Skip to main content

Why is Cultural Evolution at a Standstill?



I have long speculated that our species has come to the end of the evolutionary spectrum in regards to our cultural creativity. Although the calendar may read 2016, a time traveler from the distant future may arrive tomorrow and probably wouldn't be able to differentiate between 2006 and 2016.

It seems that every decade brings new trends and styles, from popular music to the automotive industry. Whether it's a hairstyle or a fashion fad, every decade is defined by its own unique aesthetic-- except for the 2010s, which, for some reason, look a hell of a lot like the 2000s.

Are we living on the cusp of a new Dark Age? Or, worse, have we reached the end of our cultural evolution?

Because this evolutionary stagnation extends to virtually every realm of the human experience, I fear that it is the latter. If you don't believe me, just look at the following examples, which illustrate the progress (along with the recent lack of progress) made in ten-year increments.



Automobiles

2006 vs. 2016: Honda Accord and Chevy Silverado

Sure, the 2016 Honda Accord has been updated from the 2006 model, while the Silverado looks pretty much the same for the most part, but these updated looks are a far cry from the evolution of the automobile over any other decade-long period in history. For instance, the picture below shows the drastic stylistic differences between a 1955 and 1965 Buick Skylark and a 1929 and 1939 Ford Roadster.




Aircraft

The following represents the evolution of fighter aircraft through the 1930s through the 1960s. As you can see, a cutting-edge fighter jet from 2005 is virtually identical to a fighter jet from 2015.


One is a 2005 F-22, the other a 2015 F-35. Can you tell which is which?

Hairstyles

The difference between 2005 Kelly Clarkson and 2015 Nicole Gale Anderson. Even though there is a full decade difference, the looks are identical.


....Compare this to hairstyles from other decades



Music

Just as every decade (up until the 2010s) has had its own visual and aesthetic trademarks, the same evolution of style also exists in music.

Top Songs of 1955: Songs like "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and "Mr. Sandman" by the Chordettes defined the sound of the 1950s. Everyone knows what 1955 sounds like, even those of us who weren't born until decades later.

...and these songs sounded much, much different than:

Top Songs of 1965: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. "Help!" by The Beatles. "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers. Just like 1955, everybody knows what 1965 sounded like.

...and these songs sounded much, much different than:

Top Songs of 1975: "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain and Tenille, "Jive Talkin'" by the Bee Gees, "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, and other similar hits were defined by a disco and funk style.

...and these songs sounded much, much different than:

Top Songs of 1985: "Like a Virgin" by Madonna, "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham, and "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds.

...which sounded much different than:

Top Songs of 1995: "Run Around" by Blues Traveler, "Waterfalls" by TLC, "Hold My Hand" by Hootie and the Blowfish. Whether it was the r&b style of Montell Jordan or the folky pop of Cheryl Crow, you know a 90s song when you hear it.

Now compare the ten-year evolution of sound between 2006 and 2016 and, well, frankly there just isn't much of a difference. No matter which genre you prefer, things still pretty much sound the same.


Computers

Yes, I know what all of you technology geeks are thinking. When it comes to technology, things are always getting faster or more sophisticated. However, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, you can see that even the world of technology has failed to evolve.



From state-of-the-art military aircraft to celebrity hairstyles, it's evident that the 2010s don't really look, sound or feel any different than the 2000s. So why is cultural evolution at a standstill? Have we reached our artistic and creative limits? Or have we just become lazy and incapable of imagination?

So what will the world look like in 2026? Chances are, it will look pretty much the same as it does right now. And if it does, then it's safe to conclude that we have reached the end of the creative and cultural evolutionary road.

Popular posts from this blog

Jenny Hanivers, Mermaids, Devil Fish, and Sea Monks

Three centuries before P.T. Barnum attracted flocks of crowds with his mummified Fiji Mermaid (which turned out to be a papier-mâché creation featuring a monkey's head and a fish's body), sailors around the world had already began manufacturing "mermaids".  Known as Jenny Hanivers, these creations were often sold to tourists and provided sailors with an additional source of income.  These mummified creatures were produced by drying, carving, and then varnishing the carcasses of fish belonging to the order rajiformes- a group of flattened cartilaginous fish related to the shark which includes stingrays and skates.  These preserved carcasses can be made to resemble mermaids, dragons, angels, demons, and other mythical creatures.


Jenny Hanivers became popular in the mid-16th century, when sailors around the Antwerp docks began selling the novelties to tourists.  This practice was so common  in the Belgian city that it may have influenced the name; it is widely believed …

The Roberto Clemente death conspiracy

Was the Hall of Fame baseball star assassinated by the CIA?



From the Sandy Hook school shooting to the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370, it seems that every tragedy in recent times is accompanied by a slew of conspiracy theories. Yet history is filled with events that would be enshrouded in conspiracy theories if they happened today. One such event is the plane crash that killed baseball Hall-of-Famer and Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente on December 31, 1972.

Most of us are familiar with the story: Clemente, playing the role of humanitarian, decides to accompany a flight of emergency aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, after the victims claim that the corrupt military dictator, Anastasio Somoza, was preventing the much-needed emergency supplies from getting into the hands of earthquake survivors. The rickety plane goes down off the coast of  Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, immediately after takeoff. Strangely, Clemente's body is never found.

This story has all t…

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his br…