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Society

Why humanity’s survival may depend on us becoming a tribe of billions

Tribalism can be toxic, yet we need more of it if we are to meet today‚Äôs global challenges, argues one anthropologist. His research reveals how to create a ‚Äúteratribe‚ÄĚ

By Harvey Whitehouse

17 June 2024

Big crowd of people. People gathered together in one place. Top view from drone.

Harvey Whitehouse

Imagine yourself in deep space, circling Earth at around 28,000 kilometres per hour. Peering through the window of the International Space Station, you gasp as the sun rises beyond the curved horizon of the planet, like a diamond ring refracting light in all directions. Viewing the world from afar is awe-inspiring, as I discovered when I experienced this as part of a virtual-reality simulation. But it also makes you realise how isolated and vulnerable we are.

Humans are the only species capable of seeing our home from this unique vantage point in space or imagining how it came to be this way. We have always asked big questions about the origins of our world and our place in it. However, that place has changed dramatically over time. Over the past 10,000 years, people have gone from living in small groups of familiars to nations of strangers numbering millions. Tribalism, one of our most powerful evolved psychological biases, has contributed to this expansion. Now, however, it has led humanity to a cliff edge.

Along with our global dominance, we have created a disturbing range of global threats, from climate breakdown and pandemics to famine, war and nuclear annihilation. It may sound contrarian, but I believe that more tribalism would help us meet these challenges. This propensity, although responsible for some of the cruelest acts in human history, has also motivated tremendous…

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