I hear all the time that human only use ~10% of their brain, what if its because we don't need to use more?
There are examples of people who manage to get superhuman strength in moment of danger etc.
So is it possible that all the inventions prevented human from reaching their full potential?

For example, maybe if there were no phones people would develop ability to communicate using some sort of brain waves? If there were no airplanes maybe people would have learned to levitate?

  • 1
    You could also claim that those inventions are the realization of humanity's potential (and there are many history books that attempt to claim this, saying that humans' strength is our invention skills). Commented Mar 26, 2018 at 22:48
  • The problem is chances. How high is chance that people could levitate? Lower than the chance that people would develop wings. But it is more likely all of these can be done by technologies rather than random mutation.
    – rus9384
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 0:13
  • Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. We are taking questions that are more or less objectively answerable, which counterfactual history/evolution is really not. Biologists might be in a better position to tell what might have happened to human physiology in a different environment.
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 0:38
  • Just a small comment about "superhuman strength"...yes, it is because of adrenaline (or the like). Normally, there is a security threshold preventing muscles from going beyond a certain level. Adrenalin makes us transcend these. It leads to damages on neurological and muscle fibre level. If we did this all the time, we would be paralyzed pudding within days. I assume the same could be said about the brain (and: this is 10% at the same time of highly specialised areas - we do not need to access long-term memory for retracting the hand from something hot).
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 13:12
  • Yes! It is obviously possible. Whether it is the case would be another question. I suspect it is the case but this is a tricky issue and I wouldn't argue the point.
    – user20253
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 16:31

4 Answers 4


The 10% thing is totally made up. It obviously doesn't make any sense. How could such a situation have evolved? Similarly with telepathy, if that had survival advantages, why would it have 'devolved' - surely only because of negatives, or insufficient positives to balance costs.

It has been argued life before farming was idyllic and settled life much worse, but it seems warfare was an essential way to maintain survivable population densities "Forget the Garden of Eden; think Mad Max." https://www.economist.com/node/10278703

Degraded is a pretty loaded term. Douglas Adams suggested in describing the Belcerabons, that telepathy would be the very worst thing to have. We know perfectly well how to become stronger, and know more; we just generally choose other options. Set out what you think our purpose/s are and you will be able only then to say whether that is degredation or advance.


I am skeptical of the claims about our only using 10% of our brains, our DNA (the remainder being junk DNA), etc. Such claims do not fit into either evolutionary or theistic explanations of origins, and I believe that they are equally likely to reveal the limitation of the research (e.g. X-Rays reveal that humans don't have skin!) as something true about humans.

It is known that people can do amazing things under pressure, but there is a reason that we aren't this strong all the time: you incur long-term damage when you do this. (Wikipedia, Mayo Clinic) This isn't an example of un-tapped potential.

I think that the achievements of past civilizations, including Greece, Rome, the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire, are quite comparable to ours in terms of scale and intelligence considering the world population at the time; therefore I am not aware of any compelling reason to think that humans today are either smarter or dumber, stronger or weaker, than we were in prehistoric times.


Technology has and always will be just a tool. What it does and how it affects things will always be due to the user. Technology doesn't degrade people, people degrade themselves WITH technology. e.g. Watching TV for 6 hours a day or never walking anywhere. The problem stems from within us, not from what we have built.

  • Watching TV is not the universal statement. People do not hunt with spears and thus are worse in physical activities is better statement.
    – rus9384
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 10:58

The word 'humanity' has got two different meanings.

1. human beings collectively.

In this this sense, the answer to your question is 'No'.

Many technological progress have saved as well as destroyed many human lives. C.f.: Invention of vaccines and invention of weapons of mass destruction. So we cannot say 'Yes' if its meaning is 'human beings'.

2. the quality of being humane; benevolence.

In this sense, the answer to your question is 'Yes'.

When technology progressed, our wishes also increased. Now the number of things for enjoyment/entertainment have also multiplied. E.g.: Years ago an ordinary mobile phone could satisfy people. But now things have completely changed.

When technology progressed, the chances for business/trade have also increased. Where there is business mentality there is only little hope for humanitarian values (humanity). So in this sense we can say 'Yes' to this question.

In the case of ability:

As you mentioned in your question some abilities are disappearing from humans. E.g.: Weather forecasting that is done now with the help of so many equipment were easily done by keen observation in the changes in the environment.

But in some cases when people lost some abilities they acquired some other abilities that our ancestors didn't have. E.g.: Now many youngsters have the ability to type very fast with two thumbs/fingers (on mobile phones). Our ancestors didn't have such ability.

So, your question has to be treated in two different ways.

  • I have added a few more examples. Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 10:26

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