Saturday, October 27, 2018

Fac, ergo sum

I make, therefore I am.

A solitary human out on the African Savanna is mostly some other animal’s lunch; we aren’t particularly strong or fast. But we are crafty, and when we get together in groups we become formidable. So it is not surprising that we are social animals, and that we receive significant neurochemical rewards for social behavior.

Dunbar’s Number, 150, has now been found just about everywhere we look for the size of human communities, be they in Meatspace or Cyberspace. I suspect that the minimum number of human individuals required to make a functional, self-sustaining, durable collective is not surprisingly Dunbar’s Number. I would go so far as to suggest that we should redefine One Human as being made up of 150 individuals; any less or more than this is not sustainable. If this hypothesis has any merit we should find significant evidence for it, in the neurological rewards systems in the human brain, and the number of individuals we are hardwired to keep track of. We most certainly find it in data associated with the size of human communities.

Humans are also tool makers. And probably the greatest tool they have made is teaching other humans how to make tools. Civilization could be thought of as nothing more than a evolutionary framework for propagating the knowledge of how to make specific tools through spacetime. Given the massive evolutionary advantage that this ability has given us, one would imagine that we have evolved specific neurological mechanisms that would incentivize us to make tools and to teach others how to do so. It is highly likely that Making (which inherently includes the didactic component), is a natural and powerful antidepressant, which gives Makers a durable sense of purpose, meaning and accomplishment.

Given how beneficial Making is to our species, this also introduces the possibility that the primary purpose  for human clumping, other than staying off the menu, is to maximize the opportunity for making tools and directly passing that knowledge on to others, while minimizing the caloric cost (cognition is SUPER expensive after all) of keeping track of the other constituents of one’s Human.

Given their utility, are tools not the most durable of memes?

Regardless of the validity of the above hypothesis, nobody can argue that Making, and then teaching others how to Make, is one of the most consistent sources of satisfaction and meaning. Certainly I have found being a Maker, along with investing in making other peoples’ lives better, to be the best anti-Nihilism I have come across.

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