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25 Characteristics of Humans

 , January 16, 2021
Humans are a species of highly intelligent mammal and primate that emerged out of Africa around 300,000 years ago. The following are common characteristics of humans.

Intelligence

Humans demonstrate high levels of motivation and self-awareness and can perform complex cognitive tasks such as recognizing patterns, solving problems, applying first principles, learning, experimenting and developing knowledge. They commonly think in abstract concepts, apply reason, plan, calculate, design and create.

Emotion

Humans have cognitive states known as emotions that color all thoughts at a point in time. These allow the same individual to switch into different modes of behavior as appropriate. Emotions are also considered a thrilling and valuable element of the human experience.

Biases & Fallacies

Humans are highly intelligent but are also highly fallible. They commonly suffer from biases, mistakes and shortfalls of thinking that result in fallacies.

Technology

Humans develop and build tools, clothing, buildings, infrastructure and automation. They are relatively helpless without these technologies and grow dependent on them.

Philosophy

Humans ponder the nature of the universe to form foundational beliefs and knowledge. These beliefs are commonly institutionalized as religions or the foundational principles of a nation, organization or field.

Language

Humans can think and communicate with languages. Each language includes a large number of words and many of these represent concepts that have no specific tangible manifestation. As such, humans understand abstract concepts such as love or freedom and can think and communicate in abstractions.

Societies

Humans cooperate as extremely large groups. They commonly organize into complex structures and systems known as societies.

Social Behavior

Humans demonstrate a broad range of complex social behaviors and enjoy engaging each other in friendship, romance, family, business, competition and adversarial relationships. Humans commonly seek respect from other humans known as social status.

Politics

As humans cooperate, they require a contentious process known as politics to decide how to move forward as one.

War & Conflict

Generally speaking, humans try to get along and to live in peace but this process can break down resulting in conflict and war. War is often more than a breakdown in cooperation and can result from imperialistic ambitions. Both war and conflict are a persistent feature of human history.

Family

Humans commonly demonstrate bonding, cooperation and trust with blood relations such as grandparents, parents and children. They also commonly form devoted romantic partnerships and marry to found new families. Human families can include members not related by birth such as adopted children.

Childhood

The childhood of humans is longer than the entire lifespan of many other species. This varies greatly by historical period and culture but humans commonly take several decades to reach full adulthood.

Play

Play is any free spirited activity that has no serious goals. Humans commonly spend much time playing and this appears to benefit childhood development and the happiness and productivity of adults.

Learning

Humans learn and can acquire new talents and knowledge at any age. Childhood is a formative period where learning is generally more profound and efficient. Humans document knowledge and learn with language and structured lessons. It is also common for people to learn from any element of the human experience. For example, humans may view failures as a type of learning.

Imagination

Humans dream when they sleep and have a significant capacity for imagining things that differ from reality. They enjoy products of the imagination such as art, fiction, myth and film. Humans also have the capacity to make things they imagine a reality. As such, imagination is the root of creativity and invention.

Culture

Humans developed creative expression, shared meaning and norms known as culture. Culture emerges with shared experiences at various levels such as a national culture, traditional culture, super culture and subculture.

Heritage

Heritage is value that humans pass down from the past across generations. This includes priceless intangible value such as traditions, stories, symbols, culture and knowledge.

Competition

Generally speaking, humans are fiercely competitive. They easily outcompete other species but compete amongst each other for resources and status. It is also common for humans to compete simply for the joy or challenge of it.

Migration

Migration of human populations is a persistent feature of history. Humans explore, settle, trade and travel. The following are estimates for the settlement of major regions by humans.
Continent or AreaSettled (years in the past)
Africa300,000
Europe (Greece)210,000
Middle East (Israel)194,000
Asia50,000
Australia50,000
Europe (All)40,000
Americas20,000
Greenland4,000
Polynesia2,000
Antarctica45

Economy

Humans produce goods and services and engage in trade. Generally speaking, they are industrious and productive with a strong will to thrive, grow and improve their quality of life. This can have unintended consequences such as economic bads.

Human Needs

Humans have a large number of basic needs such as clean air, water, food, clothing, housing, education, healthcare, safety and security. These needs are met by economies and societies. Where these systems fail to thrive needs can go unmet resulting in human suffering.

Late Evolution

Life on Earth emerged around 3.8 billion years ago. If this time were a 24 hour day, humans would have arrived in the last 7 seconds before midnight. The following are comparisons with older species.
SpeciesEarliest Fossil Record
Human300,000 years
First Primates55,000,000 years
Hippopotamus55,000,000 years
Sharks100,000,000 years
Sea Turtle110,000,000 years
First Mammals178,000,000 years
First Life3,800,000,000 years

Human Condition

Humans have a broad number of joys and problems that are collectively known as the human condition. For example, humans suffer from weakness, disease and are mortal. Humans also appear to be inherently fallible such that mistakes and disappointments are near universal elements of the human condition. Positive elements of the human condition include an incredible capacity for joy, freedom, curiosity, wonder, altruism and experience.

Adaptability & Resilience

Humans can adapt to any climate and virtually any difficulty. Failures and hardships can make them stronger with a process known as resilience.

Discovery

As a species, humans take risks, explore, experiment, discover and rapidly advance. They currently have the capacity to boldly expand this exploration beyond the planet Earth.

Notes

Fossil record estimates are for modern sharks and turtles not older species that are long extinct.
The characteristics above are examples and aren't complete.

Humans

This is the complete list of articles we have written about humans.
Abstraction
Altruism
Automation
Cognitive Biases
Competition
Concepts
Creativity
Cultural Heritage
Culture
Economic Bads
Emotions
Fallacies
First Principles
Human Condition
Human Experience
Human Perception
Human Perspective
Imagination
Imperialism
Infrastructure
Inner Strength
Intelligence
Knowledge
Philosophy
Play
Politics
Quality Of Life
Reasoning
Resilience
Risk Taking
Senses
Social Status
Societies
Subculture
Super Culture
Traditions
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