The human mind has increased in sophistication by evolving to the demands of survival over tens of thousands of years. Yet the big brains we have now retain many of the elements and processes of our pre-neolithic ancestors. Examples include Dunbar’s number, the way people reflexively crouch when they hear gunshots, and evolutionary explanations for altruism. Topics such as these are covered in the field of study known as evolutionary psychology.
Jamais Cascio’s article in The Atlantic argues that we no longer have to wait for evolution to augment our intelligence. Cascio’s article is about tackling the big issues: “Pandemics. Global warming. Food shortages. No more fossil fuels.” Issues like climate change obviously affect the livelihood of every human being, but are notoriously difficult to bring about the required action necessary for a solution. Cascio writes:
… as good as our brains have become at planning ahead, we’re still biased toward looking for near-term, simple threats. Subtle, long-term risks, particularly those involving complex, global processes, remain devilishly hard for us to manage.
This reminded me of a concept in international relations theory: securitization. I have introduced the concept before. As put forth by Barry Buzan, Ole Wæver and Japp de Wilde in Security: A New Framework for Analysis, security is defined as survival in the face of existential threats. Issues that are considered to be existential threats constitute an emergency and justify the use of special measures. The process by which an issue is elevated to the level of an existential threat is called “securitization.” However, as the definition of security widens to environmental, economic, societal and political sectors, the sense of existential threat tends to wane.
Buzan et al. show that environmental security is difficult to securitize. Their perspective is constructivist — purely sociocultural. Cascio, on the other hand, argues the same point from an evolutionary perspective. This prompts me to ask the questions: How does our evolutionary psychology influence our concepts of security, strategic planning and military thinking in general? What sort of prehistoric bias do we retain today that blinds us to more nuanced solutions to security problems?
Note that I am not talking about examining evolutionary psychology and the act of warfare. Hoplology does a fine job of that. I am more interested in our mental capacities for long-term strategic planning and sense of security. I think this is a viable field and would be grateful if anyone has any material on this and would be willing to share in the comments.