From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
"Scientists have reconstructed the genome of a man who lived 45,000 years ago, by far the oldest genetic record ever obtained from modern humans. The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, provided new clues to the expansion of modern humans from Africa about 60,000 years ago, when they moved into Europe and Asia. And the genome, extracted from a fossil thighbone found in Siberia, added strong support to a provocative hypothesis: Early humans interbred with Neanderthals."
"it's quite clear that there's tons of cultural transmission that's just strictly by observational learning."
State of the Species: Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall? [Via]
Did the disappearance of the elephant caused the rise of modern man? Humans are not good at extracting energy from plants or converting protein to energy. Without fire to allow for better conversion, fat was a vital part of early man's diet. Elephants being slower and larger than many other prey was a prime hunting target. When the number of elephants declined, man had to find other sources. Hunting smaller, faster prey resulted in a change in human evolution. Man became lighter and their brain size increased to handle the requirements for hunting enough animals to provide the necessary fat.
There are some unique finds that tell us about the early lives of people. But of course there are other ways...
Neandertals are the closest ancestral relatives to modern humans. Today, Nature published a special report on the Neandertal genome, for which a draft sequencing of three billion nucleotides has been completed. This high-throughput sequencing project shows how the genetic relationship between Neandertals and modern Europeans and Asians suggests localized interbreeding between the two species roughly 40-80,000 years ago, complicating the common "out-of-Africa" story of how modern humans originated. Additional research extends this low-coverage, first-pass sequencing with a microarray approach that uncovers specific differences between the human and Neandertal genomes.
Really Old Skull debases "Out of Africa" theory. . . "The find calls into question a widely held hypothesis that the evolution of big brains propelled the exodus of early humans out of Africa."
Um, Bob, where did all the cows go ? So much for the theory of how Native Americans and Aborigines have lived in harmony with the land since time began.... Turns out they were just gluttonous killing machines who gorged themselves on steak till all the beasties disappeared (or something like that)
I come from a long line of inbreeders. No more laughing at them there bills from the hills! It seems all us white folk are related to only 50 frisky ancestors!