Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • I just came back from a community

  • that holds the secret to human survival.

  • It's a place where women run the show,

  • have sex to say hello,

  • and play rules the day --

  • where fun is serious business.

  • And no, this isn't Burning Man

  • or San Francisco.

  • (Laughter)

  • Ladies and gentlemen, meet your cousins.

  • This is the world of wild bonobos

  • in the jungles of Congo.

  • Bonobos are, together with chimpanzees,

  • your living closest relative.

  • That means we all share a common ancestor,

  • an evolutionary grandmother,

  • who lived around six million years ago.

  • Now, chimpanzees are well-known

  • for their aggression.

  • (Laughter)

  • But unfortunately,

  • we have made too much of an emphasis

  • of this aspect

  • in our narratives of human evolution.

  • But bonobos show us

  • the other side of the coin.

  • While chimpanzees

  • are dominated by big, scary guys,

  • bonobo society

  • is run by empowered females.

  • These guys have really worked something out,

  • since this leads to a highly tolerant society

  • where fatal violence

  • has not been observed yet.

  • But unfortunately,

  • bonobos are the least understood

  • of the great apes.

  • They live in the depths of the Congolese jungle,

  • and it has been very difficult to study them.

  • The Congo is a paradox --

  • a land of extraordinary biodiversity and beauty,

  • but also the heart of darkness itself --

  • the scene of a violent conflict

  • that has raged for decades

  • and claimed nearly as many lives

  • as the First World War.

  • Not surprisingly,

  • this destruction also endangers bonobo survival.

  • Bushmeat trades and forest loss

  • means we couldn't fill a small stadium

  • with all the bonobos that are left in the world --

  • and we're not even sure of that to be honest.

  • Yet, in this land of violence and chaos,

  • you can hear hidden laughter

  • swaying the trees.

  • Who are these cousins?

  • We know them as the "make love, not war" apes

  • since they have frequent, promiscuous

  • and bisexual sex

  • to manage conflict

  • and solve social issues.

  • Now, I'm not saying this is the solution

  • to all of humanity's problems --

  • since there's more to bonobo life

  • than the Kama Sutra.

  • Bonobos, like humans,

  • love to play throughout their entire lives.

  • Play is not just child's games.

  • For us and them,

  • play is foundational for bonding relationships

  • and fostering tolerance.

  • It's where we learn to trust

  • and where we learn about the rules of the game.

  • Play increases creativity

  • and resilience,

  • and it's all about the generation of diversity --

  • diversity of interactions,

  • diversity of behaviors,

  • diversity of connections.

  • And when you watch bonobo play,

  • you're seeing the very evolutionary roots

  • of human laughter, dance

  • and ritual.

  • Play is the glue

  • that binds us together.

  • Now, I don't know how you play,

  • but I want to show you a couple of unique clips

  • fresh from the wild.

  • First, it's a ball game bonobo-style --

  • and I do not mean football.

  • So here,

  • we have a young female and a male

  • engaged in a chase game.

  • Have a look what she's doing.

  • It might be the evolutionary origin of the phrase,

  • "she's got him by the balls."

  • (Laughter)

  • Only I think that he's rather loving it here, right?

  • Yeah.

  • (Laughter)

  • So sex play is common

  • in both bonobos and humans.

  • And this video is really interesting

  • because it shows --

  • this video's really interesting

  • because it shows the inventiveness

  • of bringing unusual elements into play --

  • such as testicles --

  • and also how play both requires trust

  • and fosters trust --

  • while at the same time being tremendous fun.

  • But play's a shapeshifter.

  • (Laughter)

  • Play's a shapeshifter,

  • and it can take many forms,

  • some of which are more quiet,

  • imaginative, curious --

  • maybe where wonder is discovered anew.

  • And I want you to see,

  • this is Fuku, a young female,

  • and she is quietly playing with water.

  • I think, like her,

  • we sometimes play alone,

  • and we explore the boundaries

  • of our inner and our outer worlds.

  • And it's that playful curiosity

  • that drives us to explore, drives us to interact,

  • and then the unexpected connections we form

  • are the real hotbed for creativity.

  • So these are just small tasters

  • into the insights that bonobo give us

  • to our past and present.

  • But they also hold a secret for our future,

  • a future where we need to adapt

  • to an increasingly challenging world

  • through greater creativity

  • and greater cooperation.

  • The secret is that play is the key

  • to these capacities.

  • In other words,

  • play is our adaptive wildcard.

  • In order to adapt successfully

  • to a changing world,

  • we need to play.

  • But will we make the most of our playfulness?

  • Play is not frivolous.

  • Play's essential.

  • For bonobos and humans alike,

  • life is not just red in tooth and claw.

  • In times when it seems least appropriate to play,

  • it might be the times when it is most urgent.

  • And so, my fellow primates,

  • let us embrace this gift from evolution

  • and play together,

  • as we rediscover creativity,

  • fellowship and wonder.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I just came back from a community

Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it