The EU

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Look to Economics for the Answer

While Andrew Howe is talking about evolution over at the Richard Howe Blog, I thought I would add this little item someone sent me from The Wall Street Journal. "Humans:  Why They Triumphed (How did one ape 45,000 years ago happen to turn into a planet dominator?  The answer lies in an epochal collision of creativity.)"  The author is Matt Ridley.

Here are the first two paragraphics:
Human evolution presents a puzzle.  Nothing seems to explain the sudden takeoff of the last 45,000 years—the conversion of just another rare predatory ape into a planet dominator with rapidly progressing technologies.  Once "progress" started to produce new tools, different ways of life and burgeoning populations, it accelerated all over the world, culminating in agriculture, cities, literacy and all the rest.  Yet all the ingredients of human success—tool making, big brains, culture, fire, even language—seem to have been in place half a million years before and nothing happened.  Tools were made to the same monotonous design for hundreds of thousands of years and the ecological impact of people was minimal.  Then suddenly—bang!—culture exploded, starting in Africa.  Why then, why there?

The answer lies in a new idea, borrowed from economics, known as collective intelligence:  the notion that what determines the inventiveness and rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of interaction between individuals.  Even as it explains very old patterns in prehistory, this idea holds out hope that the human race will prosper mightily in the years ahead—because ideas are having sex with each other as never before.
I logged this under "Science" but wonder if that is really the proper category.

Regards  —  Cliff

1 comment:

ncrossland said...

Apparently "make love, not war" is a prevailing operational philosophy??