Over the past decade geneticists have proved that all people alive today are descendants of a relatively small number of individuals who walked out of Africa some 60,000 years ago and carried the human spirit and imagination to every corner of the habitable world. Our shared heritage implies that all cultures share essentially the same potential, drawing on similar reserves of raw genius. Whether they exercise this intellectual capacity to produce stunning works of technological innovation (as has been the great achievement of the West) or to maintain an incredibly elaborate network of kin relationships (a primary concern, for example, of the Aborigines of Australia) is simply a matter of choice and orientation, adaptive benefits and cultural priorities. Each of the planet’s cultures is a unique answer to the question of what it means to be human. And together they make up our repertoire for dealing with the challenges that will confront us as a species in the millennia to come.