Tag: Homo

Future uncertainties!

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. Niels Bohr

I love this saying from Mr. Bohr and often repeat it, albeit at times with my own twist to it.  I was reminded of this uncertainty of the future from some comments to a recent post over at Lack of Environment.  The particular post was called Can technology save us? and was a reflection of Martin Lack, the blog’s author, watching a recent BBC Horizon special called Tomorrow’s World.  (There’s the YouTube of the broadcast at the end of this post.) Martin opened his post by saying:

I happened to stumble across a BBC TV Horizon special, entitled ‘Tomorrow’s World’ last Thursday.  It begins with a fascinating review of humankind’s history of – and propensity for – invention. It also explains some truly fascinating – and inspiring – developments in the spheres of space exploration, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and power generation.

In the introduction, the programme presenter and narrator Liz Bronnin explains how, after 100’s of thousands of years of technological stagnation, the fast-moving world of technological innovation is very definitely a modern invention.

Then a little later Martin goes on to say:

After about 32 minutes, Bronnin introduces the power of the Internet to promote innovation – crowd-sourcing research funding and the concept of open-source technology – the complete abrogation of intellectual copyright… It is a fundamental challenge to globalised Capitalism; but it may well be the solution to many of our problems…

However, to me, the final third of the programme is by far the most fascinating… It looks at the challenges of finding a replacement for fossil fuels. It provides a very clear message that this is a technological challenge driven by the reality of physics – not by ideology.

But, overall, Martin lets us know his perspective with his final paragraphs:

Re-engineering nature for our benefit will, without doubt, be very very useful. However, I still think the optimism of the comment at the very end of the programme “…I never worry about the future of the human race, because I think we are totally capable of solving problems…” is very unwise. This is because anthropogenic climate disruption is a problem that is getting harder to solve the longer we fail to address it effectively.

Bronnin concludes by saying that, “it is an exciting time to be alive…” However, I remain very nervous. This is because, as Professor Peter Styles of Keele University – a strong supporter of the hydraulic fracturing industry – recently acknowledged, it will be impossible for carbon capture and storage to remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to prevent very significant changes to our climate. This is because of the collective hypnosis that deludes most people into seeing perpetual economic growth as the solution to all our problems.

In short, I am certain that technology alone cannot save us. In order to avoid the ecological catastrophe that all but the most ideologically-prejudiced and wilfully-blind can see developing all around us… we need to modify our behaviour: This primarily means that we need to acknowledge the injustice of a “use it up and wear it out” mentality and, as individuals, all learn to use an awful lot less energy.

Climate change “sceptics” have picked a fight with history and science – primarily with the concept of Entropy – and they will lose. The only question that remains is this: Are we going to let them put us all in (what xraymike79 recently called) ‘the dustbin of failed evolutionary experiments’.

Now Jean and I also watched the Horizon special and, to be perfectly frank, found it both uplifting and inspiring.  It seemed a great counter to the overwhelming volume of commentary these days along the lines of ‘The end of the world is nigh!‘ some of that coming from yours truly! That’s not to make light of the huge hurdles ahead.

But it was a couple of comments on Martin’s post from Patrice Ayme that got me thinking.  Here’s the exchange that went between Patrice and Martin following on from a comment from Thomas Foster.

Considering that it is technology which has enabled us to “conquer” nature and thus the degradation of the environment which is a consequence of that it seems most unlikely to this writer that the cause will also bring about a cure. Thomas Foster

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The genus Homo has been technological for 5 million years. Give or take two million. Homo is the cure for life. Patrice Ayme

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If we Homo Sapiens have been technological for 5 million years, we have spent most of that time being very unsuccessful; and have spent the rest being far too successful. Is there no scope for just living in harmony with our environment (as opposed to being at war with it)? Martin Lack

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Hominids have been masters of the environment for at least three million years. By a million years ago, only Homo was left (but for places like Flores). Dozens of megafauna species got annihilated. Homo’s technology has extended to the entire Earth for at least a million years. The Earth itself was turned into a tool. A tool we are not at war with, but that we use. Patrice Ayme

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A utilitarian attitude to Nature is one that does not recognise its inherent value (i.e. which it would have even if we did not exist). Seeing ourselves as superior to Nature rather than as part of it has resulted in our not living in harmony with it. This is, by definition, equivalent to being at war with Nature. QED. Refer: Nature is not your enemyMartin Lack

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Call it what you want, Martin. Man manipulates nature, and that nature one calls nature has not been “natural” for more than a million years. Except if one views man as part of nature! Patrice Ayme

Patrice is a very clear thinker even if, at times, pretty hard-hitting.  But this exchange confirmed in my mind that clearly looking out to the future must always be hard.  Most certainly in this period of mankind’s evolution predicting the future is especially difficult.  Hence my contribution to Martin’s post:

Jean and I watched the Horizon special a couple of evenings ago. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what my overall thoughts are in response to your post, Martin. What does come to mind is that old saying, “Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences.

So it may be that we are at a particular point in time, or more likely an era, where seeing clearly into the future is challenging.

The one aspect of modern life that is a game-changer is what we are doing now. Sharing ideas and thoughts across a far-flung net. Not only as the Horizon programme illustrated but as ordinary people trying to make sense of the world.

These are incredibly uncertain times.  Undoubtedly not the first in man’s long history as an historian will explain (cue to Alex!).   But to all of us alive today, these are the most uncertain times we have ever experienced!

No wonder so many of us feel lost at times in today’s world.

Here’s that BBC Horizon, courtesy of YouTube.

I will close with this thought from one masterly ‘wordsmith’, William Wordsworth.

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.”

A Chomsky afterthought.

Dogs wouldn’t treat other members of their pack like this.

(I realise how the heading and the sub-heading don’t appear to have any correlation but stay with me please!)

It’s widely known, I’m sure, that the wolf, from which the wild dog and the domesticated dog evolved, lives in packs of around 50 animals.  The size of the pack offers a cohesive, stable structure for the wolf, and other pack species, ensuring group survival and well-being. In a very real sense the way that wolves live is a fabulous example of the power of community.

Just be sidetracked a moment by the following graph, presented on the Berkeley University website:

hominid_graph
My understanding of early hominids is pretty basic but if ‘Homo habilis‘ represents the evolution of modern man then our species goes back less than 3 million years.

Compare that with canids. The website WolfWeb states,

The Dog linage began 37 million years ago in North America in predators that had distinctive pairs of shearing teeth and ran down prey. Early canids reached Europe seven million years ago.

Thirty-seven million years!  Now that’s what I call an example of  “group survival and well-being“.  The power of community.

As stated elsewhere on this blog,

Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago.  There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago.  See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.

The ten dogs we have here at home are split into two groups of five.  What we call the bedroom group: Pharaoh, Cleo, Sweeny, Hazel and Dhalia, and the kitchen group consisting of Lily, Casey, Ruby, Paloma and Loopy.  Both groups are separated by wooden fences so are more than aware of each other.

Something that is clear is that whenever one of the dogs is hurt, all the other dogs take notice. Others in the same group will come up to their hurt ‘buddy’ and offer comfort in a variety of ways.  Sadly, I can’t give you a better example than our poor Loopy who is suffering badly from the dog equivalent of dementia.

Here’s a picture taken of Loopy on Wednesday afternoon.  You will notice the strange sleeping position that she frequently adopts.  That’s an aspect of her dementia.

P1120522

The other dogs in her group all give her special attention.  Such as not grabbing her sleeping bed, not pushing or shoving near her, giving her a wide space in general.  The other dogs sense there is something badly awry with Loopy and accommodate that.

So what on earth has this to do with yesterday’s post Who owns the World?  Keep hanging in there!

A recent link in Naked Capitalism‘s daily news summary was to a story in the British Guardian newspaper.  Written by the Guardian’s Kevin McKenna, it was about the likelihood of Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom.

Scottish independence is fast becoming the only option

Even to a unionist like me, an Alex Salmond-led government is preferable to one that rewards greed and corruption

It’s an interesting article and I recommend you read it directly.  But what jumped off the page at me were these paragraphs.  Please focus deeply on the words and ponder on how foreign they are to the concept of community.

Yet we conveniently overlook the fact that London has already broken away from the United Kingdom and now exists as a world super-state governed by the greed of unhindered capitalism and recognisable as British only by its taxis and bad service. As the world’s most newly minted oligarchs continue to colonise the independent state of London, it becomes almost impossible for families on less than £250k to live decently there. Poor London families made homeless by the coalition benefit cuts are being evacuated as far north as Middlesbrough.

Last week, Goldman Sachs, one of the banks with its fingers in the till when global economic meltdown occurred, awarded an average bonus of £250,000 to each of its employees. The gap between the richest in our society and the poorest stretched a little more and we were reminded yet again that the UK government, despite its promises, allows greed, incompetence and corruption to be rewarded. (How many people do you think will go to jail for the Libor rate-fixing scandal?) Meanwhile, Westminster politicians are dividing the poor into categories marked “deserving” and “scum”.

Think a dog is just a cuddly animal that gives you a chance to do some dog-walking?  Again, written elsewhere on Learning from Dogs.

Dogs:

  • are integrous (a score of 210 according to Dr David Hawkins)
  • don’t cheat or lie
  • don’t have hidden agendas
  • are loyal and faithful
  • forgive
  • love unconditionally
  • value and cherish the ‘present’ in a way that humans can only dream of achieving
  • are, by eons of time, a more successful species than man.

Now compare that with the last sentence in Noam Chomsky’s essay from yesterday, “As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.

Hatred of the vulnerable“; “those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome” are not expressions that resonate with the values of loving communities.  If we humans want “group survival and well-being” we had better learn from species lupus and canid. Pronto!

wolf_pack

I blamed it on the dog

All will be made clear if you go here.

000OOO000

I blamed it on the dog

He lay there, on the hard concrete, motionless, his eyes linked to mine. Linking our two very different species in a bond that defied rational description. A bond across not only two radically different creatures but across the tens of thousands of years since species dog embraced species homo sapiens, that is the hunter-gatherer version.

Such history of intimate co-operation shining out from those quiet, wise, brown eyes. Impossible not to sense the linking of souls as each gazed into the eyes of the other. The arm of the man reached behind, found the camera, and captured forever this magic.

(106 words)