The Human Spark

Watch The Human Spark

  • 2010
  • 1 Season
  • 7.3  (47)

The Human Spark is a documentary series hosted by Alan Alda and produced by PBS in 2010. The premise of the show is to explore what it is that makes us human by taking a closer look at our cognitive abilities, social behavior, and cultural advancements. Each episode takes on a different aspect of human life, using interviews with experts in various fields to help viewers understand what it means to be human.

In the first episode, "Becoming Us," Alda travels to Tanzania to observe the behavior of chimpanzees and discuss the similarities and differences between these animals and humans. He highlights the fact that while chimpanzees exhibit cognitive abilities such as tool use, they lack the ability to communicate through language, which is unique to humans. This sets the stage for exploring one of the key themes of the series: how our ability to communicate with each other has driven human evolution.

In subsequent episodes, the focus shifts to human social behavior and cultural development. "Mind, the Gap" explores how the human ability to imagine the future sets us apart from other animals and has allowed us to make advances in everything from agriculture to technology. "Brain Matters" looks at the brain and how it is wired for social interaction, while "What Makes Us?" delves into the question of what makes us who we are as individuals.

Throughout the series, Alda also engages in conversations with scientists and researchers who are studying each aspect of the human experience. For example, in "Becoming Us," he talks with archaeologist Sarah Hrdy about the importance of maternal behavior in human evolution, while in "Brain Matters," he speaks with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio about the connection between emotion and decision-making.

One of the things that makes The Human Spark stand out is its broad approach to understanding what it means to be human. Rather than simply focusing on genetics, the series looks at how our behavior, social structures, and culture have shaped us. This interdisciplinary approach means that viewers get a fuller picture of the complexities of human life and evolution.

Another strength of the series is the way it blends scientific research with personal stories. For example, in "Becoming Us," Alda shares his own experience of watching his granddaughter learn to speak, which leads him to reflect on how the human capacity for language sets us apart from other animals. This personal touch helps to make the themes of the show more relatable and engaging for viewers.

Overall, The Human Spark is a thought-provoking look at what makes us human. Through its exploration of cognitive abilities, social behavior, and cultural development, the series offers a rich and multifaceted perspective on the complexities of human life and evolution. With engaging interviews and personal stories, it is a must-watch for anyone interested in understanding the human experience.

The Human Spark is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (3 episodes). The series first aired on January 6, 2010.

The Human Spark
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Brain Matters
3. Brain Matters
January 20, 2010
Take a look into Alan Alda's mind and discover some of the mind's capabilities.
So Human, So Chimp
2. So Human, So Chimp
January 13, 2010
The Human Spark uncovers what makes us human. Alan Alda joins researchers studying our fellow simians to discover both what we share with them and what new skills humans evolved since we went our separate ways. Where and when did the Human Spark first ignite?
Becoming Us
1. Becoming Us
January 6, 2010
In "The Human Spark," Alan Alda visits dozens of scientists on three continents -- and even undergoes an examination of his own brain -- to find the answer to one question: What makes us human?
Where to Watch The Human Spark
The Human Spark is available for streaming on the PBS website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch The Human Spark on demand at Amazon.
  • Premiere Date
    January 6, 2010
  • IMDB Rating
    7.3  (47)