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The Madness Gene

By: Michael Blankenship |

“Somewhere in our DNA must lie the key mutation (or, more probably, mutations) that set us apart—the mutations that make us the sort of creature that could wipe out its nearest relative, then dig up its bones and reassemble its genome.”

– Elizabeth Kolbert

At some point, our ancient ancestors did something they did not need to do. 

They built boats and sailed uncharted waters to undiscovered land. 

Imagine the courage…

Some scientists believe this gene — Elizabeth Kolbert calls it “the madness gene” in her book, The Sixth Extinction — is what separated homo sapiens (us) from archaic humans like homo erectus and neanderthals. Svante Pääbo, sometimes called “father of paleogenetics”, said the following in an interview with Kolbert… 

“Archaic humans… never came to Madagascar, never to Australia. Neither did Neanderthals. It’s only fully modern humans who start this thing of venturing out on the ocean where you don’t see land. Part of that is technology, of course; you have to have ships to do it. But there is also, I like to think or say, some madness there. You know? How many people must have sailed out and vanished on the Pacific before you found Easter Island? I mean, it’s ridiculous. And why do you do that? Is it for the glory? For immortality? For curiosity? And now we go to Mars. We never stop.”

Whatever the reason, humans crave adventure

We like to explore. We like to create. We like to do things that feel meaningful. 

There’s good and bad to this, of course — and we must all try to find the balance between seeking novelty and staying focused — but it’s important to acknowledge and respect our need for adventure. 

This is such a fundamental need for us that if we don’t get enough adventure in our lives, things start to feel stale.

So how can you get more adventure in your life? 

Here are 10 tips.

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