back on where we came from. Natural selection created a species that does not possess abilities as beautifully crafted as in many other animals, but has an ability to reshape its own self in order to fit in the new environment. For some reason, this is something we very often forget. Nature and nurture are inseparable and an understanding of the processes that guides both can, I believe, provide us with many valuable lessons of how things work and be a guide to living a meaningful life.
Let’s take it deeper, to the cellular level. At the end of the day, every living thing that we can observe, is nothing but the energy borrowed from the chaos and put into temporal order. And I am not talking about the energy in a spiritual way. If you understand the laws of physics that everything in the observable universe is a subject to, there is no question about that. Energy is always there and it has always been there. It is never wasted, it is just constantly re-transformed from one form to another. There is an order that comes from disorder and comes back to its initial form again. Every living being on Earth is nothing more than a temporarily organized chaos that moves from lower to higher complexity and then transforms back into a singularity. I think the life that has emerged on Earth is quite remarkable and humans as a global culture are making a big mistake in not paying attention to it anymore. The information that we can extract by observing and studying it is priceless. By understanding how the world works you understand how your own self works. We have become too naive if we think that we are in control. Civilizations will rise and fall, the universe will still be there. The temporary nature of everything in life is a beautiful thing and it would be very sad if we lose our curiosity towards trying to understand it better.