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Back in the dark ages, before the World Wide Web, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and films were actual film and played on film projectors, I saw the Night of the Living Dead ( for the first time. Not in a movie theatre (I’m not THAT old), but in our public library during a school field trip.

To say that the film had an impact on our class would be a bit of an understatement. By modern standards, the film is extremely tame, but it was a different time, and that movie had an enormous impact on society as well as a bunch of elementary school children.

All of that said, I didn’t want to comment on the movie, but rather on survival in general. While I wouldn’t consider myself a fanatic, I have watched quite a few horror films over the years, including many “zombie films” and “apocalypse films”. I find that they range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and from the campy to the gore-fest. A common thread, however, is a commentary on what it takes to survive.

The element of the genre that I find most interesting is that it tends to strip the non-essentials, and the best treatments focus on the impact of the situation on morals and societal norms. Sometimes, the writers resolve moral ambiguity in some way - as an example, The Walking Dead ( makes it clear that a walker’s brain is dead, Dead, DEAD, and nothing of the human victim remains. (I consider this a bit of a cop-out, by the way, but still enjoyed the series).

I could not find a reference, but recall a very interesting story (in a graphic novel, I believe) where several survivors make their way to a medical facility. After running tests, one of them was informed that she was immune to the zombie virus and that such immunity was hereditary. The kicker was that her mother had turned, and bit her father... and she subsequently helped her father end his life because they both thought he would inevitably turn...

But, back to survival.

There are endless quotes about learning, but one of my favourites is in the book Time Enough for Love (, where the character Lazarus Long notes in his pithy way:

You live and learn or you don’t live long.

“Survival of the fittest” ( is one of the most common phrases mentioned in the context of evolutionary theory, along with the idea of natural selection ( Both are broad terms, and they operate more at the statistical level than at the individual level.

It’s relatively simple to identify examples of characteristics that make an individual more “fit” for a specific ecological niche, but most of these make an individual less “fit” if that niche changes. An example might be the panda (, which are uniquely suited to a diet of bamboo, but would struggle (and probably die) if the availability of bamboo were reduced.

But what are the traits that make humans “fit”? How did we survive?

Are we stronger than other creatures? Faster? More suited to cold or hot climates? Do we have better hearing, eyesight, or sense of smell than other creatures?

No. None of these, really.

How about smarter? Well, yes. Closer, I guess, but how does that help us?

It helps make us more adaptable. Humans have adjusted to live under an extraordinarily wide variety of conditions, from desert to rain forest, from cold to hot, from sea-level to mountains.

How do we adapt, though? We adapt by learning. We learn how to work together. We learn how to build tools and improve them. We learn how to pass our knowledge from person to person. We learn how to learn, and learn how to pass our knowledge from generation to generation.

As an individual, the fastest or strongest or more agile might be better able to survive a particular situation, but the learners will figure out how to optimize their resources and abilities, and how to effectively work together. THIS is how humans have survived and thrived.

But learning is not something we do as children and then stop – at least not if we want to succeed in life. We need to continuously live, learn, and adapt.

#TIL about Eric Hoffer (, while looking for quotes on learning, and found what I would consider a very important truth:

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Our current age appears to be one of change, which simply highlights the importance of continuing to learn and adapt. But how do we deal with that change and continue to learn?

We can inform ourselves from endless sources, but need to ensure that we apply critical thinking first of all, as I have said before ( Decide what interests you, and start reading/viewing/listening! Decide what you think is important, and learn what can be done about it!

Challenge what you’re being told, especially if it supports what you already believe. Learn enough about metacognition and logical fallacies to minimize the chance of being misled, and keep the rules in mind. (

  1. Don’t be a jerk!

  2. Just keep swimming!

  3. Authority should equal responsibility

But don’t take my word for it – figure out your own rules!

Just keep learning.



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