Sapiens and fiction

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Lance Kennedy
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Sapiens and fiction

Post by Lance Kennedy » Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:09 pm

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapiens ... _Humankind

This is a best selling book, which supposedly describes the rise of humanity. Much of it I have no problem with, but the author puts forward a speculation that I consider to be nothing but bull-{!#%@}.

He says that humanity conquered the world because we developed sophisticated cooperation based on assorted imagined realities, shared beliefs in gods, religion, nations etc. I dispute that.

To me, if we want to see where social cooperation came from, we need look no further than other species. There is sophisticated cooperation within many species of social predators. These animals work together for a common goal (killing food). Think of pods of orca, or dolphins. Prides of lions. Packs of wolves or African hunting dogs. Even chimps cooperate when hunting monkeys for food.

To me, you do not need to dream up weirdness like fictional ideas as a basis for cooperation. Simply working together for a common goal is sufficient.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by Matthew Ellard » Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:22 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:He says that humanity conquered the world because we developed sophisticated cooperation based on assorted imagined realities, shared beliefs in gods, religion, nations etc. I dispute that.
I haven't read the book.

I do not think religion has offered any advantage. Polytheism allows a human to blame one god, for when things don't make sense, without trying to think through the real reasons. Monotheism, which does somewhat force rational thought, is only three or four thousand years old.

I don't think nationalism has offered any advantage, for the simple reason it is only a couple thousand years old. How would a neanderthal group, looking for food, know it was leaving Africa for the Middle East?

It is my opinion that humans have the advantage of forming larger groups with non-relatives, due to language. That allowed for labour specialisation and a resulting surplus in food production. Once humans understood how to create a food surplus and weave baskets to carry that surplus....we could spread out over the entire planet. Those things occurred about a million years ago with H. sapien erectus.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by landrew » Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:48 am

I've read the summary, and from that what stands out for me is the blurring of lines between different types of evolution. The cognitive revolution was biological, but the agricultural/scientific revolutions were cognitive in nature. The unification of mankind is a result of expanding feelings of security, and has been variable throughout history.

I believe we evolved imagination to help us prepare for possible futures, but once we had the ability to model our existence in the world, we lacked the information to populate the model, hence we invented mythologies and religions to fill it. As we evolve scientifically, the ratio of mythology and magic to information has declined steadily.
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Lance Kennedy
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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by Lance Kennedy » Mon Sep 10, 2018 1:37 am

That may well be true, landrew. But I do not believe that the fictions humans dreamed up contributed to the development of social cooperation in the early stages of its evolution. Much more likely that the very special social cooperation that marks Homo sapiens came from dire necessity.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by TJrandom » Mon Sep 10, 2018 1:54 am

Well... are you up on lion religions? Orca theism? Bonobo dreams of far off lands? :? How do ya know their success isn`t the handywork of their gods? :mrgreen:

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by landrew » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:34 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:That may well be true, landrew. But I do not believe that the fictions humans dreamed up contributed to the development of social cooperation in the early stages of its evolution. Much more likely that the very special social cooperation that marks Homo sapiens came from dire necessity.
I agree with that. We follow the instincts our species inherited from our evolutionary ancestors. Instincts have no IQ, but they are the motivation behind what we do.
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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by Wordbird » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:11 am

I honestly don't know. It sounds baseless but I wouldn't discount it.

I don't know anything but religion that has quite the same power to turn people into obedient sheep.

With enough blind obedience, you can accomplish a lot.

Animals can't be manipulated by language and nonsense, so they're too smart to be used for this.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by ElectricMonk » Mon Sep 10, 2018 4:38 am

I read Yuval Harari's books Sapiens and Homo Deus; he also has a YT channel with a series that is the basis for Sapiens.

I do like his somewhat unorthodox views quite a bit.

His basic premise is that the key advantage of humans is that they can believe in things that aren't real, and therefore what they do depends on what they can be made to believe.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by Poodle » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:46 am

landrew wrote:... I believe we evolved imagination to help us prepare for possible futures ...
Probably true, but I prefer a more simplistic statement like "If I hit this there and there with this, I'm likely to get a sharp edge here".

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by landrew » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:38 pm

Wordbird wrote:I honestly don't know. It sounds baseless but I wouldn't discount it.

I don't know anything but religion that has quite the same power to turn people into obedient sheep.

With enough blind obedience, you can accomplish a lot.

Animals can't be manipulated by language and nonsense, so they're too smart to be used for this.
I see mythology and religion as surrogate knowledge, best to fill the gaps between the model and the data, which were massive before learning and science began to fill them.

Humans have never been good with handling their own lack of knowledge. Always better to have "some answer."
And from those "answers" came the analog to tribal hierarchy and the imposition of religious tyranny.
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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by ElectricMonk » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:44 pm

For Harari, it's not about imperfect knowledge replaced by belief, but belief in things that humans on some level know are non-existent and never could exit or be proven to exist.
A favorite example of his is the Limited Liability Company: it is a complete legal construct, yet as long as we believe in the fiction of a company as an economic actor, the economy can grow in ways it never could if only individuals could enter into contracts.
Money, Gods, Nation States and Humanism are all fictions, but they allow everyone who believes in them to cooperate with each other, even if they have no other social connection.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by landrew » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:55 pm

ElectricMonk wrote:For Harari, it's not about imperfect knowledge replaced by belief, but belief in things that humans on some level know are non-existent and never could exit or be proven to exist.
A favorite example of his is the Limited Liability Company: it is a complete legal construct, yet as long as we believe in the fiction of a company as an economic actor, the economy can grow in ways it never could if only individuals could enter into contracts.
Money, Gods, Nation States and Humanism are all fictions, but they allow everyone who believes in them to cooperate with each other, even if they have no other social connection.
I'll agree with the faith-based nature of religion, (similar to a business prospectus) ostensibly allowing everyone to be on the same page with regard to rules, norms and expectations, but it breaks down outside of small groups. One could also argue that such a result is not inherent in the religion itself, but it exists within any human construct, be it reality-based or myth-based.
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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by ElectricMonk » Mon Sep 10, 2018 5:09 pm

The Myth of the Dollar is shared all over the world.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by Lance Kennedy » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:08 pm

My concern is putting too much importance on such myths. They are not the reason humans became successful. In my personal view, the two reasons are tool making and using, plus social cooperation. The latter came into being for reasons of survival, not myth making.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by ElectricMonk » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:21 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:My concern is putting too much importance on such myths. They are not the reason humans became successful. In my personal view, the two reasons are tool making and using, plus social cooperation. The latter came into being for reasons of survival, not myth making.
Harari would disagree with you, and he has anthropological evidence: cooperation in social animals, even apes, breaks down beyond the threshold where everyone can interact with everyone else on a daily basis. As soon as they get too big for a leader to constantly "campaign" everyone, they split.
Belief in a common myth makes it possible to cooperate through a kind of implicit "web of trust".

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:14 am

Yes, social animals have a "natural " size social grouping. So do humans. Ours is 50 to 200 people. It is a bit bigger than most social animals, but that is hardly surprising considering our much more capable brains.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by ElectricMonk » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:18 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:Yes, social animals have a "natural " size social grouping. So do humans. Ours is 50 to 200 people. It is a bit bigger than most social animals, but that is hardly surprising considering our much more capable brains.
how many citizens does NZ have?
That is your social grouping size.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Sep 11, 2018 8:12 pm

EM

The "natural " social groupings for humans are two, the family and the tribe. The nation is an "unnatural " structure overlaying those two. Each of us have our own tribe. That is, all the people we regard as reasonably close. Anthropologists studying modern humans have found the number in our personal tribes and the number in more "primitive " tribes is exactly the same. That is, 50 to 200.

Personally, I think that a more "civilised " person will adopt an unnatural tribe and that will consist of all 7.5 billion people making up the human species. Loyalty to nation is more destructive than useful.

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Re: Sapiens and fiction

Post by ElectricMonk » Wed Sep 12, 2018 4:39 am

Humans belong to many tribes at the same time : you have an extended family, but you also have your company, your town, your FB-group, people at this Forum, etc. etc.: in total this will be way more than 200 people you feel some kinship to
- which shows that the traditional concept of a tribe doesn't fit the current situation.

The only sensible definition now is the group of people you would be comfortable in dealing with without the need for references from a trusted source of your inner circle.
Commerce is a form of cooperation, so are international alliances: you might be comfortable with working for an Australian Defense Contractor, but probably not for a Chinese one.
So open your horizons, Lance: your tribe is already a big chunk of the Globe, certainly most of the West.