Timeline of Human Genius!

a catalog of humanity’s progress and ever-growing genius


This timeline shows humanity’s growth and progress from the the first fire to today’s achievements. It’s purpose is to show how humanity has grown and evolved consistently over time.

My hope is that through this timeline, we will see how our beliefs and worldviews have changed over time and get curious about how they might evolve in the future. Liberal or conservative, left or right, we all seem to think our beliefs and ethics are the end all and be all. History shows us over and over again that this is not true. Our perspectives are constantly expanding and our moral intuitions deepening. For example, for much of history, slavery was a broadly-accepted practice. Now it is perhaps the most despicable thing we can imagine.

What current beliefs and practices will appear despicable 500 years or even 10 years from now?

That’s the kind of question I hope to inspire through this timeline. I hope it sparks something for you.

The colors represent dominant human worldviews as they have evolved over time, ranging from instinct and survival to law and order to science and reason to equality and multi-culturalism and beyond. These colors are adapted from Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory and the work of Clare Graves, Don Beck, Christopher Cowan, Ken Wilber, and others.

For me, I find it helpful as a simplified map of humanity’s evolution. It helps explain, for example, why slavery was once accepted but no longer is. It helps explain how and why religious fundamentalists and hippies construct their meaning differently. Most importantly, it asks us to consider what dominant worldview and values might be next.

Many have considered these theories and the hierarchies inherent within them to be offensive and demeaning. I can understand this perspective. For example, it clearly depicts the mindset of social justice activists as more complex and dynamic than religious fundamentalists, who themselves have a more complex thought process than those who only consider their immediate self interest.

I think there is some truth to this. However, for me, the most important truths of this framework are:

  1. Humanity is and always has been evolving. It will continue to do so. The dominant worldviews we see today – left and right – are all incomplete, imperfect, and can be deepened and expanded.
  2. ALL core worldviews we see today are essential to humanity’s evolution. They are all right. Perhaps our goal is not to have one set of beliefs win out over the other, but rather to integrate them such that all views and needs are met and honored.

Yes. Humanity is constantly doing terrible things – from slavery to genocide to all the other subtler forms of oppression and injustice. That is undeniable.

However, I wonder: Does it make sense to view past events based on values that emerged after them?

Consider this: The Egyptian pyramids are an incredible feat of humanity. They are beautiful and must have taken extraordinary planning and genius to construct. AND they were built on the backs of slaves who no doubt were tortured and went through hell while the Pharaohs sat comfortably on their thrones.

From our dominant worldviews today, this was a heinous atrocity. From the dominant worldviews operating back in Egyptian times however, this was just how the world worked. While it was certainly shitty, what I find incredible is that over the last several millennia, humanity was able to acknowledge how shitty it was and literally expand into a new worldview to prevent it from happening again. Humanity invented the concepts of equality, justice, personal freedom, etc. because it no longer wanted to operate under the logic of slavery.

I think this is proof of humanity’s genius.

And while shitty things clearly continue to happen today, I think we have also clearly made almost unbelievable progress in our ability to comprehend and adapt to our world. This historical trend of consistent growth gives me confidence we are right now in the process of evolving into new beliefs and worldviews that will better bring peace, equality, justice, personal freedom, opportunity – and perhaps other values we have not yet even conceived of – to all.

Yes. As a product of a human, this timeline is inherently biased and imperfect. Being edited by a white, heterosexual, cisgendered, male American from an upper-middle class family there is also a risk of this overly representing the beliefs and behaviors of the Western world (and the dominant groups within the Western world).

Help me show a fuller and richer vision of humanity’s genius by submitting your own entry.