For reasons as fantastic and mysterious as any superhero origin story, humanity has acquired abilities unparalleled on this planet. We can travel faster than any animal, fly higher than any bird, cut deeper than any claw, and build stronger than any tree. These abilities give humanity immense
power over the natural world, like the spectacular power imbalances we read about in comic books.
With great power comes the great urge to abuse that power for personal gain, as both the comic books and humanity have repeatedly demonstrated. We have superpowers, but generally speaking, we haven't been behaving like the heroes of this story.
In The Beginning…
Millions of years ago a mutation amongst a species of monkeys set off a chain of events that led to planetary chaos! The mutant monkeys grew powerful, declared ownership of the entire world, and destroyed everything that got in their way! Nature’s delicate balance fell into disorder and most planetary life perished!
And yes, humans are the mutant monkeys.
While the other species were evolving physically for survival, humans were evolving mentally. It's amazing we survived at all given our thin-skinned, relatively hairless bodies that are slower and weaker than our predators and offer us nothing but puny claws and little teeth to defend ourselves.
Most creatures are endowed at birth with their own flavor of superpower. Some can fly, others carry razor-sharp claws, some are super fast and can't be caught, others are super big can't be stopped, and some are so small they're practically invisible.
But we have the ultimate superpower! We have the power to gain more superpowers!
It's not a natural process like growing a claw or a wing. It requires a mental dexterity unique to humans. The process we use to gain superpowers can be boiled down to a formula that has echoed knowledge through the ages.
By applying this formula we've developed the most extraordinary powers this planet may have ever seen. Whether we use our powers for good or evil, the way of achieving our powers is the same.
The Superpower Formula
The formula for which humanity gains their superpowers has two cycles. The first cycle births the knowledge of the power, while the second cycle distributes this knowledge.
The Innovation Cycle
The foundation of our abilities comes from our true evolutionary superpower: our imagination. It's this creative power that can conceive something that does not exist, and figure out how to manifest it into reality.
It's our near-boundless imaginations that gave us the cunning to survive on this planet without the biophysical fortitude of most creatures.
But as we all know, unchecked imagination can quickly lead us astray. In all its glory, our imagination does not distinguish between genius and delusion. Once we imagine a new possibility, we must test its viability.
The second variable in our formula is experimentation. To successfully wield creativity, our ideas must be tempered with real-world experience. We have an idea, then we go test it. The results of that idea add new input to the creative process, often resulting in new ideas to be tested.
This drives a feedback loop occasionally resulting in the development of a powerful technology.
Once the technology is mastered, it can be taught, which brings us to the second cycle of our formula.
The Student-Teacher Relationship
In this cycle, the master becomes the teacher educating the students, until the student becomes the master and teacher. With each mastery, we gain a new power.
The second biologically inherited superpower we have is our ability to learn. Our enlarged neocortex is a powerful processor that makes us great at figuring stuff out.
We naturally mimic and empathize, through which we learn how to do things and why. We're excellent at recognizing meaningful patterns to extract useful information. Our neuroplasticity allows us to quickly connect new info with old info and adapt.
Although, it's our ability to communicate through abstractions that has most enabled our learning. It's through this capability that individuals derive much of their knowledge and power. The clearest demonstration of our capacity for symbolic interpretation is the act of reading and writing.
Our Greatest Invention
For millions of years, our ancestors transmitted knowledge from person to person. We demonstrated, made meaningful gestures & sounds, and hoped our audience understood. Then at some point, our language became abstract. We began communicating about things that weren't right in front of us and ideas with no physical representation. Spoken communication evolved in complexity until it solidified in what could be our most potent invention: written language.
Writing allowed for the transmission of knowledge through space and time. It meant knowledge could be transported and distributed. No longer must the student be present with the teacher and both prepared for the lesson. With written language and the ability to read, the student can teach themselves at their own pace and in their own time.
The first cycle of this formula drives invention. These days, with so much invented, mastered, and shared, we can find all of the power we need through written (or otherwise captured) language.
This is the formula most of us use to gain our superpowers whether we behave like superheroes or supervillains.
Good vs Evil
What puts us on the side of good or evil has to do with the powers we choose and the way we use them.
Much of our technological power causes harm. Every bit of concrete and metal you see represents a damaged piece of Earth. Every bit of smart-tech requires huge chunks of our planet to be extracted and processed with toxic chemicals. If we're going to be the superheroes in this comic book, we need to find a better way.
To be on the side of good, you have two options when it comes to superpowers:
Using your powers for good
Use beneficent powers
Powers for Good
There are the kinds of superpowers that can be used for good or evil. School offers us a plethora of these powers.
If you study science, you can seek both the origin of life and the fastest way to destroy it. Chemists learn to make both medicine and poison. Engineers learn to design both diesel engines and wind turbines.
As a superhero, you must choose to use your powers for good.
There's also the kind of superpowers that are intrinsically harmful. Powers that, however we use them, actively cause environmental degradation.
The power we harness from petroleum, which we still critically depend on for our survival, is a perfect example of the harmful nature of our superpowers.
Petroleum-based technologies grow and deliver our food, pump our water, clean our sewage, and still provide electricity for much of the world. Most of us are not in a position to stop relying on this polluting power.
But there's still a way to be a superhero while still using this technology.
If we intend to rely on this technology forever, it would be hard to consider ourselves on the side of good. But if we're using this technology intending to make it obsolete, then we can count ourselves among the superheroes.
Getting off petroleum might not be a practical life choice right now, but if you're working towards a life of living locally - a life that doesn't depend on petroleum - you're on the superhero's path!
The other tricks superheroes have up their sleeves are beneficent superpowers. For a superpower to be considered wholly positive, it must encourage nature's abundance.
The vast library of human potential offers us surprisingly few powers that are inherently good for our planet.
We can learn to grow biodiverse forests that also provide us with harvestable goods. We can revitalize grasslands with proper animal management, build swales to replenish the water table, and create ponds to encourage biodiversity.
We can learn to create our world with materials we grow & regenerate, instead of non-renewable ones we mine. We can learn to build with the materials present in the footprint of the building, instead of harvesting whatever we want, wherever we can.
The evil ways of humanity are reaching a climax. If good triumphs over evil in this story, it's about now when the superheroes embrace their destiny and begin taking action.
Superpowers have never been easier to come by. With the fluidity of information in our age, anyone can learn to develop nearly any superpower they wish. To be a superhero, you must choose to use the superpower formula to develop beneficent powers and learn how to use your power for good. If enough of us embrace the way of the superhero, we will be able to overcome the evil that's destroying our Earth and help all life on the planet live in natural harmony.