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For as long as there has been civilization, there has been war. This begs the question, how can a species so advanced and intelligent constantly seek to destroy one another? The simple answer is, it's in their nature. Instinct drives animals to fight, but in the natural world their enemy is not another creature, but their environment.
Instinct is a survival guide, molded by generations of trial and error and hardwired into the core of every thinking being's psyche. It provides the basics needed to endure the hostilities of natural selection. But what becomes of it when the wilderness has been "tamed", and no longer poses a significant threat? Instinct passes into irrelevancy.
In the natural order of things, barring cataclysmic events, environments do not change so drastically, but gradually over decades or even centuries, allowing the instincts of its inhabitants to evolve with it. But mankind has sought to dominate and pacify their surroundings for both safety and comfort.
Through medicine, science, engineering, chemistry, and technology, humanity is no longer threatened by that which instinct serves to protect against; extinction. And it has done so at such a rapid pace that human nature has not been able to adapt to this new, artificial world. It is for this reason that instinct has not only lost its relevancy, but has become detrimental.
Nature strives towards equilibrium. Overgrown forests burn down. Predator and prey populations keep each other in check. Whole ecosystems operate in concert, their innumerable aspects synchronized in the fabled "circle of life". Instinct is very much a natural construct, and will seek to fill any natural gap created in its environment. Unfortunately, this gap is death.
Having neutralized the threat of extinction, instinct now drives people to recreate it in the artificial world, where such a natural thing as the clear and omnipresent threat of death has been all but eliminated. It is thanks to this circumstance of nature that humanity, and indeed the world itself, has been able to evolve so quickly and efficiently.
Nature takes the path of least resistance, and humans are no different in this regard. However, in the natural world, the path of least resistance is the most beneficial, as hazard bars more efficient, but less productive, paths. The supreme safety of the artificial world has opened up these routes, and allowed human beings to cause harm to themselves through greed, apathy, fear, and stupidity.
These qualities were not always so negative. They are tools cultivated by instinct to preserve the species. But the hostile environment prevented their abuse. Reliance on others held greed in check. The closeness of communities fostered empathy. Fear was balanced by the unquestionable need to act. Stupidity was rewarded with death. Sadly, the abolition of such environmental boundaries heralded the nullification of instinct itself.
The artificial world grew so rapidly that the human psyche couldn't adjust itself. And so the instinct to protect hunting grounds turned into conquest. The drive to assure another generation became the lust for power. The wish to be safe from starvation grew into gluttony and greed. Self-preservation devolved into apathy. And worst of all, the fiery aggression that empowered generations to fight against their own annihilation by the elements turned into an affinity for violence.
Perhaps, like the hive mind of a locust swarm, instinct has realized it is not properly adapted to provide for such a large population in such a tranquil environment, and for this reason it subconsciously pushes people to escape this artificial world and even reduce the population, actively or passively.
Regardless of its "motivation", instinct has become a tumor in the psyche of humanity. Its incompatibility and, in fact, opposition to the artificial world has made it a threat to human advancement. Warmongering, profiteering, subjugation, manipulation are all products of human nature. If humanity is to finally evolve from these barbaric mentalities, instinct must be dealt with.

"Let me read a letter I recently received. 'Dear Dr. Breen. Why has the Combine seen fit to suppress our reproductive cycle? Sincerely, A Concerned Citizen.'

Thank you for writing, Concerned. Of course your question touches on one of the basic biological impulses, with all its associated hopes and fears for the future of the species.

I also detect some unspoken questions. Do our benefactors really know what's best for us? What gives them the right to make this kind of decision for mankind? Will they ever deactivate the suppression field and let us breed again?

Allow me to address the anxieties underlying your concerns, rather than try to answer every possible question you might have left unvoiced.

First, let us consider the fact that for the first time ever, as a species, immortality is in our reach.

This simple fact has far-reaching implications. It requires radical rethinking and revision of our genetic imperatives.

It also requires planning and forethought that run in direct opposition to our neural pre-sets.

I find it helpful at times like these to remind myself that our true enemy is Instinct.

Instinct was our mother when we were an infant species.

Instinct coddled us and kept us safe in those hardscrabble years when we hardened our sticks and cooked our first meals above a meager fire

and started at the shadows that leapt upon the cavern's walls.

But inseparable from Instinct is its dark twin, Superstition.

Instinct is inextricably bound to unreasoning impulses, and today we clearly see its true nature. Instinct has just become aware of its irrelevance, and like a cornered beast, it will not go down without a bloody fight.

Instinct would inflict a fatal injury on our species.

Instinct creates its own oppressors, and bids us rise up against them.

Instinct tells us that the unknown is a threat, rather than an opportunity.

Instinct slyly and covertly compels us away from change and progress.

Instinct, therefore, must be expunged.

It must be fought tooth and nail, beginning with the basest of human urges: The urge to reproduce.

We should thank our benefactors for giving us respite from this overpowering force.

They have thrown a switch and exorcised our demons in a single stroke.

They have given us the strength we never could have summoned to overcome this compulsion.

They have given us purpose. They have turned our eyes toward the stars.

Let me assure you that the suppressing field will be shut off on the day that we have mastered ourselves...the day we can prove we no longer need it.

And that day of transformation, I have it on good authority, is close at hand."

-Dr. Wallace Breen, Half-Life 2

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Submitted on
July 13, 2015


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