Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Team work- mankind’s prehistoric secret?

So continuing on that one about evolution....Well... There are all these theories about how man evolved. However, what is more interesting is not "how did man evolve", but "why". There are billions of creatures on planet Earth and some of them with really interesting features (like the ciliates, about which I started a post and never published!) and yet, none of them achieved what man did! (Or maybe they did, but that is a premise I don't want to talk about today).

WHY did man become the most powerful creature? What in him that wasn't there in other creatures made him invent computers and visualize robots, and make artificial cell cultures?

An advanced biology? As in, anatomy, physiology? A better brain? (The first answer that occurred to me was something else, but about that, later!) While it is true that man is seemingly the most developed of animals, there are a lot of arguments against this (some biologists point out the more optimized bodies of other organisms, or question the authenticity of brain size as an indicator of development). One such interesting argument is that while most of development (both physical and mental, as well as making tools, etc) had happened in the first half a million years, mankind seemed to suddenly sudden takeoff 45,000 years ago- what we might call mankind's big break!

Now how did this happen? If everything was in place by that time, what was man waiting for, to go big? While one might think it was some sort of genetic thing (or maybe Erich von Daniken's alien gods), recent research says something a lot simpler. And a lot like what our management gurus tell us. "It's all team work"!!!

By this they mean that exchange of thoughts/goods stimulated innovation by bringing together different ideas and different people. And THIS was what triggered rapid progress. (Read this article for a more detailed explanation of this theory.) Wherever huge numbers of people settled, and had trade, development was a rocket! Which is a little obvious. Meet different people, grasp different perspectives, discuss and argue, and you become a lot wiser! Or, like a lot of people from our previous generation did, move from your village to a bigger city, which is essentially a hub for more diverse people, more opportunities and more exposure, and again, you become a lot better. And quite amazingly, this is what happened to the Neanderthals!!

(I have often discussed the plusses of staying away from home- in terms of how your perspective broadens, how much exposure you get, and how much the experience can teach you! It seems that more wisdom is to be had in dialogue than classes and books; without denying the merits of the latter.)

In any case, another interesting thing this theory says is that- not only should a lot of people stay at a particular locality, but they should be involved in as much "exchange" (or interaction) as possible! In other words, "not just a population, but an argumentative, interactive population". I particularly like the statement "Trade is to culture as sex is to biology", because I have always found meiosis and genetic recombination to be among the greatest marvels of nature. As are arguments and reasoning, marvels of human minds! In any case, "team work" seems to have been the mantra ever since the beginning of existence! And maybe, as "Argumentative Indians", we must take the cue and have more discussions, interactions and exchange of ideas!

P.S- Did I leave off without giving my answer for the question at the start of this article? Well, the first answer that popped up in my mind was curiosity... Man has always been curious about his existence, about the nature of the world, its origin (which laid the foundations of science and philosophy and all that stuff). The reason for his progress has probably been the question why apart instead of only how! But I am no biologist and I don't know if other animals are as curious as man is- so can't really tell!


  1. Hmmm. I candidly concede that I have read just the first 2 paras and couldn't stop myself from dropping a comment! Don't worry I shall continue to read the article once I am done! :D

    Point being, I don't agree that man is most powerful / supreme / bla bla.

    All the other species are successful in their own environments. Just that, we don't acknowledge that, the way they don't appreciate our Intel core processors :P

  2. @deeps: valid point! I have mentioned that at the end of the 1st para. That I'm not indulging in the discussion of whether man is really supreme in this post. I am not refuting the point, but simply saying I will take it up later.

    And let me know when u r done with the article :P

    And nice observation in the last statement! Even I wonder what cats and dogs think about computers :D


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