Today I was asked a strange and troubling question: "Is genocide genetic?"

On reflection, I think the the answer is 'yes and no' ...

Over the last 7 years, a strange thing happened to me, trying to understand learning, and how the notion of affordances fitted in to the picture ...

To start with ..

Neoteny
I wrote an article on Neoteny some time before this - neoteny is delayed biological maturity, and it happens in many animals (and presumably plants too) - most interestingly in axolotls - basically, its a phase of delayed sexual maturity, often associated with the ability for adaptation. Humans are excessively neotenous - only reaching sexual maturity after 12 or so years, making us uniquely open for adaptability during that period. (Axolotls come a close second, but they dont do much with their 12 - 15 years of neoteny; they're cute but kind of conservative).

Affordances
Affordances are innovations and adaptations that arise from interacting with the environment. And, by definition, you have to be at least a little bit neotenous to engage with affordances, and create new ones. Non-neotenous creatures don't have the same options; they behave completely instinctively, and can only adapt by genetic mutation, not by interaction with their environment.

So ...
I did a research project in 2007-08 on affordances for learning, i.e. learning within social media - social media are very flexible, and can be used for a whole range of purposes. That project was written up in the report to the funder (elsewhere in this wiki).

However ...
I got a call from some researchers at St Andrews, at the centre for research into violence and terrorism, who asked me to join a seminar on affordances, which I did, following which I wrote a chapter for their book on Terrorism and Affordances, called Affordances and the New Political Ecology, which outlines a new take on affordances and learning.

Strange thing is ...
After getting over the initial discomfort of contributing to a book on terrorism, I found myself actually quite able, and eventually even quite comfortable writing about affordances, learning and terrorism, using several examples from current warfare (Afghanistan), as well as the anti-Apartheid struggle.

Fact of the matter is, neoteny and affordances are (like many other things in life) double-edged swords - both of them make adaptation and innovation possible, but both of them are, basically, biological - and as we all know, evolution takes no prisoners (ask the dinosaurs!).

That means that our extreme neoteny and affordances are wonderful and open - but open to good and evil, we have to make the choices, and make sure everyone sticks to them.