For me, it may be a lack of international awareness, a lack of understanding of cultures, a lack of understanding of history, and a lack of understanding of ideals. The vast majority of conflicts we see today are between people who believe that they are superior, that their ideals are greater, that their cultures are richer and impose that on others. A deeper look into history may show that those differences have a common stem, and those differences should enrich cultures, rather than destroy them. If we could all take the time to learn a little about our neighbor, then maybe humanity would be a long way towards preserving itself from self-destruction.
Can I be bluntly pessimistic? Okay.
I think surviving stupidity and short-sightedness is the biggest challenge facing the human species. In a way, we are the only ones in our way of our own survival.
Similarly to Kera and Sanjoy, I believe some of the biggest challenges to the long term survival of the humans species are ignorance, short term greed and power, and overpopulation. I feel at this moment we are at a tipping point in terms of our planets health. If the wind blows one way, humanity will continue a downwards spiral towards an ignorant extinction; wind blows the other way.. humans will climb to a conscious equilibrium with our surroundings. In this case... the direction the wind blows is dependent on achieving a collective consciousness of the human species (not to sound too new age-y or anything).. but as Sanjoy was saying.. if cultures understand each other... a deeper appreciation for humanity will inevitably follow. If we don't understand each other, or as Kera was saying, are short shortsightedly selfish, then walls are built, wars are fought, riches are sought after and moments of temporary glorification are perhaps achieved for a very small percentage of people- followed by massive hardships faced by the rest of the population and the Earth. Only once we learn to appreciate the differences, and begin to work together and understand the fragile state of our planet, will we see a change. It's certainly an interesting time to be alive.. and an empowering time to co-create a change. Thanks Sanjoy for the question and creating a space to reflect :)
In my opinion: abuse of technology --which amounts to ignorance to long forgotten lessons of past--
Yes, advanced technology does necessarily mean a civilised culture. Just remember the Romans whom by our standards today were very much barbarians.
Just spotted a typo, should read"does not"
I personally think our biggest challenge is to learn to differentiate between what we consider to be affably human and in that light pre-human hominoid behaviour. Rape and pillage might be natural behaviour in a number of primate species (not all) but it is equally as natural in humans to have an augmented ability in malleable neuroplasticity that gets moulded into a mind set by learning. As humans we can either have our behaviour aggressively blindly dictated by our genes, or within the same genome, totally redirected in peaceful terms by our memes.
Most contemporary cultures have a common ground in being patriarchally biased as say would be a society of chimpanzees where social order is governed through the physical strength of males. Ever since women got the right to vote though we have become a totally different species mentally speaking. In the same way men no longer necessarily need to go out to hunt for meat, women no longer need to be just domestic servants. Neuroplasticity proves that a truly objective scientific intellect is asexual evident in women getting just as good exam results as men.
Sadly we still live in the dark ages as most present social structures do not celebrate the fact of female lineage despite common sense or irrefutable evidence such as mitochondrial DNA which is only inherited through females. Most women still inherit their surnames only from their fathers, a trait expressing our aggressive hominoid past as vestigial of being trophies of war. Even in Spain where everyone also inherits a surname from their mothers, they only inherit her patrilinial surname. Still, that does not mean that all men are bad, far from it. To have voted that women get the vote there must have been a majority of men who thought that it was a good idea. I always advise women who want to retain their maiden name even when they marry that if their father was a good guy keep his surname and pass that on to her daughters
Changing society so that female lineage is routinely celebrated should not be that difficult as patrilineal celebration would stay the same. We would just add more to one's known ancestry that's all
By the way, in all the Microsoft Windows versions of Office and Word I ever had the word patrilineal always got automatically funnily highlighted in red as a spelling mistake. Not so for the word matrilineal. I tried to report this but never got an answer. Someone having fun? ;-D
Astrobiologist, Biosignatures, exoplanet, extrasolar still get flagged for me. Interestingly enough, Astrobiology recently became a real word according to MS Word!
Worthy of note that happened in our times, thanks :-)
In reference to what I wrote about ever since all women got the right to vote we've become like some other type of species, I have actually found an existing term for that, which is called polyphenism. A polyphenism is a genome that can express itself in markedly different way according to the environment it forms in.
I found the term last summer reading Sarah Hrdy's book on Mother Nature and though she has greatly influenced me with vital information I don't ascribe to her particular romantically fallacious view of our ancestors having been noble savages.
I enjoy everyone's responses. And I think they all fit under the category of perception - not just of oneself, or one's immediate surroundings (as I think a lot of people strive for and then stop there), but on a greater spatial and temporal scale. I could of course be wrong and probably am, but to me it seems that developing a rudimentary understanding of how life comes to be and how fickle all of these events are, subsequently leads to a clear view and appreciation for how arbitrary and culturally/temporally-constrained our ideals are. I think that's a fundamental component to increasing perception, which in turn treats the root cause of a multitude of systemic problems that have and continue to plague us. I also imagine it would be a hurdle that all sentient lifeforms would have to struggle with at some point during their story. Until then, I think it is difficult to truly value life for life and the all-too-ephemeral window we have with it.
"For small creatures as we the vastness is bearable only through love." - not to be cliche and quote the obvious on a forum like this, but it's too ingrained in my idea of perception to leave it out