Design Story: The Roots We All Share



The fact that we still deal with bigotry of any form in 2017 is a sign of how far we have to go. Some say that this is an intractable aspect of human nature. They think that our brains make us prejudiced permanently. They are wrong. As a neuroscientist, I am quite familiar with the literature on what the brain does when humans encounter "novel" and "different". What we actually know about human brains is that yes, we have an inborn ability to recognize "different" as a survival mechanism. But specific and long standing prejudices are learned, and can be unlearned. What really happens is that society's bigotry imprints on our natural mechanisms that say "different".

Taken together, the above means that we just need to change the messaging the brain gets. It is in that vein that I came up with the phrase "We are all dependent and descendants of the same root". I then found some artwork by a Russian artist that tied a family together as tree roots, and used design software to put them in soil as if planted.

The statement above does not invoke the often misguided phrasing of being "colorblind". We do not need to all be the same to find connection. We can recognize and celebrate our differences. There is nothing wrong with a difference that hurts no one. What we need to recognize is that we are all here together, and humans all depend on one another. This has always been true in a particular area. But now, with our extensive abilities to interact with the rest of the world, it is largely true of all humans. We have a global economy, global communication, and global trafficking of resources.

We must begin to transmit new messaging to each other's brains. We must strengthen circuits that say "different is still connected and important", and weaken circuits that say "different is bad and a threat". No human has ever been a threat because they are different. They have only been a threat because they are a threat. We can get better at discerning the difference. We need to. Cultures and races, while still very segregated, are mixing and exchanging more than ever. We need to develop better attitudes and outlooks.

This design has yet another meaning - we are all rooted to this earth and its resources. They are not unlimited. We have continually disregarded that fact in our actions. We waste resources just showing off. We exclude others from resources because we want to hoard and monopolize. People try to own the means of food production for themselves, squeezing others for labor and resources in exchange just to eat.

But that is just one side of the "we". We also cooperate and conserve. Human nature is not quite so well defined as the cynic would have us think. There are egalitarian tribes that know how to coexist in harmony with the earth.

The point of this design is to remind us of our capacity for connection. Can you dig it?

Kwame
Co-founder, Symbiotic Swag

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