Evolving Toward Modern Human Behavior

August 15, 2022


Simplicity vs. Complexity

As we move forward, our goal is simplicity on the far side of complexity.  Dr. Stephen Covey’s profound statement.

Ironically, as you will see, we are moving simultaneously toward both simplicity and complexity.

One of our goals is also clarity.  Who are we?  What does it mean to be human?

The corner stone of our framework of understanding and insights is human evolutionary history.  Which will eventually lead to another building block:  Foundational Concepts.  And finally, to the other corner stone:  Effective Human Behaviors.

Where did we come from?  When did we first arise?  How did we evolve?  How did we progress?  And ultimately, how and when did our earliest origins begin transitioning to Modern Human Behaviors?

3-5 million years ago, our earliest ancestors showed up as small, simple animals not too different from living wild chimpanzees only without big fangs and not violent.

Evolution of Diet

Relatively defenseless, we lived mostly in trees and ate a fundamentally vegetarian diet consisting of mostly fruit when we could get it.  

The one major exception from chimpanzees:  when we walked on the ground, we walked bipedally.  On two legs.

Around this time as we have discussed (about 2.5 million years ago) a major climate change began to drive and accelerate our evolution.

Jungles and rain forests of Africa became savannah.  Low hanging fruit became carcasses deserted by predators.  Our subsistence strategy (not consciously but by necessity) became scavenging.  Our diet evolved from almost exclusively carbohydrates (sugar) to animal protein and animal fat (fatty meat and bone marrow).

Again, out of pure necessity, our lifeways became more complex.  We became tool makers to gain access to a major source of food energy.

Now, the rich, nutrient density of our new diet drove an increase in both our physical size and our brain size.

For the first time in our history, cognition became a major factor.  We evolved from opportunistic scavenger-gatherers to hunter-gatherers.

Our tool kit evolved from crude, jagged rocks to bows and arrows with razor sharp tips.  We began to walk long distances.  We developed sophisticated hunting strategies including persistence hunting.  We became competent animal butchers.  We developed fire technology, cooked our food, and shared it around our band.

Cooking exponentially increased the nutrition we gained from our food.  Which, in turn accelerated our growth to tall, gracile, big-brained early humans.

About 200,000 years ago, the first truly human ancestors (Homo sapiens) appeared somewhere in Africa.

About 50,000 to 60,000 years ago we Homo sapiens ventured out of Africa and spread across the globe.

With our expanding brain and growing cognitive abilities, we were able to adapt to environments as diverse as the Middle East to as far north as Siberia.

Our now omnivore diet included foods as diverse as fish and shellfish to reindeer and wooly mammoth.

Our lifeways now included more complex and stable base camps with open hearths.  We decorated ourselves with ostrich eggshell necklaces.  We participated in ritualistic trance dances around the fire for hours.

We began to express ourselves with cave paintings.

We became more sophisticated with the innovation of warm, water-proof clothing from animal hides to cope with Ice Age cold in the north.

Gender became a real factor with overlapping roles.  Women became expert butchers and sometimes even hunters.

As you can see, we were developing a growing culture.

With more powerful cognition came greater innovation, quicker adaptation, and greater resilience.

We became consciously aware of animal migration and took advantage of seasonality.  We began to store food and plan ahead.  We were developing real foresight.

We invested more energy and effort into the construction of our shelters.  Our settlements had consistent hut and village plans. 

We evolved from living opportunistically day-to-day with immediate gratification to longer, more complex hunting trips and delayed gratification.  From gatherers to collectors.

As you can see, the trend over time - millions to thousands of years – is simple to complex.  Simplistic to sophisticated.

From our primitive beginnings 3-5 million years ago (even pre-Lucy) leading up to the threshold of the agricultural revolution (10-12,000 years ago) we were evolving toward Modern Human Behaviors.

If we look at a number of variables over time, our growing sophistication and competence becomes clear.





1: Resources



2: Foraging Radius:

about 2 hours

trips of several days

3: Storage:


common caches

4: Settlement

high mobility

low mobility

5: Logistics

low mobility

high mobility

6: Butchery

kill site limited

systematic processing

7: Technology


single purpose

8: Environmental


highly predictable

9: Settlement Size



10: Demography

low density

high density

11: Political



12: Competition

not tolerated


13: Ownership



14: Gender

simple, primitive

overlapping, complex

15: Symbolic

primitive if at all

rich and complex

16: Culture


increasingly powerful

17: Territory




As you can see, we are developing larger, more stable base camps and venturing out and returning from there.  We are becoming more skillful, competent, and specialized.  We have even domesticated dogs.  How modern is that.  We are on the cusp of profound change.  

As we have learned as we have grown up:  Opportunistic is fine when it works.  Proactive is dependable.  The start of a healthy family is pre-conception.  Healthy pregnancy.  Healthy lactation.  Healthy mom.  Healthy kids.  Healthy family.  JDD shakes benefit everyone.  

How you ever noticed?  Life is always asking us to grow up.  

Here’s to Optimal Health, Peak Performance, and Maximum Health Span.

Thank you again.


Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash