I am not the kind of a person who would enjoy the occasional conversation of hypotheticals, like, how the world would be monumentally better off without reptiles, or how I would’ve excelled exceptionally if I was born into a stupidly rich family. So, naturally, when I first read my prompt, I did not like my prompt. But then I started reading more about sloths and I realized, sloths are actually kind of cute.


And after ruminating on it for a few days, I also realized why I initially did not like the prompt. I was thinking about how it is physically impossible for sloths to gain consciousness as humans did. It took thousands of years for mammals to evolve in a certain way depending on their habits and their behaviors. We, humans, share a common ancestor with chimps, bonobos, and all the other great apes that live today for a reason. We are who we are as a society today, thanks to the agricultural revolution and whatnot, but all of this existential blabber is just me digressing from the real topic. The discussion at hand is, what if? What if humans did actually evolve from sloths? How would life in that world be? So, I am going to think about the possibility of our consciousness being in a sloth. 


From a biological point of view, sloths are one of the slowest and the most energy-efficient mammals on the planet living most of their lives in lethargic immobility. So, physical activity is very much limited. And considering how sloths are almost blind, we would also be visually impaired, making rudimentary physical movements even more fatal. Our vocal abilities would be affected too as we evolved into a creature that squeaks. We could develop some kind of an arbitrary meaning with the limited sounds that are possible, but given that our only option is making one high-pitched whining noise, I don’t think we would have made much progress in that aspect of life. 


Sloths have special tendons in their hands helping them hold onto trees with quite a strong grip. They stay in these positions for days, restraining their physical activity to the minimum, in a comatose-like state of hibernation. Sloths are mainly either two-fingered or three-fingered, which is not very helpful in terms of the adroitness of hands and productivity in movement. So, we can’t build anything with our hands. The bowel movements are dreadfully slow. It takes sloths almost a month to eat and process one single leaf. So, cooking is not only unnecessary, but it is also a physically strenuous ordeal to undergo. 


From a sociological point of view, we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are today, being primates, if we were sloths. Including the physical limitations, in a society where we cannot articulate anything and communicate with each other efficiently, not much work is going to be done as we cannot exchange ideas with each other and develop further on previously worked theories. Even if we would want to live hedonistic lives, we are physically limited. There would absolutely be no motive for an agrarian society, as we have an abundance of food for a being that can consume very little food. As we would spend most of our lives clinging to trees or trying to move from the trees to the ground, no work would be done for the betterment of the species. We wouldn’t discover fire or a mode of transport or weapons, thanks again to our physical restrictions. 


Sloths are not a social species. They live alone in the hopes of not being killed by other animals in the forest. Their most successful evolutionary strategy to not become prey is to be so slow that the predators wouldn’t even notice them. As bad as it sounds, it has worked for them for the past however many millions of years they’ve been existing. So, if we were to evolve from sloths, we would be adapting this lifestyle to not be preyed upon. So as a society not much development would be in question, in terms of civilization or advancement of the species. As we are a species who fear being preyed upon by other stronger animals, we would end up spending our whole lives alone, sticking to trees, trying to cope with the physical limitations that we have, until we eventually die. We would occasionally get down from the tree for our bodily functions, but even that would be done in fear. As we are very vulnerable and cannot defend ourselves from any kind of physical threat, we would spend our whole lives, alone and scared.


From a personal perspective, life as a sloth would be very unenjoyable. As we would be struggling to even physically move, there wouldn’t be any kind of activities that are deemed conventionally fun. There would be no sports, no games, no restaurants, no tasty food, no movies, no malls, no cars, no carnivals, no purposeful productivity, no vacations, no intimacy, and no recreational substances. All the things that we hold dear wouldn’t either be discovered or invented, as we would just spend our lives crawling back and forth from trees and land.


We wouldn’t eat for fun, we wouldn’t move around for fun, we wouldn’t talk for fun, we wouldn’t exist freely at all, but most of all we wouldn’t love. There wouldn’t be anyone for us to love and cherish and spend time with every day.  We wouldn’t spend our lives doing all of these things that we love, with the people that we love. We wouldn’t have a family to which we can come home every day. We wouldn’t have a partner to spend the rest of our life with. We wouldn’t have a physically, intellectually, or emotionally intimate relationship with anyone in our lives. And for that, I don’t think life would be very appealing and livable.

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