Thursday, June 04, 2009

The long slow development of human culture - and technology

Modern humans are a new species -- but not born yesterday. Why did it take so very long for humans to develop art and varied technologies? This Economist article doesn't convincingly answer the question, but it presents the current consensus on the problem...
Warfare, culture and human evolution: Blood and treasure | The Economist:
... The species is now believed to have emerged 150,000-200,000 years ago in Africa and to have begun spreading to the rest of the world about 60,000 years ago. But signs of modern culture, such as shell beads for necklaces, the use of pigments and delicate, sophisticated tools like bone harpoons, do not appear until 90,000 years ago. They then disappear, before popping up again (and also sometimes disappearing), until they really get going around 35,000 years ago in Europe...
The astounding part is that we got going about 90,000 years ago, but then didn't really reboot until 35,000 years ago. We get writing about 6,000 years ago and the web about 20 years ago.

So the next big leap should be about 10 minutes from now. Oh wait, that's the Singularity.

My personal bias, probably arising from reading John Hawks, is that our brains were changing a lot over those 90,000 years. The odd bit is the false start.

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