Sunday, 17 November 2013

Domesticated humans

Humans have domesticated many memes - making them less harmful and more docile and friendly servants via selective breeding. In modern times, this idea is often called domestication_theory.

However there's also an important sense in which humans themselves have been domesticated by the organizations they are part of - the companies, governments and churches they associate with. The image shows some domesticated employees of Toyota in Japan.

The signs that humans have recently been domesticated are widespread. Protection and food production have both been outsourced - as with domesticated animals. The modern shrinkage of the human brain can probably be attributed to domestication.

Domestication and neoteny seem to be associated. Young domesticatees are often more docile, and are more easily moulded by the domesticator. The longer the child-like stage lasts, the better. Domestication and imprinting are also related ideas: the domesticator often benefits if the domesticatee imprints on them.

The process has sometimes been described as "self-domestication". The term "self-domestication" suggests that humans domesticated each other - while it seems to me that the truth is more that organizations and institutions domesticated humans.

Slavery, wage slavery and imprisonment represent fairly clear cases of domestication in progress.

The organizations of today that have domesticated humans are products of genes and memes. However, without the memes they would not exist in their current form. So, in a sense, memes are domesticating humans. It seems likely that this will become more true in the future, as automation gradually replaces the human components in organizations with machines. Humans originally domesticated memes. Their domestication in turn by organizations represents a bit of a role-reversal.


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