Once invented, a tool can last forever, passed by one generation to the paper next one simply by exposing the new-born babies. Brain size started increasing, according to taylor, after technology happened. And bodies started getting weaker because technology made it unnecessary to be strong and big. Taylor speculates that the rapid growth of the human brain was due to competition for technological supremacy. And it all started with the baby-carrying sling. It is not intelligence that gave us tools because the earliest tools predate the rapid expansion of the brain that led to modern hominids. Brains began to grow in size after (not before) the first tools were invented.
Women were constantly on the move, looking for food, carrying water, looking for firewood, etc. There were no kindergarten: they had to carry their babies with them all the time. In every single culture women have solvd this problem in the same way: every single culture developed tools for to carry babies (all the way to the stroller). Because most archeologists were male, they kept thinking of hunting, but the first tools were probably made by women who were the ones who had the mother of all problems to solve: protect your babies. Otherwise all those distinguished male archeologists would never have existed! And second were probably containers (to gather and carry food). The first tools were probably invented by women, not by men, and those first tools triggered the expansion of the human brain. The brain of human babies is still so plastic that it can absorb whatever technology is available in a way that no other species can. Other species are condemned to use the brain they get at birth, whereas human children can adapt their brain to the civilization they find.
In a sense, all human babies are born prematurely, they are extra-uterine foetuses. In fact, the brain of human babies keeps developing at lightning speed during the first year (as opposed to the brain of the chimp, that is pretty much done and ready to go at birth). Taylor concludes that something was needed to make all of this not only possible but inevitable. Females were the first tool-makers: the need for tools to carry plant food predates the need for hunting tools; and the need for carrying their babies around probably predates both. Bipedalism created the need for carrying babies and for carrying goods, a need that other apes solve by moving on all four. Archeologists have been saying that the first tools were the tools needed for hunting and other manly activities, but a woman needs a proto-tool, a way to carry her baby around. Imagine you are a 12-yo girl who just had her first baby, and human babies are totally incapable of doing anything, and you are not even strong enough to carry food: how are you going to carry your baby (and probably one every year) safely. You cannot afford to wait for the baby to learn how to walk.
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Domestication of animals changed all of this because humans were the most difficult to kill: why risk your life killing humans when you can get the same proteins from a peaceful cow or goat? Taylor business describes the evidence but somehow does not want to connect the dots. Back to the main narrative, there is a problem with big brains: they should be physically impossible. Taylor travels back to the emergence of the first visible feature of human behavior: bipedalism. (After the publication of this book, an international team discovered that chimps walk upright when carrying scarce resources and suggested that humans may have started walking upright for the same reason: "Chimpanzee carrying behaviour and the origins of human bipedality ).
As a consequence of standing upright, bipedal beings have a smaller pelvis, and therefore a larger head for babies makes no sense. The chances of miscarriage increase dramatically. Therefore the babies with large heads should have been eliminated by natural selection. For a while our bipedal ancestors continued to have small heads, as one would expect, but then suddenly hominids began to develop large heads, and that sounds like a physical impossibility. Human babies are incapable of walking upright for a long time. They are in fact incapable of doing most of the things required to survive.
The chapter on cooking is particularly interesting because it is not so much about the importance of fire and cooking meat (that many books have analyzed extensively) but about cannibalism. Taylor mentions that 75 species of mammals practice cannibalism. He describes how a cat may start eating some of its kittens the moment they are born. Cannibalism is not "widespread" (as he writes) because only 1500 species practice it out of millions, but it is a more widespread strategy for survival than modern humans would like to admit, especially among primates like chimps and. Early cannibals did not eat human meat because they lacked alternatives: there were cannibals in the pacific islands that had plenty of fish to eat. The early cannibals obviously had no moral obstacle to killing and eating people from other tribes, that were viewed as animals: if you don't speak my language, and have weird customs, and smell bad and so forth, my instinct is to view you.
The modern world has (hopefully) learned to respect all languages and all customs, but that was not true just a few centuries (decades?) ago. We also have evidence that, in older times, the grandfather would encourage the grandchildren to eat his/her dying body: why waste a nutritious body that would have rotten away? It made perfect sense. I suggest that humans were eating their own children too, just like the cat that gives birth to too many. In fact, that was the easiest and safest meal of all: eat your own (metaphorical) flesh. However, the human investment in children is so colossal (it takes nine months and usually you get only one) that this practice rapidly shifted to other people's children. Those were easy targets too, and, again, they were not considered the same species (tribe). It also had the additional advantage that you would remove a competitor from the great game of natural selection.
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The other chapters are meant to provide the evidence. The evidence is not terribly convincing. The chapter on the tasmanians, people who puzzled archeologists because they remained so primitive (running naked in a cold climate and never learning how to fish in an island surrounded by millions of fish is particularly unconvincing: taylor argues the tasmanians never "wanted" to wear. He argues that from the point of view of a tasmanian wearing clothes may have looked like a trait of savagery, not of civilization: you evernote can't live without clothes, you poor savage? Interesting theory, but far-fetched. Another interesting theory (and this one much more rational) is that humans did not evolve the ability to make tools (which requires big brains which require tools) but tools caused humans to evolve that way. Chimps don't have big brains because they need the skull configured in such a way to allow for their powerful jaws. Having fire and tools, humans did not need those powerful features of the head and therefore lost them and therefore space was left over for a big brain to grow. He points out (page 82) that there is a gap beween the date of the oldest chipped stone tool (2.5 million years ago) and the first hominids (2.3 million 200 thousand years, a very long period interests of time.
While developing a smarter brain. This is another strange loop: it could be that brains got smarter as bodies got weaker, or it could be that bodies got weaker as brains got smarter. In fact, it is not even true that human brains got larger since prehistory: the human brain has shrunk about 10 over the last 10 thousand years. The essay neanderthal man was not only stronger than Homo sapiens: it also had a bigger brain and perhaps was in many ways smarter. But it was Homo sapiens that survived, and went on to rule the planet. Taylor calls it "survival of the weakest". Taylor is convinced that tools, the great invention of Homo sapiens, dramatically altered the terms of evolution. The first chapter lays out the general idea.
Therefore technology requires a brain that is made possible by technology. It is a "chicken and egg" kind of problem: one cannot exist without the other, but one must have come first. Taylor points out that humans seem to go against evolution: we are "biologically reduced". Our bodies have weakened since the Stone Age and keep weakening. We are less strong, less agile, less fast, etc than our prehistoric ancestors were. Something similar happens to wild animals when they get domesticated. By analogy, taylor calls "self-domestication" the process by which humans got weaker while becoming more dependent on technology,.
Darwin's theory of evolution needs to be complemented with a story of how technology allowed humans to violate the very rules that Darwin found embedded in all other species. According to darwin's blind algorithm of natural selection, humans should have gone extinct very quickly. Biological evolution (or, better, biological accident) accounts for humans developing the upright posture. That posture freed the hands, and allowed humans to make tools. That situation completely altered the normal course of biological evolution because, from that point on, technology introduced a parallel (non blind at oliver all) algorithm. Humans started evolving not based on biological laws of evolution but based on technological factors. Taylor claims that "technology evolved us".
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Humans are the weakest of the great apes. We cannot survive without clothes and houses. It seems irrational that the one ape that is so vulnerable ended up dominating every other species. In fact, humans should not have survived evolution at all because reproduction is so dangerous, complicated and (in the past) lethal (for both baby and mother and then because children require so much attention and dedication lest they die of the silliest causes (compare with. The British archeologist Timothy taylor argues that technology is the solution to this apparent contradiction. Evolution is not only biological. The cultural-technological component is equally important, and it vastly favored humans over any other species. Technology advantages is very much part of what we mean by "being human".