Friday, February 06, 2009

Humans, the neotenous primate

Deric at Mindblog posted about this essay by Alison Gopnik titled Never-ending childhood.

"people will have to learn more and more. The best way to make it happen is to extend the period when we learn the most — childhood."
"We may remain children forever — or at least for much longer."
"Humans already have a longer period of protected immaturity — a longer childhood — than any other species. Across species, a long childhood is correlated with an evolutionary strategy that depends on flexibility, intelligence and learning."
"Children get to learn freely about their particular environment without worrying about their own survival — caregivers look after that."
Well, ideally anyway... I think it's debatable. Lots of children all over the world now wander in streets having to be self-sufficient far too young. They get "old" far sooner than they should have to. Meanwhile, "chidren" elsewhere live and grow up to and through sexual maturity in socially reinforced and rewarded bubble zones of childhood and postadolescent protection, until they reach middle age.

The essay ends with,
"When we are all babies for ever, who will be the parents? When we're all children who will be the grown-ups?"
Exactly. Who indeed.

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