Thursday, 29 January 2015

Tools And Languages

I quoted Laurinda Ashcroft as saying that the "'...specialized African ape...'" (Genesis, p. 193) is "'...[s]pecialized to make tools and languages...'" (p. 194).

Earlier, in Part One, Chapter II, Anderson had summarized human and technological evolution. Human beings were differentiated from other species, first, by rich and powerful language springing from "...an unprecedented capability for abstraction and reason..." (p. 8) and, secondly, by making tools even before they were human:

fire;
chipped stone;
and cut wood -

- "...became conditions for their further evolution." (ibid.)

I think that:

the mental activities of reasoning about and abstracting from the environment arose from the physical activity of manipulating and changing it with tools;

language is the most fundamental form of human cooperation and basic to every other form (we cooperate both by agreeing the meanings of words and by using them to organize activities);

developing tools beyond their crudest beginnings also required cooperation.

Thus, we are social beings but not like ants. Within society we both develop further and become thinking individuals.

Continuing to paraphrase Genesis, pp. 8-10: like social insects and some sea dwellers, human beings became fitted to their environment and therefore stopped evolving, the difference being that human beings make their environment with instruments that continue to change at an increasing rate.

"Technological evolution was radically different from biological." (p. 9)

Biological evolution: Darwinian; contingent; competitive; reproductive; genetic.
Technological evolution: Lamarckian; purposive; memetic.

"...technology made science, the systematic search for verifiable information, possible." (ibid.)

Technology also changed society:

gunpowder;
movable type;
the steam engine;
the internal combustion engine;
technological agriculture;
computers;
the Internet; 
automation;
artificial intelligence;
self-enhancing, self-evolving AI.

Only the last two items on this list move the narrative into science fiction.

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