The reading this week has a lot to do with the development of the human cognitive system as well as the symbolic system. But two minor aspects caught my attention: behavioral big bang and the procedure for the human to domestic ourselves.
“Within a geologic blink of an eye, humans from the Rhône Valley to the Russian plain were producing advanced weaponry, forming long-distance trade networks, expressing themselves through art and music, and generally engaging in all manner of activities that archaeologists typically associate with modernity. It was, by all appearances, the ultimate Great Leap Forward.” (Wong, 2005) This is a typical declaration of a behavioral big bang.
Another good example could be the Technological Explosion. Many things that have a profound impact on our daily life were invented in the recent 200 years. starting from 1826, photography, telegraph (1837), sewing machine (1846),the internal combustion engine (1860), telephone (1876), motion picture and X-Ray (1895), Airplane (1903). These are just a glimpse of the great changes that pushed our society forward, the significant part of this is all these things happened within such a short time-span.
In one of my favorite fiction novels: the three-body problem, a similar pattern was described: The alien civilization is afraid of another tipping point in our development so that they locked down the tools for basic physics research which would make Technological Explosion impossible.
My understanding here is randomness and coincidence are important characteristics of innovation. At the same time, the increasing availability of a collective knowledge base would facilitate the procedure of research and exploration, it’s like a detective with more clues and jigsaw puzzles with more references.
What’s more, many inventions mentioned above changed the way we perceive and interact with this world. For instance, before photography was introduced, the top priority for many painters is to portray things as real as possible onto the canvas. But this suddenly became meaningless – you could never outperform a camera. So, the artist started to adopt other tactics and embrace new genres and thus we had the impressionist
Kate Wong, “The Morning of the Modern Mind: Symbolic Culture.” Scientific American 292, no. 6 (June 2005): 86-95.