“The life expectancy of early man has been estimated as about 25 years.”
— paraphrase from Cohen MN. (1989) Health and the Rise of Civilization
I think it’s really amazing how much we humans use nature to our ends. I talked with a man recently who works on the electronics in satellites, the job he’s doing now is for about 60 communcation satellites. These fly around the Earth and allow near-instantaneous communcation even on the high seas or remote locales. These are electromagnetic waves flying around everything and we have figured out enough about the laws behind them that we can make our lives easier and better. We learn the science, create technology, build factories to produce it, distribute it, and we benefit.
I think about all it takes to bring all those items into a grocery store, orderly and clean, in a sensible fashion, with no actual authority, just groups of apes working together for their individual benefit. We are some social beings, and our communication is vital to our success. It’s amazing all we have done in such a short time.
Language is a tool for massive leverage of growth. Without a common language civilization immediately breaks down. It can break down in other ways too, such as when an elite establishes power over too long a period and eventually cannot sustain itself. Then society, being without a common basis of cultural law, seems to flounder and disintegrate.
I’m not sure where human language is headed. I like English’s ad hoc ability to absorb new words. The Internet is speeding up that rate, too. I may be mistaken but I don’t recognize that philosophy in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish. Time will surely tell where we are headed. Any prediction is very likely wrong given the interplay and complexity of human civilization. I feel it’s impossible to guess how revolutionary technology will be used and mix with human culture.
Nonetheless the more I learn of human’s use of technology the more I grow optimistic for our future. I think that any bad will be vastly outweighed by the good, and any problems that arise we can deal with. We’ve done well so far and we are just scratching the top ice of a frozen ocean of knowledge.
What are you going to do in that future?