Every death is like the burning of a library.
– Alex haley, writer
Every man has within himself the entire human condition.
– Michel de montaigne, philosOpher
Each person is a library, a collection of experiences that, when interpreted by that person and assigned meaning, become stories. Stories to be preserved. To be studied. To be shared and respected.
These stories become who we are and how we navigate the world around us. They make up our perspective, our sole vantage point in this world of 7.6 billion other people. Because there are 7.6 billion other people, there are also 7.6 different perspectives, different ways of looking at, approaching, and experiencing life. Each perspective makes up our collective reality. Our collective experience. The human condition.
Imagine the human condition as a puzzle. Each person is a single puzzle piece. The problem is, in life, we don’t have the box with the big picture to see how we all fit together. Without it, not only do we not know where we belong, but we also might not know what we are. Maybe you’re a blue piece: Are you the ocean, an eye, or the sky? We don’t know without talking and listening to others, asking them about their particular piece.
This is a collection of pieces. This is a preservation of who you are. This is an attempt to reveal the big picture. This is a supplement to the box.
This is HumanKind, where you can share your perspective with the rest of humankind and discover what it’s like to be someone else.
HumanKind believes each perspective is equally important. You and your story are important. Every added perspective to the collection furthers understanding of the human condition by expanding our view of the big picture and increases empathy and respect between individuals so we can make better, more inclusive decisions as a society.
HumanKind believes the best way to preserve perspectives and accomplish these goals is through storytelling.
What is the power of storytelling?
Storytelling is as old as the human race. We are biologically predisposed to value stories. They connect us to our humanity and to each other. They facilitate empathy.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, but beyond that, empathy is “the ability to grasp the many sides of today’s complex problems and the capacity to collaborate with others to solve them” (Ashoka, “Why empathy?”). Researchers from the U-M Institute for Social Research found that the ability of American college students to practice empathy has declined by 48% in the last 30 years (Konrath, O’Brien & Hsing, 2011), leading to an empathy deficit that gives rise to detrimental stereotypes.
Humans stereotype because the human brain aims for efficiency and looks for the easiest ways to do things; it organizes unique experiences into oversimplified schemas to quickly recognize patterns, learn, and grow (NPR, “Why do we create stereotypes?” TED Radio Hour, 2014). For example, evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar discovered that humans can only process about 150 meaningful relationships, known as Dunbar’s number (NPR, “Don’t believe Facebook; You only have 150 friends,” All Things Considered, 2011), a small number considering the average Facebook user has 338 friends (Pew Research Center, 2014). Anyone who falls outside of a person’s 150 is more easily stereotyped and misunderstood by that person, or in other words, more likely to be approached with a lack of empathy. Because of geographical restrictions and conditioned stigma, often our 150 relationships are with people similar to us, limiting our perspectives and world-view. However, with today’s connectivity made possible through technology, we have the capability to move closer to empathy through storytelling.
Storytelling is the way around this biological limitation and the key to avoiding the oversimplification, reduction, and writing off of others. When a person listens to a story, the parts of their brains that would be active while actually living the experience burst with activity (Paul, “Your Brain on Fiction,” The New York Times, 2012). Uri Hasson, a Princeton researcher, “discovered that a great storyteller literally causes the neurons of an audience to closely sync with the storyteller’s brain” (“This is Your Brain on Fiction,” TED, 2016). Storytelling allows a person to live out someone else’s subjective experience, to share and understand the experience of another, the very definition of empathy, without taking up a spot in their 150.
The power of storytelling is overcoming prejudice, and HumanKind harnesses that power so we can find similarities and contact points across our differences.
HumanKind is a perspective collection. It’s a narrative approach to individual differences to show how people make sense out of their lives. A place where you can speak for yourself from your own experience. A place where you can learn about others. A place where we work together to answer life’s big questions, one interview at a time.
Welcome to HumanKind. We’re glad you’re here.
To learn more about how we do this, visit the Process page.