on humanism and environmental crisis

Archive for the ‘materialism’ Category

Origins of materialism (reading A.Hinton’s Understanding context)

Reading Andrew Hinton’s Understanding Context. ( version 7.11.21)

  1. Introduction: animals’ language, human language, and computer language: three languages, same principles. 
  2. Part I: A case against relativism and homo translensis. 
  3. Part II: The origin of things
  4. Conclusions: three languages linked to three events.

Introduction:

  Eve is a very, very smart 5 year old. She sits in front of the basket of apples, the knife in her hand. Her sister, Fiona, barely 18 months old, walking, talking, and asking questions, noticed that one apple fell from the basket. “What’s that?” she asks and points to the apple.

 Miraculously, Eve answers: “apple!”.

I will try to explain why this answer was really a miracle. 

 Now we have to add that they sit in front of a cave, the knife is made of stone, and it is all happened 50 thousand years ago. It means that in Eve’s brain there are many, many neural networks, useful for homo sapiens, that include different fruits. These algorithms help Eve “ find apples”, “tell apples from pears”, “chop apples for sauce”, “eating an apple” and so on. But in her brain- and this is a part of this essay’s hypothesis-there is no “apple” as an object. But, somehow, miraculously, breaking the algorithm, separating a piece of her reality, her environment, from its function, she answers “apple”! 

    This essay is about the nature of our surroundings. It might also, while discussing surroundings, give us some glimpses at our nature. 

    The surroundings of an animal are, from the point of view of this animal (sic!), determined by the activity and sophistication of its nervous system. From our, human, point of view, we can only muse: “What is it like to be a bat” and agree that we’ll never be sure. 

It doesn’t stop science from working on the nature of experience. Ecology, ethology, and semiotics are all about it. And philosophy- like phenomenology and natural philosophy.

    The animal’s senses and its brain create the animal’s world which Jacob von Uexkull called Umwelt. Again, depending on the point of view, the same thing, we can call a “habitat”, “niche”, “environment” or just “what’s outside”.

Depending on the point of view… or “context” ( we are going to abuse this term mercilessly). When scientists are talking about an animal’s surroundings some more shifts occur( I mean shifts in the conversation’s perspectives we usually do not notice because it is so ”normal” for us). In biology, like in modern physics, the results of investigations change with the actions of the observer, his or her attitude, purpose, method, and prevailing scientific paradigm. Think about the interpretation of prehistoric fossils or ancient artifacts. And using the term “context” emphasizes the fluidity of the thing or even its arbitrariness.

I have been working on people’s personal worldviews for the last 10 years. What is the worldview if not a point of view ( or context) from which we see the world? And what is understanding context if not transforming the implicit, unconscious, gut felt, and acted worldview into an explicit, spelled out, clarified set of rules and structures that help us navigate our life? 

When a postmodernist like Derrida or Foucault talks about their beloved context it becomes something very abstract, like a cloud of meanings surrounding a concept or a story.

“This does not suppose that the mark is valid outside its context, but on the contrary that there are only contexts without any center of absolute anchoring. This citationality, duplication, or duplicity, this iterability of the mark is not an accident or anomaly, but is that (normal/abnormal) without which a mark could no longer even have a so-called “normal” functioning”. (Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy)

Yes, the philosophers and scientists tried to handle the question of context/surroundings (see above), but it was not until computer people explained this to us that we got some traction.  Computers help us to solve the problems of the real physical world. We need them for health, economy, research, communication, basically for everything we do. 

The computer people squeeze all our problems into the screen.  Then, they have to translate or shift the domain of the physical world into language and symbols, then translate these semantic elements into a digital world. Then, after they crunched the numbers they proceed to reverse the process back to the screen jargon, and voila, they are done. 

When computer guys (like Hinton) talk about context, this cloud of meaning, even if stuck inside a computer screen, becomes much more physical, more like a place or a map. This concreteness, physicality even if strange in the virtual world, feels natural for them. They are living there, working there, creating and designing the content and the contexts itself around it. They interchangeably use the terms for context like “environment” and for working with it – “architecture”. It is why Hinton uses Gibsonian ecology as the model for understanding context in this novel, rich and useful way. Following his lead in this essay, we will blend discussion on the computer environment with the physical human environment and cultural-semantic environment.

Part One: A case against relativism – introducing homo translensis and “domain hopping”.

 This introduction might suggest that the nature of our surroundings- which is nothing else than our reality, our solid, real Universe is not so solid. This talk about shifting domains, of the point of view, of the role of the observer in modifying reality; it all smells like relativism. And, how properly for our times when relativity rules. Gone are our basics, our standards, and our rocks.  God is dead (Nietsche ), the President lies (everybody knows)  the corporations cheat (they mean to do it) and the media is full of fake news.  But humans know better. Relativism doesn’t help, doesn’t solve any conflict, it is the queen of the stalemate.

The trick of relativism failed us with religious wars, with religion versus science dilemma, even with biology vs humanities squabble. Where did Cartesian duality take philosophy? Well, pretty close to its demise.

 The insight for the better way comes to me from Andrew Hinton’s Understanding Context. Hinton starts with a story- him, a computer geek, catching a plane. He leads the reader through a number of overlying contexts: his iPhone, with his calendar and schedule, his office computer, a colleague’s laptop, the airport’s computers-security, and the cashier’s – the main object of interest hops from screen to screen- his flight. He switches domains and environments- digital, physical, and linguistic – he walks (or runs) through the airport, the shuttle, and (at last) the plane. He has to understand and hop through all these meanings -symbols, icons, messages from outside and inside. Unlike Derrida’s contexts- his are very, very real.  I realized while reading his book that coping, conquering, and understanding different contexts and environments sits deep in human nature. Switching domains- actually holding them simultaneously in the mind for a moment- this what understanding is- it is like translating from language to language and comprehending- using them both. I also realized that these processes- these “domain hopping”- are everywhere.

Cartoon # 1

As a senior pediatrician, I talk to every new employee, a doctor, a nurse, or a front desk person. I always draw for them and explain these symbols: “The circle. This means empathy- we are one-we are equal- we embrace them with real or symbolic arms. The second is a square: we translate their square problems into something we can help him with, the third is “plugin” or action- or complete- do what you need to do and document it so you can have a clear mind ready for the next one”. 

Both, understanding and following these instructions – require constant shifting contexts or domains. The other examples are meditation and prayer- you shift between the transcendent and your mind.

So, the truth is there, real and important. It is not the truth that is relative, it is the context, the view, the way of looking, that shifts. I mentioned “domain hopping” and I will return to it, but I think it is how our curiosity and obsession with figuring things out, works. We are ” homo translensis”- we know one thing, then we stick the same thing in different domains or media, or modes. It is like translating from one language to another: for a precious moment, we have to hold both things or thoughts or truths in our minds. This is understanding and it is everywhere.

Our computerized world just made it so obvious.  

So, was it always like that?

Part II.  A hypothesis. “The origin of things”.

     No, it was not. In his recent book, Peter Godfrey-Smith explains how the mind works for very simple and very ancient animals- mollusks, cephalopods, or fish. Their simple brains connect perception with action and maybe “presence” in one experience of living. From “if”- perception, to “then”- action, like a procedure code in your desktop. 

It is extremely hard to imagine a world without things. In my hypothesis – this was the world until about 50,000 years ago. The forests were full of birds, monkeys, and hominids – full of life, intelligence, and communications, but none of these creatures had discrete objects in their worlds.

What was going on 50.000 years ago? 

This we know:

Like dinosaurs 260 million years ago, about the last 10 million years witnessed a phenomenal expansion of great apes. 

 These monkeys invented complexity unheard of before. They were, as great E.O Wilson tells us,  hypersocial or eusocial, rivaling only a few other genera like ants, bees, termites, etc. But unlike others they had huge brains, hands to manipulate objects, and communications based on vision and sound. Many bands and tribes evolved and were selected for cooperation, and altruism. They were spreading to more and more diverse habitats. They invented axes, spears, and fire. They developed cultures with burials, art, stories, and gods. And they were avid learners. We know of 27 major branches of hominids.

They all died out, except for one small group or tribe- 10,000 individuals or less- us.

 This part is pretty much accepted and non-controversial. 

But from now on- hold on to your seat.

Their communication or proto-language was based on procedure code. Just like very primitive animals’ communication.

The animal brain as we understand it contains only algorithms coding for evolutionary beneficial behaviors (traits), probably nothing more. Anything else would be energetically prohibited- impossible. And the more complex these neural networks are, the more “costly” they are and benefits have to be more striking for the new trait to survive and expand. It is the pressure to develop the brain versus the pressure to evolve muscles or fur. Example: the process of domestication of wolves to dogs-  dogs can “ handle” and “understand” humans better than wolves but they “pay” with weaker muscles and smaller teeth.

Over the eons of evolution, big brains become very costly- and still are.

The communication algorithms allow for social and cultural complexity-equivalent of our knowledge-were becoming more and more elaborate- say like bee dance or skill to become alpha male, or telling a story and false story and magic story. It is difficult to imagine that, but half of the algorithm, like in procedure code, has no sense. The algorithms have branches, maybe thousands of them but no modularity. So the learning slowed down, the evolutionary pressure and competition between muscle and intelligence became more fierce. !00 thousand years ago it might appear that robust, stronger hominids ( h. Neanderthalensis )prevail over “gracile” (sapiens). Over the last 6 million years the increase in complexity slowed down. Stone axes were still stone axes after millions of years!

Note: Everybody agrees with these simple biological facts… when we talk about bacteria, spiders, even fish. When we start to talk about more complex animals, magically they become more like us, especially pets or animals one spent all one’s life investigating ( chimpanzees, octopuses). Their behavior might look like ours, but their minds and learning work more like neural nets of modern AI than ours hybrid brains.

So, it is like the story of “primordial soup” to explain the creation of life with the abundance of all rare elements, warmth, sun, lightning storm, oxygen, and nucleotides swimming around and hoping for a stroke of luck…

Similarly, our ancestors, with super socially intelligent people, migrating under the pressure of stronger hominids had great language, and great parenting, and Eve and Fiona had a moment of genius.  Eve was in the “magic years” period, Fiona in the “joint attention” pointing phase, and humanity was in the “dream world” phase.

Thus, Eve, miraculously, shares the piece of the procedure code her sister pointed to. Preposterous! The pieces of codes have no meaning- well, they did not until now- from now on her and her sister share the concept and a piece of a new reality- an apple. This single event has to be combined with creating or just naming each other’s self (thanks for the close-knit family, talking constantly)- otherwise, it would have to be invented over and over-and this is impossible! The apple was Fiona’s and Eve’s first shared, independent from the procedure code, thing. I imagine that the next step was to share this with Mom and Dad.

     Animals do not do that, there are no objects in the Umwelten.*  With the object, like an apple, there is a cascade of benefits, there is no looking back. The things do not exist unless and until named. The name/thing duo can be easily shared with others, it has attributes, it has quantity. This brings abstract concepts floating around our apple. Most importantly with a thing, you can want it, own itand share it. Actually, the meaning of “apple” contains its origins. It is as if  Eve said, “I  call it apple”- pointing to the metaphoric and cultural nature of this thing. I imagine that for many, many generations the new world of things coexisted with an old world of procedure codes, of perception-action arc, where if is a primitive agent that does the action- then. Animals have in their brains plenty of procedure codes for actions, truly beneficial actions, but completely anonymous- benefiting the species which is- a concept- a nobody. The huge advantage of the you-me-object -attribute system was the gate for fast technological and social progress. And, to prove it, we survived.**

 Like in this essay: it is what we humans do: “hopping domains”. The existence of named objects enables shifting perspectives, it is like advancing from a two-dimensional world to three-dimensional space, when you get it, you’ll use it all the time.

Another Note: It is difficult to imagine life without things. It is, I guess, like all you know would be the type of knowing how to ride a bike, how to play piano, how to make out with other humans?

Part 3. Conclusions.

Look at these three parallel events. In each, the world of the procedure code breaks and develops into a different reality or domain or metaphor.

1.Rare or just a single event:

Ca 50,000 years ago, a small band of homo sapiens acquired modularity of language, the concept of objects which expanded to a shared reality.   All other brands and branches of hominids that did not get this died out.

 2. Very common:

 It happens to every baby 6  to 12 months old since event #1. Babies develop “object permanence”.  She now knows that the toy that is hidden will not disappear forever, it is still there!

Pre-linguistic communication shifts to language and shared reality. Now we can see that the term “acquiring object permanence” is an oxymoron- in our shared reality objects are permanent by definition, until then, in the infant’s world, there were no objects separated from functions.

3. Recently very common,

Computer programmers and object-oriented user experience people perform similar tricks. The anonymous, pre-linguistic concepts, tasks, and problems defined in the form of the procedure code are transformed and transferred into shared by users pseudo-reality or (nicer) computer reality.

   All three events describe the now-famous “domain hop”: from procedure language, shared object-oriented, user’s reality emerges. ( thank you, Fiona and Eve). The original event was so rare that it looks like a miracle. Then every human baby learned to repeat that. And recently humanity learned how to perform it, with computers, “on-demand”. 

Content creates context. The object creates an agent – self. Understanding, translating, domain shifting, domain hopping is at the core of our human nature. It is how we survived.                                    

                                                  * * *

                                              * * *

*  Wait, and how about Japanese monkeys who learned how to wash potatoes? It was not an object, it was socially sharing the behavior, an algorithm.  But without the object independent from function there is no breakthrough, another skill, that’s it. 

** This broad description of the hypothetical event skips linguistic jargon of “qualia” and “memes”, and skips evolutionary mechanism’s details of spreading of beneficial traits.

Tom Voychehovski

Invention of things

So many puzzles, one key.

Here are some examples of puzzles:

  1. The anthropic dilemma or fine-tuning. 
  2. What happened before the Big Bang? Or how Entropy 0 can change to non-0?
  3. Why did we not find any evidence of aliens?
  4. Where is the center of the Universe?
  5. Why are homo sapiens so much more complex than other animals?
  6. What was crucial in the human evolutionary leap?
  7. What was the evolutionary origin of human language?
  8. What was an evolutionary origin of materialism?
  9. What is the solution to our niche crisis?

The key: the event which occurred over a relatively short evolutionary time- probably several thousands of years, about 50,000 years ago in Africa or the Middle East. It involved one or at the most a couple of groups of ancient humans. 

     To continue the explanation or the description of the hypothesis- the key- we need to stop and insert an explanation. An explanation for the explanation? Yes, this sentence might need to be moved to the beginning of the essay, definitely can not be postponed. The explanation involves bootstrapping. ( A la Baron Munchausen) Explaining the working of the human brain with the human brain. Explaining the nature of reality using the language created by this reality. Explaining the complexity of the system using tools created within this system. It is why our explanation doesn’t explain what really happened, but how we continue to improve our explaining it. The best and the only thing we can do- is bootstrapping. It is obvious then that the nature of things reflects (or follows) the nature of our probing system. Mainly our brains but also other experimenting or probing machines. The results of probing depend and reflect the structure of the probe. 

       Another metaphor can be helpful: You look and you realize that the fur gloves you have worn for a long time are actually inside out. So, you flip it, put it on and it obviously works much better. The cold hand’s problem is solved. No repair, no surgery, no expense, just a fresh look- so simple, and the result is incredible.

     Now, back to the cavemen.  Well, the event I am going to describe carries similarities to several older events. We see these events as a cluster of extremely unlikely circumstances that occurred only once (an event can not be rarer than that). Like: Big Bang, creating solar/’planetary/earth system, creating life from no life systems, creating a nervous system to support nonrandom behavior, creating big brain social mammals in post dinosaurs niche. 

We also see our lives similarly- the nodes of unlike events and circumstances. I hypothesize that our brain creates in developing neural networks an important (nodal) but uncommon structure (few axons or dendrites) reflecting the structure of these outside- (niche) events. Or, if you reverse this concept, outside events reflect neural structures. ( the “glove hypothesis”- the glove corresponds to perceived reality, the brain is the hand inside the glove).

     Now, really back to cavemen. The unlikely cluster of events occurred circa 50,000 years ago. The horde which became our ancestors was migrating north under the pressure of bigger and stronger hominids. 

They had to outsmart them: by the level of cooperation and sophistication of communication. In migration, the children in the band were few and exceptionally precious. Many members took care of them, communication, talking back and forth was more intense, more social, and prolonged. Toddlers who started to talk were still being talked to and nolens volens listened to. Toddlers naturally: 1 ask questions, 2. ask for names of things. 

      Until then the communication had a lot of characteristics of animal communication.  When I read about the evolutionary origins of language, invariably linguists make it extremely complicated and jargon -saturated and missing evolutionary mechanisms. Communication is what the nervous system does, it was created to enable organisms to develop nonrandom behavior. So information from outside the system can benefit the system. This actually defines and creates “outside and inside”. The cells have their internal communication system, then when cells become “social” and create multicellular organisms- it opens new “outside”, and at last, when organisms become social- the concept of outside moves up to another level. The information which does not benefit the system- does not survive, the things it describes – do not exist. So the content of information is always the same: the descriptions of beneficial behaviors. You manage to remember it, you live, you manage to inherit it- your species niche expands. In archaic bacteria, it would be “move towards higher sugar concentration”, In bees- a dance directing other bees to flowers- in chimps- the details of organizing a rebellion against an alpha male. These descriptions might contain communications full of actions, places, objects, and animals but it is not language. They might contain stories, memories, emotions, and logical decisions but it is not language. Or, you may call it proto-language. Because of the crucial difference between that and human communication is really not linguistic. It’s ontological. These animals and early humans have the concept of reality described by Jacob Uexkull as Umwelt.  Their brains are full of beneficial behaviors. Nothing else. And beneficial behavior expands the species’ niche- usually but not always improving organisms’ survival and reproduction. It is impossible to manipulate this type of reality, the more complicated behaviors the more unwieldy it is to use them in different situations. The learning is painfully slow. Hominids hit the evolutionary wall, over the last 5 or 10 millions of years, they all died.

      Then, the miracle happened. The cluster of unlikely circumstances and events occurred. 

       The 15-month-old cave girl said: “daaaa’’ and pointed at the apple. ( She meant “ what is that, sis”?) It’s called “joined attention” . Her older sister answered: “an apple”. The older sister pulled the apple from the description of behavior- about how we find apples, which are good to eat, etc, etc. Then she stuck this apple into a brand new thing – reality. It was very small, beginning, just between the toddler and big sister, but they could manipulate it easier- “two apples, big apples, red apples” the endless uses of the THING. ( Notice that she mixed domains-or dimensions- the trick very often used with inventions, like a steam engine, gravity or double helix ) Paradoxically the reality which was starting to be socially shared opened the door for individuality. Budding modularity made recursive speech possible. In the Umwelt world, it was only me with my niche. 

      But now, or with a generation or two, with the invention of things, it was so easy, soon the whole family used more and more names, not as a part of the description of behaviors, but as building blocks of intergroup reality. Now the same story could be told in so many ways. How many fish do we need? Well, how many are coming for dinner?  You could talk about the quality of things and the quantity of things- the birth of abstraction and mathematics. And, after you talked about things- next big step- you could own them. And lack them.

     It probably took generations to populate the budding joint reality of the group with things. But modularity, later known as grammar, and recursiveness were the keys.

Now, an easy part, the puzzles.

  1. The anthropic dilemma or fine-tuning. It is true that many facts in the history of the cosmos, origins of Earth, and life on Earth are incredibly rare and improbable. The same can be said about evolutionary facts leading to modern humans. But if you examine the events leading to the creation of Saturn rings, or penguins, or squirrels, these are also incredibly rare and improbable. The measuring and exploring and assigning of probability occur within the same system. Chinese medicine does not see any brain- the probing and the result operate within the same system.

       2. What happened before Big Bang? Or how Entropy 0 can change to non-0?

Again, the time concept and Big Bang belong to the same system. The Universe began with Big Bang – they are all human-made concepts and if something was before we would not call it the beginning. Entropy occurs in time, and when there is time, there is non 0 Entropy. The time is defined by change, with change the order has to be imperfect -sooner or later.

       3. Why did we not find any evidence of aliens?

Aliens with gods and unicorns belong to human stories, as does the rest of the Universe. So, they do exist, inside our culture, like forest, fear, and Finland. And there is nothing outside, they are real inside this mind-boggling reality.

       4. Where is the center of the Universe?

The reality and the Universe were built during the evolutionary development of the nervous system. Every living organism has its center of reality inside the organism (well, how about ants or bees, do they share it??). Humans are an exception. They developed, starting about 50,000 years ago, shared reality. Their stories, which by and by become myths and then split into religions and science contained the notions of the center of the Universe, but ultimately these concepts and constructs are related to human intelligence. As long as we stay here on Earth, even if our science or religion points into a special part of heaven, I would assign the center to the person who points there, wouldn’t you?

       5. Why are homo sapiens so much more complex than other animals?

We invented things, language, and the Universe and it makes learning exponentially easier.

        6. What was crucial in the human evolutionary leap?

The invention of things and abstract thinking ca. 50,000 years ago.

        7. What was the evolutionary origin of human language?

Intragroup reality switch- from social and emotional sharing to language sharing to reality sharing to language modularity.

       8. What was an evolutionary origin of materialism?

The events described above, it is what made us modern humans and now it can kill us.

       9. What is the solution to our niche crisis?

Use an understanding of the evolutionary past to expand our niche by building a society based on experiential happiness. If we continue to try to be happy with material things we’ll run out of them and die out ( see details in the previous posts- esp. “niche crisis II”).

   

       

Be the best?

Be the best?

 

Because of the niche crisis, I am thinking and writing a lot about materialism, its origin, and its effect on humanity.

 

I am obsessed with the notion that shifting dimensions is something very important in our thinking. Nolens volens American democrats (and I as one of them) were forced to do just that. 

From climate and health care suddenly COVID pandemic was all-important: and now- race.

The ability to shift dimensions is crucial for wise judgment. It is an element of critical thinking, there is no creativity without shifting dimensions. To do it you use imagination, historical, and global perspective. 

 In racism a doctrine selects a group of people, declares them inferior and then other people can use it for brutal advantage, sometimes for generations and generations. And a systemic injustice can persist because the critical thinking, shifting dimension, and perspective are so rare. 

  It is also difficult, requiring effort and training. 

And here the materialism comes back like an old stew. Living and thinking in the world of things offer incredible advantages. Modern school with an emphasis on technology and science is famously one dimensional. Auto mechanics and computer technology don’t require fluency in classical Greek. Actually, it is difficult to think where would you use this skill- still standard in European high school 100 years ago.

One dimensional thinking gives quick and high profit while fosters consumerism and inequality and racism. And it is a hallmark of free-market capitalism- profit is everything.

Fortunately, it is not in our genes, it started only 50, 000 years ago. Like poor people are not stupid- only taught to be poor for several generations, the same – CEOs and financial sharks are not bad and greedy- only taught for several generations to be the best you can be- measured by one dimension- your account. Neither group is happy- so the reversal is possible but it would take one or two generations. If we start now.

What is an alternative to materialism?

Evolutionary, before the invention of material culture and the language of material things- whichever came first- the world of primitive hominids, like animals, was populated with the more or less sophisticated descriptions of behaviors. Now, with our prodigious brains, we call it experiences. We can not completely eliminate material culture, but we can create a world where experiences are valued high and they, not things define the richness and qualities of our lives.

If you share a pie the more you take, the less is left for others. It is where we are. But if you share a beautiful sunset, the more you share, the richer and more fantastic is the experience. It is where we need to be. The experience, unlike the gadget you owe, depends on your input, your relationship you are in, your mood, your knowledge, and your imagination. It makes it difficult but it makes you really happy, content and peaceful. Makes your life examined and your children smiling. It is when you are the best- the quality of experience determines it.

 

And one more thing. It is sustainable, the switch would give us a glimmer of a chance of survival as a species.

Because our share of the pie is dwindling and it will continue to.

I know, we need a whole new conversation, the measuring system, a new language, institutions, and industries…the parents teaching love and relationships, the schools teaching critical thinking and multidimensional thinking. Teaching art, poetry music, and literature.

And who will do it, where is this broad coalition of courageous and hopeful people?

Same horde of cavemen 2

The same horde of cavemen 2

 

This essay describes the origin of materialism.

This is interesting but to talk about it we need to make two pretty bold assumptions.

  1. In the evolutionary past, our ancestors were not materialistic- otherwise, we couldn’t talk about “the origin”. Even with the notions that “there is a jungle out there” and “survival of the fittest” the animals do not have the concept of ownership or greed. Their world is the world of behaviors not the world of things. The deeper back we look, this becomes more and more obvious. But it is also true for higher animals and true for early humans and for hunter-gatherers. We shared what we’d got, “feast or famine”, there was nothing to keep.

  2. We have to think about what type of event or change, in which domain, can be a candidate for the ‘trigger”. The brain scientists and paleontologists agree that there must have been a huge leap in development. Many agree that the language made the crucial difference. Other candidates are better tools, extra rich food, and the time to rest and chat, and walking on two feet (bipedality). To me, the history of humanity shows that we usually progress by the change in the mind and then the environment changes accordingly.

         Now, I have no evidence that my hypothesis is true, but it agrees with everything I know about linguistics, child development, early human history, and evolution.

         So, the time is about 50,000 years ago.

In Africa, the hominid experiment continues, over the last 2- 3 million years there were several subspecies of homo- some branches died out in  Africa, some migrated all over the world but eventually all of them (neanderthal and Denisovan will go soon) died out.

       A small group of survivors, the smartest and more fiercely cooperating than other groups are facing more challenges, after Mnt. Tuba eruption  (~66,000 years ago) it is dark, people are hungry and cold. But at the same time, their tools are getting better and they communicate better and better. They slowly migrate north pushed out by bigger and stronger and multiplying faster more primitive hominids. Their number is dwindling, will they reach salmon-rich Mediterranean rivers in time?

       Their babies are few, migration takes a toll on mothers and babies. The whole group takes care of them, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, even brothers, and uncles. Prosocial babies get the best care, they smile, bubble, and play. It is so much to learn now, even in the second year of life they require a lot of care, they spend a lot (comparing to the past and to other groups), a lot of time with adults.

       Their language, even being more rich and sophisticated than other groups, still has a lot of characteristics of animal communications. Remember- the animal brain is created for one sole purpose: to communicate- between sensory and muscles first ( lizard brain), then we add the neurotransmitters and old nuclei ( mammals), then here and there the social systems evolve -and the communications “spillover” to the other organisms of the community. But the content of these communications ( thus the content of the brains) is still the same back to the bacteria: helping organisms make nonrandom choices- that’s it. The brains are the “libraries” of THE DESCRIPTIONS OF USEFUL BEHAVIORS. Other fluff will not get inherited, the competition is tough, the brain tissue is a very, very costly luxury.

In the higher, so-called “eusocial” societies these descriptions can be amazing- bee dance, birds’ astral navigation, chimps coalition forming, elephant’s memories, parrots discussing future menus. But their nature is still the same – all brains have the same functional structure- even if the content is hugely different.

       This creates a “perfect storm scenario”. Suddenly, a little 18-month-old cave-girl comes up to her father, points to the apple, and asks: “What’s that, Daddy?” She asked for the NAME!. The apple’s link to the description of the behavior has been severed, carved out. Better than any deity, from nothing she created something- the thing. As a pediatrician I know little kids well, they are smart, they know emotions, family, their likes, and their needs. They play, they vie for adult attention and they name things. And if an adult listened- suddenly the apple exists separately from eating. (Actually “eating” doesn’t exist per se?). There is no looking back!  The advantages of things! Unlike “eating”-you can have 2 or 4 apples, bigger and smaller, more or less ripe- they do exist. Suddenly your mind manipulates the things around you with ease- like new toys or juggling new skills. From now- on.

The materialism or “The Universe of Things” over the next millennia opened the door for technology, economy, power, and violence. I guess our horde of cavemen made it to the Mediterranean…

Post scriptum: Over the time their language acquired also other important elements ( named much, much later):

     – the concept of reality- the things- what you touch, smell and kick- are steady, unchangeable, real,  while the rest – not so.

      – the concept of “I, you”, and people versus the rest of the Universe, (hence the grammar- my nemesis.)- future “self” or ”soul” or “consciousness”.

      – the concept of Unknown- “figuring things out“ will remain the human’s hallmark of his modus operandi, his pride, joy, awe, and fear. This will be future Religion, Philosophy, and Science.

Post post scriptum : How about “story”? The story is all it is. Much older than things, as old as art, as joy and pain. (also in human development- it is “older-” 4-month-old does peek-a-boo!)