Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quick explosion and slow explosion

When I was teaching a course called "Futures" and any aspect of any part of the future of anything was fair game, I tried, lamely, of course, to have some idea of the developments in some of the important and likely fields that students would be interested in.  A book that made an impression on me was "The Next 10,000 Years" by Adrian Berry, published in 1974.

If there is one thing I have taken away from a little bit of exploration of writings on the future, prediction and extrapolation, it is that many predictions and expectations about the future have been wrong.  10,000 years is a long time in human terms, one hundred centuries.  If 100 fathers each lived to be 100 and each was the father of the later members of the group, the lives of all would span 10,000 years.  But in biological terms, the last 10,000 to 15,000 years covers an explosion of sorts.

"The 10,000 Year Explosion" by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending ($11.99 on Kindle) covers the last 10,000 years, a period from the end of the Ice Age until now.  This is the period in which agriculture, speech and writing emerged.  All three have had a big effect on human life.  Some of the dates and times are the subject of debate, even among scientists who spend their lives trying to work out the story and chronology of humans before written records.

As is typical for me, I am interested in commenting on what I have found in "The 10,000 Year Explosion" way before I have finished the book.  A careful person would read the whole book, check some critical opinion and maybe some alternate views and then make measured comments about the matters discussed.  This book has produced an explosion in my mind in just one evening.

The main thing I have found so far is the subject of ongoing, current evolution.  The authors, up to page 16 have emphasized the effects of evolution on humans and the fact that evolution is continuing to affect us.  Agriculture in the last 10,000 years has supported a greater human population, allowing for more genes at work and more genetic variations and modifications.  Lactose tolerance into adulthood and the loss of melanin production in the skin of some humans.  The authors address the idea which was more prevalent 50 years ago that humans are not undergoing evolution now and reject it.  They make cogent and persuasive arguments that 10,000 years is quite enough time for genetic change to come about naturally. They discuss the breeding of dogs from wolves as an example of change in a relatively short time and the criticism that breeding of dogs is more controlled and deliberate than humans would experience.

I read some 40 or 50 years ago that going to college was a practice that would increase the number of very intelligent humans because young people of mating age would be selected for school and education ability and then meet on campus.  I don't know that any evidence has emerged to support the idea but it seems plausible.  On a much more specific and specialized note, I only met "The 10,000 Year Explosion" because of Amazon's algorithms for making suggestions to a reader.  I wonder if individualized analysis of books and information sources will produce some new and valuable experiences and ideas for the citizens of tomorrow.

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby