“I was born as the King of Ants, the crowning glory of life. All of your kind evolved solely to produce me. I am the culmination of generations of their unhesitating service. You are one of many, and no king. Of course you could never win!!
“Meruem, King of Ants, you understand nothing… of humanity’s infinite potential for evolution”
Note: It was infinite potential for *malice* in the manga but that’s a discussion for another day
How infinite is humanity’s potential to evolve?
Firstly, what an epic scene that was. Probably in my top 5 character deaths in anime.
So what struck me about his last words was “humanity’s infinite potential for evolution”. Something that I have pondered from time to time. So I guess this is me reflecting on humanity’s potential to evolve and whether we are making the most of our potential.
You may be wondering why reflect on human evolution now? Well we seem to be facing a broad range of issues: Overpopulation, climate change, resource scarcity, slowdown in technological innovation. We are running out of time to solve these global issues thus times like these when our existence is on the line we must…evolve.
Humans vs. The Next Threat
Seeing how quickly the Chimera Ants became a significant threat, showed how easily our extinction could become an imminent possibility. I know it is “only an anime” but some say our imagination is just as important as what we know. And it’s not as if we haven’t seen such themes in entertainment before..
Take the Planet of the Apes movie series. One of the closest mammals to our own DNA, suddenly learns how to communicate through a human experiment and quickly drives the rest of his species into a new age. In theory, this is possible. We are just as likely to experience a scientific breakthrough as a scientific disaster as such.
This also reminds me of Parastye. An anime I recently watched where these alien-like creatures invade the bodies of humans and infiltrate the governing bodies with ease. If you haven’t noticed already, there’s a pattern. Every menace with the power to destabilise us, will use what we have already built to overcome us. The technology we have used to take us so far, can become the weapon that is our undoing.
The Chimera Ants evolved very quickly by imitating humans but eventually this backfired.They started to take on human traits that slowed their progression. Human individuality made them turn on each other, creating cracks in their defenses that allowed the hunters to fight back. The more human they became, the more vulnerable. How has revealed a fatal flaw in our own existence?
Is our diversity hindering the human evolution?
The ecology of the Chimera Ant is focused on the endpoint of all evolution… on me. Humanity, with its messy diversity… its individuals… never had a chance.”
I think many would agree diversity is actually humanity’s best asset. Yuval Noah Harari in his “What explains the rise of human” TED Talk assesses that: “Humans control the planet because they are the only animals that can cooperate both flexibly and in very large numbers. While social insects, the bees, the ants — that can cooperate in large numbers do but their cooperation is very rigid”.
This probably explains the Ant King’s bias towards a less democratic form of governance. Although maybe there was some truth in what he was saying?
Human beings have stopped evolving after becoming the only species to “put halt to natural selection of its own free will”, Sir David Attenborough said, as he predicted the “cultural evolution” of the future. The current definition of natural selection is quite primitive for the 21st century so I have expanded it by including producing not only “offspring” but a workforce through education. And to incorporate not just the physical but intellectual traits. I.e. Surviving by passing on our intelligence onto the newer generations, producing offspring and workforce more adapted to their current and near-future conditions of their environment.
Why have we stopped evolving?
Meruem questioned our hierarchical systems referring to how we allow less talented minds to rule us.
It is reasonable and ethically human of us to demand a fairer society. One that has human rights, equality and balanced representation in positions of power. This is what political movements have been fighting for centuries. But my question is that whether this hindering us from evolving by no longer elevating the most talented to the top of our hierarchies? Are we maximising the intelligence within our societies in order to go onto better things?
I believe in diversity but I do question the idea of status quotas. I do question putting people into powerful positions in the name of diversity. This quote on a matriarchy society summarises one way of seeing the reserve of human evolution as we deprioritise our most talented and skilled citizens in key industries.
Diversity makes sense, but is it slowly clouding our judgement? I watched the Matt Damon interview where he was simply trying to say, he wanted to pick directors on merit first, rather than representation. The media didn’t miss the opportunity to throw his name through the mud but fortunately reddit provided a more balanced view of what transpired. The point is we need to have a fair society but we should not risk the losing our best minds in these agenda-driven rows. But obviously there’s more to life than evolving continuously.
A fairer or a more advanced society – Can we have both?
“I understood nothing”
“Because of Komugi…I’ve learned that there are different forms of strength… Even on my way here… I killed a child. That child may have had the talent to surpass me in something… I trampled over that seed. For no reason at all… I trampled over it!”
Meruem eventually understood the beauty of life. Of what makes us humans, we can all be great. A black female scientist at MIT may finally find a way for us to explore the galaxy or even time travel, so representation of ethnic minorities and genders is important but we shouldn’t trample over seeds that are already bearing fruit. We need the most talented to help us survive once more, or we may face a threat far worse than a Chimera Ant King with an appetite for world domination.