When Extroverts Ruled the Earth
BYT at large | May 10, 2013 | 12:30PM |

Andrew Heaton lives in New York and makes pithy observations. Other insights can be found at www.MightyHeaton.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @MightyHeaton

We live at the conclusion of the Age of Extroverts; a brief period of human history wherein social butterflies exceled, often at the expense of introverts. Technology is rapidly leveling that playing field.

During the first 400,000 years of human history the dominant group in society was whoever had the biggest head-clubbing stick, or whichever cavemen could train velociraptors to attack their neighbors. Nobody remotely cared whether or not you enjoyed interacting with people before you clubbed them to death. If you said, “I need alone time to recharge,” or “I get depressed without people,” your even minimal psychological introspection would be met with confusion and then a cudgel to the noggin.

Following the Agricultural Revolution we refined the system by upgrading from dominance of whoever had the largest bludgeon to dominance of whoever had the biggest gang of thugs. This new system quickly took on a dynastic element, as people inherited armies, or at least millennium-long blood feuds (see: “The Middle East”). Introverted and extroverted tendencies were incidental to whether or not you were born into a family with social clout.

Society dominated by breeding reached its apex in pre-modern Europe. In countries like England and France, war ceased to be an interesting way of solving trade disputes, and devolved into a venue for rich inbred people to trot out new fashion trends via military uniforms. This weird setup was so pervasive that aristocrats throughout Europe would picnic and sip port while marching people off to die, like chess pieces, all in order to show off their army’s newest slacks to other aristocrats.

Eventually most people got fed up with fashion-crazed inbred plutocrats running society, and so it became very trendy to have a revolution and kill anyone who owned a powdered wig. In France, fathers and sons sent off for “make your own guillotine kits” and entered local contests to see who crafted the best design. Americans fought an entire war against the British to stop King George from making everyone wear itchy powdered wigs all the time.

Western Civilization entered a period of “meritocracy.” This entailed a system wherein white males were allowed to prosper even if they didn’t have college degrees or rich parents. So long as you had a solid work ethic, above average intelligence, and a ruthless borderline sociopathic personality striving relentlessly towards success, you could pretty well lift yourself up by your bootstraps and become a Vanderbilt.

Gradually meritocracy added more and more groups to the mix, eventually including women and ethnic minorities. Matchmakers and arranged marriages fell out of fashion, so people began to facilitate their own doomed relationships. Thus began the Age of Extroverts, wherein people with charisma and excellent networking skills could catch up to and even surpass inbred plutocrats or homicidal cavemen.

In such a system extroverts generally fared better. They got laid more, for instance. Most service sector jobs rely heavily on the false assumption that they involve unique and special training, and thus extroverts (who generate energy through social interaction) rapidly learned how to dominate cocktail parties and suck up to executives. Some even enjoyed dating. It was a golden age for people who like people.

Things were less stellar for introverts. Introverts generate their own energy, and lose it through social interaction. Because small talk is to them a diversion of time and energy, they are scrupulous with their socializing, and tend to find keggers exhausting. Many of them, by talking only to friends they had already vetted, never learn how to properly bullshit other human beings, forever closing the door to futures as attorneys or congressmen.

Technology is rapidly eliminating the edge which direct personal communication once provided to extroverts. Whereas in bygone days introverts came home exhausted from having to say “hello” to their co-workers, grocery store patrons and next-door-neighbors constantly, they can now bypass nearly all face-to-face interaction through text messaging, e-mail, food delivery and porn. Extroverts, who shined in a world designed to reward conversational skills, find themselves increasingly punished for making direct eye contact or speaking to strangers. With fewer venues to recharge their social batteries, they are forced to find sustenance through removed mediums like Facebook, or to wallow in shallow forms of small talk with whoever is willing to engage with them on the bus.

This trend will only increase as technology allows for telecommuting and online dating to undermine the last half century of extroverted predominance. When the next crop of youngsters comes in, virtually incapable of communicating outwith text messages, traditional extroversion will be seen as campy excess, like Vaudeville.

At some point, however, technology will get so good that it will allow us to clone dinosaurs. At which point we will bring back vilociraptors, and the world will once again be controlled by people who can train reptilian carnivores to eat their neighbors.