invention of agriculture

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pages: 272 words: 76,089

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium by Carl Sagan


Albert Einstein, anti-communist, clean water, cosmic abundance, dark matter, demographic transition, Exxon Valdez, F. W. de Klerk, germ theory of disease, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invention of radio, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Mikhail Gorbachev, pattern recognition, planetary scale, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Reagan, stem cell, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, zero-sum game

Eventually the exponential curve for all of us together is expected to flatten out, having killed many fewer than everybody on Earth. (Small comfort for its many victims and their loved ones.) Exponentials are also the central idea behind the world population crisis. For most of the time humans have beef on Earth the population was stable, with births and deaths almost perfectly in balance. This is called a "steady state." After the invention of agriculture—including the planting and harvesting of those grains of wheat the Grand Vizier was hankering for—the human population of this planet began increasing, entering an exponential phase, which is very far from a steady state. Right now the doubling time of the world population is about 40 years. Every 40 years there will be twice as many of us. As the English clergyman Thomas Malthus pointed out in 1798, a population increasing exponentially—Malthus described it as a geometrical progression—will outstrip any conceivable increase in food supply.

Team sports are not just stylized echoes of ancient wars. They also satisfy an almost-forgotten craving for the hunt. * The crisis was resolved when Mr. Abdul-Rauf agreed to stand during the anthem, but pray instead of sing. Since our passions for sports run so deep and are so broadly distributed, they are likely to be hardwired into us—not in our brains but in our genes. The 10,000 years since the invention of agriculture is not nearly enough time for such predispositions to have evolved away and disappeared. If we want to understand them, we must go much further back. The human species is hundreds of thousands of years old (the human family several millions of years old). We have led a sedentary existence—based on farming and domestication of animals—for only the last 3 percent of that period, during which is all our recorded history.

For example, much methane is sequestered in bogs (which sometimes produces the eerily beautiful dancing lights called "will-o-the-wisps"). It might begin to bubble up at an increasing pace as the Earth warms. The additional methane warms the Earth still further, and so on, another positive feedback. Wallace Broecker of Columbia University points to the very quick warming that happened about 10,000 B.C., just before the invention of agriculture. It's so steep that, he believes, it implies an instability in the coupled ocean-atmosphere system; and that if you push the Earth's climate too hard in one direction or another, you cross a threshold, there's a kind of "bang," and the whole system runs away by itself to another stable state. He proposes that we may be teetering on just such an instability right now. This consideration only makes things worse, maybe much worse.

pages: 329 words: 85,471

The Locavore's Dilemma by Pierre Desrochers, Hiroko Shimizu


air freight, back-to-the-land, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, Community Supported Agriculture, creative destruction, edge city, Edward Glaeser, food miles, Food sovereignty, global supply chain, intermodal, invention of agriculture, inventory management, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, labour mobility, land tenure, megacity, moral hazard, mortgage debt, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, planetary scale, profit motive, refrigerator car, Steven Pinker, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, Upton Sinclair, urban sprawl

For example, many large mammal and bird species disappeared soon after humans reached the shores of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, and countless small islands.2 Perhaps their most profound impact over time, however, was that they profoundly altered the natural fire regime of countless ecosystems through deliberate and regular burning of the landscape, a practice which both opened and reduced forested landscape and created or “refreshed” prairies and meadows, the process resulting in a significant increase of large herbivores and better hunting conditions.3 With the invention of agriculture came the creation of cropland and pastureland out of forests and wetlands; the opening up of forest canopies through the cutting of tree sprouts and limbs for fodder and the grazing of animals; the removal of predators and competing wild herbivorous mammals; and the worldwide transfer and adaptation of domesticated plants and animals.4 In the words of Norwegian botanist Knut Faegri, apart from “some small and doubtful exceptions, all vegetation types were created or modified by man. . . .

Like his fellow riders (conquest, war, and death from pestilence), he was until recently a familiar presence in most human societies. As the geographer Brian Murton observes, famines have plagued humankind for at least 6,000 years and have long been used by scholars and chroniclers to “slice up history into manageable portions.”9 While researchers still disagree on the widespread, recurring, and severe character of prehistorical hunger, there is a general consensus that, with the invention of agriculture, famines typically resulted from a succession of mediocre harvests rather than from an isolated crop failure. Some could be traced back to human factors such as wars, ethnic and religious persecution, price controls, protectionism, excessive taxation, and lack of respect for private property rights. Others were due to natural origins, such as unseasonable temperatures, excessive or insufficient rainfall, floods, insect pests, rodents, pathogens, soil degradation, and epidemics that made farmers or their beasts of burden unfit for work.10 In many cases, a number of these factors were involved.

pages: 422 words: 113,525

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand


agricultural Revolution, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, back-to-the-land, biofilm, borderless world, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cass Sunstein, clean water, Community Supported Agriculture, conceptual framework, Danny Hillis, dark matter, decarbonisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Elon Musk, Exxon Valdez, failed state, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, glass ceiling, Google Earth, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, informal economy, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, Jane Jacobs, jimmy wales, Kevin Kelly, Kibera, land tenure, M-Pesa, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, microbiome, New Urbanism, out of africa, Paul Graham, peak oil, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, smart grid, stem cell, Stewart Brand, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Thomas Malthus, University of East Anglia, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, wealth creators, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, William Langewiesche, working-age population, Y2K

Most cities were walled. Humans perpetually fight, LeBlanc says, because they always outstrip the carrying capacity of their natural environment and then have to fight over resources. Native peoples developed arcane knowledge of how to find and prepare difficult foods because they’d eliminated all the easy food sources. Peace can break out, though, when carrying capacity is pushed up suddenly, as with the invention of agriculture, or newly effective bureaucracy, or remote trade, or technological breakthroughs. Also a large-scale dieback from pestilence can make for peaceful times—Europe after its major plagues, the Americas after European diseases nearly obliterated the native populations. Such interludes are short: Population quickly rises to once more push against carrying capacity, and normal warfare resumes.

The more and greater the contrasts, and the more they are marbled together, the better. The most productive city is one with many cultures, many languages, many neighborhoods, and more kinds of urban experience available than any citizen can keep track of. In this formulation, it is the throwing together of great wealth and great poverty in the urban stew that is part of the cure for poverty. The common theory of the origin of cities states that they resulted from the invention of agriculture: Surplus food freed people to become specialists. You can’t have full-time cobblers, blacksmiths, and bureaucrats, the theory goes, without farms to feed them. Jane Jacobs upended that supposition in The Economy of Cities (1969). “Rural economies, including agricultural work,” she wrote, “are directly built upon city economies and city work.” It was so in the beginning, she argued, and continues to this day.

pages: 313 words: 95,077

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky


Andrew Keen, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, Brewster Kahle,, crowdsourcing,, hiring and firing, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, Internet Archive, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, Kuiper Belt, liberation theology, lump of labour, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, Merlin Mann, Metcalfe’s law, Nash equilibrium, Network effects, Nicholas Carr, Picturephone, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, prediction markets, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, Richard Stallman, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, slashdot, social software, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, transaction costs, ultimatum game, Vilfredo Pareto, Yogi Berra

Sociability is one of our core capabilities, and it shows up in almost every aspect of our lives as both cause and effect. Society is not just the product of its individual members; it is also the product of its constituent groups. The aggregate relations among individuals and groups, among individuals within groups, and among groups forms a network of astonishing complexity. We have always relied on group effort for survival; even before the invention of agriculture, hunting and gathering required coordinated work and division of labor. You can see an echo of our talent for sociability in the language we have for groups; like a real-world version of the mythical seventeen Eskimo words for snow, we use incredibly rich language in describing human association. We can make refined distinctions between a corporation and a congregation, a clique and a club, a crowd and a cabal.

These groups aren’t the classic American interest groups of yore; many of the most popular groups tell us surprising things about what our society is like right now. Stay at Home Moms and the Politics of Exclusion One of the most popular current groups on Meetup is Stay at Home Moms (SAHM). Mothers with young children have been gathering in groups since before the invention of the internet, in fact before the invention of agriculture. This is an old pattern, so why would SAHM Meetups be so popular? The answer, in one sentence, is that modern life has raised transaction costs so high that even ancient habits of congregation have been defeated. As a result, things that used to happen as a side effect of regular life now require some overt coordination. Some of the hurdles to be overcome are physical. As of the 2000 census, a majority of the U.S. population lived in the suburbs, and in the suburbanized United States, physical distance raises several barriers.

pages: 467 words: 503

The omnivore's dilemma: a natural history of four meals by Michael Pollan


additive manufacturing, back-to-the-land, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Community Supported Agriculture, double entry bookkeeping, Gary Taubes, Haber-Bosch Process, index card, informal economy, invention of agriculture, means of production, new economy, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, transaction costs, Upton Sinclair, Whole Earth Catalog

Corn is the hero of its own story, and though we humans played a crucial supporting role in its rise to world domination, it would be wrong to suggest we have been calling the shots, or acting always in our own best interests. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that corn has succeeded in domesticating us. To some extent this holds true for all of the plants and animals that take part in the grand coevolutionary bargain with humans we call agriculture. Though we insist on speaking of the "invention" of agriculture as if it were our idea, like double-entry bookkeeping or the lightbulb, in fact it makes just as much sense to regard agriculture as a brilliant (if unconscious) evolutionary strategy on the part of the plants and animals involved to get us to advance their interests. By evolving certain traits we happen to regard as desirable, these species got themselves noticed by the one mammal in a position not only to spread their 2 4 * THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA genes around the world, but to remake vast swathes of that world in the image of the plants' preferred habitat.

In America before the 1850s a farmer owned his sacks of corn up to the moment when a buyer took delivery, and so bore the risk for anything that went wrong between farm and table or trough. For better or worse that burlap sack linked a corn buyer anywhere in America with a particular farmer cultivating a particular patch of the earth. With the coming of the railroads and the invention of the grain elevator (essentially a great vertical warehouse filled by conveyor belt and *I'm drawing on the excellent account of the invention of agricultural commodities in William Cronon's Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (1991). 60 * THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA emptied by spigot) the sacks suddenly became a problem. Now it made sense to fill railroad cars and elevators by conveyor, to treat corn less as a certain number of discrete packages someone had to haul and more like an unbounded liquid that could be pumped, in effect, by machine.

So they developed a deep root system and a ground-hugging crown that in many cases puts out runners, allowing the grasses to recover quickly from fire and to reproduce even when grazers (or lawnmowers) prevent them from ever flowering and going to seed. (I used to think we were dominating the grass whenever we mowed the lawn, but in fact we're playing right into its strategy for world domination, by helping it outcompete the shrubs and trees.) The second phase of the marriage of grasses and humans is usually called the "invention of agriculture," a self-congratulatory phrase that overlooks the role of the grasses themselves in revising the terms of the relationship. Beginning about ten thousand years ago a handful of particularly opportunistic grass species—the ancestors of wheat, rice, and corn—evolved to produce tremendous, nutritionally dense seeds that could nourish humans directly, thereby cutting out the intermediary animals.The grasses accomplished this feat by becoming annuals, throwing all their energy into making seeds rather than storing some of it underground in roots and rhizomes to get through the winter.

pages: 936 words: 252,313

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease by Gary Taubes


Albert Einstein, California gold rush, cognitive dissonance, collaborative editing, Drosophila, Everything should be made as simple as possible, experimental subject, Gary Taubes, invention of agriculture, John Snow's cholera map, meta analysis, meta-analysis, phenotype, placebo effect, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Robert Gordon, selection bias, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, unbiased observer, Upton Sinclair

It requires that we make assumptions about what is safe and what might cause harm, and what constitutes “biological normality” and “unnatural factors.” The evidence for those assumptions will always depend as much on the observers’ preconceptions and belief system as on any objective reality. By defining “biological normality” as “the conditions to which presumably we are genetically adapted,” Rose was saying that the healthiest diet is (presumably) the diet we evolved to eat. That is the diet we consumed prior to the invention of agriculture, during the two million years of the Paleolithic era—99 percent of evolutionary history—when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. “There has been no time for significant further genetic adaptation,” as the nutritionists Nevin Scrimshaw of MIT and William Dietz of the Centers for Disease Control noted in 1995. Any changes to this Paleolithic diet can be considered “unnatural factors,” and so cannot be prescribed as a public-health recommendation.

But it depended now on an assumption about human evolution that was contradicted by the anthropologic evidence itself—that human history was dominated by what Jared Diamond had called the “conditions of unpredictably alternating feast and famine that characterized the traditional human lifestyle.” Reasonable as this may seem, we have no evidence that food was ever any harder to come by for humans than for any other organisms on the planet, at least not until our ancestors began radically reshaping their environment ten thousand years ago, with the invention of agriculture. Both the anthropological remains and the eyewitness testimony of early European explorers suggest that much of the planet, prior to the last century or two, was a “paradise for hunting,” in the words of the Emory University anthropologist Melvin Konner and his collaborators, with a diversity of game, both large and small, “present in almost unimaginable numbers.”*72 Though famines have certainly been documented among hunter-gatherer populations more recently, there’s little reason to believe that this happened prior to the industrial revolution.

This makes the science even more complicated than it already is, but these are serious considerations that should be taken into account when discussing a healthy diet. There is no such ambiguity, however, on the subject of carbohydrates. The most dramatic alterations in human diets in the past two million years, unequivocally, are (1) the transition from carbohydrate-poor to carbohydrate-rich diets that came with the invention of agriculture—the addition of grains and easily digestible starches to the diets of hunter-gatherers; (2) the increasing refinement of those carbohydrates over the past few hundred years; and (3) the dramatic increases in fructose consumption that came as the per-capita consumption of sugars—sucrose and now high-fructose corn syrup—increased from less than ten or twenty pounds a year in the mid-eighteenth century to the nearly 150 pounds it is today.

pages: 740 words: 217,139

The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Andrei Shleifer, Asian financial crisis, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, blood diamonds, California gold rush, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, currency manipulation / currency intervention, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, double entry bookkeeping, endogenous growth, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, hiring and firing, invention of agriculture, invention of the printing press, Khyber Pass, labour market flexibility, land reform, land tenure, means of production, offshore financial centre, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, principal–agent problem, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Right to Buy, Scramble for Africa, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), spice trade, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transaction costs, Washington Consensus, zero-sum game

The domestication of wild grasses and seeds took place gradually and was accompanied by large increases in population. While it might seem logical that new food technologies drove higher population densities, Ester Boserup has argued that the causality went the other way around.24 Either way, the social impact was enormous. Depending on climatic conditions, hunter-gatherer societies have a population density from 0.1 to 1 person per square kilometer, while the invention of agriculture permits densities to rise to 40–60 per square kilometer.25 Human beings were now in contact with one another on a much broader scale, and this required a very different form of social organization. The terms “tribes,” “clans,” “kindreds,” and “lineages” are all used to describe the next stage of social organization above the band. These terms are often used with considerable imprecision, even by anthropologists whose bread and butter it is to study them.

The Hundred and the Thingman disappeared as juridical institutions, but survived, as we will see, as instruments of local government that would eventually emerge as units of modern democratic representation. WARFARE AND MILITARY ORGANIZATION I have thus far theorized little about why human beings made the transition from band-level to tribal societies, except to say that it was historically associated with the increased productivity made possible by the invention of agriculture. Agriculture made possible higher population densities, which in turn created a need for organizing societies on a larger scale. Agriculture also created the need for private property, which then became heavily intertwined with complex kinship structures, as we have seen. But there is another reason that human beings transitioned to tribal societies: the problem of warfare. The development of settled agricultural societies meant that human groups were now living in much closer proximity.

But economic life in Han Dynasty China resembled the world described by Thomas Malthus in his Essay on the Principle of Population much more than the world that has existed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution of the last two hundred years.6 Today, we expect increases in labor productivity (output per person) as the result of technological innovation and change. But before 1800, productivity gains were much more episodic. The invention of agriculture, the use of irrigation, the invention of the printing press, gunpowder, and long-distance sailing ships all led to productivity gains,7 but between them there were prolonged periods when population growth increased and per capita income fell. Many agrarian societies were operating at the frontier of their technological production possibilities, where further investment would not yield higher output.

pages: 462 words: 150,129

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley


23andMe, agricultural Revolution, air freight, back-to-the-land, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, call centre, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, charter city, clean water, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, Corn Laws, creative destruction, credit crunch, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, demographic dividend, demographic transition, double entry bookkeeping, Edward Glaeser,, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, falling living standards, feminist movement, financial innovation, Flynn Effect, food miles, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Hans Rosling, happiness index / gross national happiness, haute cuisine, Hernando de Soto, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invisible hand, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John Nash: game theory, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, Kula ring, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Northern Rock, nuclear winter, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, packet switching, patent troll, Pax Mongolica, Peter Thiel, phenotype, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, Productivity paradox, profit motive, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Silicon Valley, spice trade, spinning jenny, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, technological singularity, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, ultimatum game, upwardly mobile, urban sprawl, Vernor Vinge, Vilfredo Pareto, wage slave, working poor, working-age population, Y2K, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

But they were exchanging harder in this region than anywhere else, and it is a reasonable guess that one of the pressures to invent agriculture was to feed and profit from wealthy traders – to generate a surplus that could be exchanged for obsidian, shells or other more perishable goods. Trade came first. In the 1960s, Jane Jacobs suggested in her book The Economy of Cities that agriculture was invented to feed the first cities, rather than cities being made possible by the invention of agriculture. This goes too far, and archaeologists have discredited the idea of urban centres preceding the first farms. The largest permanent settlements of hunter-gatherers cannot be described as urban even among the fishermen of the Pacific coast of North America. None the less, there was a germ of truth in her idea: the first farmers were already enthusiastic traders breaking free of subsistence through exchange, and farming was just another expression of trade.

But once agriculture has provided the capital, increased the density of people, and given them a good reason for chop ping down trees, then there might be a market large enough to support a community of full-time copper smelters, so long as they can sell the copper to neighbouring tribes. Or, in the words of two theorists: ‘The denser societies made possible by agriculture can realize considerable returns to better exploitation of the potential of co-operation, co-ordination and the division of labour.’ Hence, the invention of metal smelting was an almost inevitable consequence of the invention of agriculture (though some very early mining of pure copper-metal deposits around Lake Superior was apparently done by hunter-gatherers, perhaps supplying the almost agricultural salmon ranchers of the Pacific coast). Copper was produced throughout the Alps, where some of the best ores are to be found, but it was exported to the rest of Europe for several thousand years after Oetzi’s death, only later being displaced by copper mined in Cyprus.

pages: 474 words: 136,787

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley


affirmative action, Alfred Russel Wallace, assortative mating, Atahualpa, Bonfire of the Vanities, demographic transition, double helix, Drosophila, feminist movement, invention of agriculture, Menlo Park, phenotype, rent control, theory of mind, University of East Anglia, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

A lucky hunter kills more than he can eat, so he loses little by sharing it with his companions; he gains a lot, for next time, when he is unlucky, the favour will be repaid by those with whom he shared the meat. Trading favours in this way was the ancient ancestor of the monetary economy. But because meat could not be stored and because luck did not last, accumulation of wealth was not possible in hunter-gatherer societies.30 With the invention of agriculture, the opportunity for some males to be polygamous arrived with a vengeance. Farming opened the way for one man to grow much more powerful than his peers by accumulating a surplus of food, whether grain or domestic animals, with which to buy the labour of other men. The labour of other men allowed him to increase his surplus still further. For the first time, having wealth was the best way to get wealth.

The best they could hope for in the Pleistocene was one or two faithful wives and a few affairs if their hunting or political skills were especially great. The best they can hope for now is a good-looking younger mistress and a devoted wife who is traded in every decade or so. We’re back to square one. This chapter has kept its focus resolutely on the male. In doing so it may seem to have trampled on the rights of women by ignoring them and their wishes. But then so did men for many generations after the invention of agriculture. Before agriculture and since democracy, such chauvinism was impossible; the mating system of mankind, like that of other animals was a compromise between the strategies of males and females. And it is a curious truth that the monogamous marriage bond survived right through despotic Babylon, lascivious Greece, promiscuous Rome and adulterous Christendom to emerge as the core of the family in the industrial age.

pages: 503 words: 131,064

Liars and Outliers: How Security Holds Society Together by Bruce Schneier


airport security, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Brian Krebs, Broken windows theory, carried interest, Cass Sunstein, Chelsea Manning, commoditize, corporate governance, crack epidemic, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Graeber, desegregation, don't be evil, Double Irish / Dutch Sandwich, Douglas Hofstadter, experimental economics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial deregulation, George Akerlof, hydraulic fracturing, impulse control, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invention of gunpowder, iterative process, Jean Tirole, John Nash: game theory, joint-stock company, Julian Assange, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Nate Silver, Network effects, Nick Leeson, offshore financial centre, patent troll, phenotype, pre–internet, principal–agent problem, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, profit motive, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, RFID, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Ronald Coase, security theater, shareholder value, slashdot, statistical model, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, technological singularity, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, too big to fail, traffic fines, transaction costs, ultimatum game, UNCLOS, union organizing, Vernor Vinge, WikiLeaks, World Values Survey, Y2K, zero-sum game

Stage three is much more recent; around 500,000 or 400,000 years ago, humans became dependent on group hunting, and started exhibiting long-term care for the injured and the infirm. Stage four occurred in modern humans starting 120,000 years ago, when compassion extended to strangers, animals, and sometimes even objects: religious objects, antiques, family heirlooms, etc. It probably didn't extend much past groups bigger than the Dunbar number of 150 until the invention of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago—I guess that's a fifth stage. Still, that doesn't tell us how or why it eventually did. There are two basic types of non-kin cooperation. The first is mutualism.10 In some species, unrelated individuals cooperate because together they can perform tasks they couldn't do by themselves. A pack might hunt together because it can kill larger prey than the members could individually.

war of all against all Thomas Hobbes (1651), Leviathan, Printed for Andrew Crooke, at the Green Dragon in St. Paul's Churchyard. compassion extended Penny Spikins, Holly Rutherford, and Andy Needham (2010), “From Homininity to Humanity: Compassion from the Earliest Archaic to Modern Humans,” Time and Mind, 3:303–25. Priyali Rajagopal and Nicole Votolato Montgomery (2011), “I Imagine, I Experience, I Like: The False Experience Effect,” The Journal of Consumer Research, 38:578–94. invention of agriculture Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson (2004), Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, University of Chicago Press. Unrelated elephants Joshua M. Plotnik, Richard Lair, Wirot Suphachoksahakun, and Frans de Waal (2011), “Elephants Know When They Need a Helping Trunk in a Cooperative Task,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, published online before print.

pages: 421 words: 125,417

Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet by Jeffrey Sachs


agricultural Revolution, air freight, back-to-the-land, British Empire, business process, carbon footprint, clean water, colonial rule, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, demographic transition, Diane Coyle, Edward Glaeser, energy security, failed state, Gini coefficient, Haber-Bosch Process, income inequality, income per capita, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), intermodal, invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, labour mobility, low skilled workers, mass immigration, microcredit, oil shale / tar sands, old age dependency ratio, peak oil, profit maximization, profit motive, purchasing power parity, road to serfdom, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, Skype, statistical model, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transaction costs, unemployed young men, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, working-age population

In spite of all we have accomplished through science and technology—indeed because of it—we will soon run out of margin. Now is the time to grasp exactly what is happening. The evidence is compelling: we need to redesign our social and economic policies before we wreck this planet. At stake is humankind’s one shot at a permanently bright future. Modern humanity was born, so to speak, about ten thousand years ago with the invention of agriculture and the villages and political hierarchies that soon followed. Up to that point our species had perfected hunter technology enough to wipe out a large part of Earth’s largest mammals and birds—the megafauna—but it left most of the vegetated land surface and all of the oceans intact. The economic history that followed can be summarized very succinctly as follows: people used every means they could devise to convert the resources of Earth into wealth.

Even in this early phase of human existence (indeed, even before modern humans emerged), our ancestors began to alter the landscape to tilt the advantage toward human needs at the expense of other species. There is evidence that humans, and even protohumans, used fire to alter their landscapes in order to convert forests to grasslands and to facilitate hunting. These earliest steps of our species foretold the pattern that brings us to the ecological challenge of the twenty-first century. The decisive breakthrough in human populations came not with fire, but with the invention of agriculture, around ten thousand years ago. The shift to agriculture represented a qualitative change in the natural order, one whose consequences are still being played out. In an agricultural system, the land is cleared of natural communities of plants and animals so that the solar energy can be appropriated by human beings in a more direct manner. Photosynthesis is directed toward foodstuffs directly consumed by humans, or foodstuffs consumed by domesticated animals that are directly consumed by humans.

pages: 374 words: 114,660

The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality by Angus Deaton


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Branko Milanovic, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, clean water, colonial exploitation, Columbian Exchange, creative destruction, declining real wages, Downton Abbey, end world poverty, financial innovation, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, illegal immigration, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invisible hand, John Snow's cholera map, knowledge economy, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, new economy, purchasing power parity, randomized controlled trial, rent-seeking, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, Simon Kuznets, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, structural adjustment programs, The Spirit Level, too big to fail, trade route, very high income, War on Poverty

Inequality, instead, is one of the “gifts” of civilization. Again, quoting Cohen, “The very process that creates the potential of civilization simultaneously guarantees that the potential is unlikely to be aimed equally at the welfare of all of its citizens.”7 Progress in prehistory—like progress in recent times—is rarely equally distributed; a better world—if indeed a world with agriculture was a better world—is a more unequal world. The invention of agriculture—the Neolithic revolution—began “only” about ten thousand years ago, a brief period indeed compared with the hunter-gatherer era that preceded it. We are accustomed to thinking of “revolutions” as transformative positive events—the Industrial Revolution and the germ-theory revolution are the two obvious examples. Yet it is unclear that agriculture was an advance to a higher plateau of wealth and health, as opposed to a retreat from an older way of living that had become unsustainable as animal stocks and suitable plants ran out under pressure of rising numbers and rising temperatures at the beginning of the Holocene.

Philosophers have debated these issues for many years; one position, argued by the philosopher and economist John Broome, is that once people are above some basic subsistence point that makes life worth living, then having more such people makes the world a better place.11 The world is supporting more total wellbeing. If so, and provided that life was worth living for most people—admittedly a large proviso—the long Malthusian era from the invention of agriculture up to the eighteenth century should be regarded as a period of progress, even if living standards and mortality rates showed no improvement. Life and Death in the Enlightenment Fast-forward a few thousand years to a period for which we begin to have good data on mortality. The British historical demographer Anthony Wrigley and his colleagues have reconstructed the history of English life expectancy from the parish registers that recorded the births, marriages, and deaths (hatches, matches, and dispatches) of the population.12 These parish records are not as good as a vital registration system—the study covered only a sample of parishes, there are issues with people moving from one parish to another, newborns who died very soon after birth may not have shown up at all, and parents sometimes reused the names of such children—but they provide by far the best record that we have for any country before about 1750.

pages: 1,205 words: 308,891

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, BRICs, British Empire, butterfly effect, Carmen Reinhart, clockwork universe, computer age, Corn Laws, creative destruction, dark matter, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Donald Trump, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, endogenous growth, European colonialism, experimental economics, financial innovation, Fractional reserve banking, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, greed is good, Howard Zinn, income per capita, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, long peace, means of production, Naomi Klein, New Economic Geography, New Urbanism, Paul Samuelson, purchasing power parity, rent-seeking, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, sceptred isle, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, total factor productivity, transaction costs, tulip mania, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, urban renewal, V2 rocket, very high income, working poor, World Values Survey, Yogi Berra

The invention of full language around 50,000 B.C.E. shows up archaeologically for example in a big and sudden increase in the distance traveled by stone for tools, such as flint or obsidian, scores of miles in trade instead of the former few. So it went, for millennia. “Back at least as far as the third millennium B.C.E.,” writes the economic historian George Grantham, “farmers on some islands in the Aegean Sea were producing olive oil and wine in amounts greatly exceeding domestic consumption requirements.” 17 Walled towns arose 17 with the invention of agriculture, since 8000 B.C.E. in Jericho for example. For millennia afterwards the towns proliferated, with their markets and bourgeoisies and enterprises. From the beginning the townsfolk appear to have had pretty much the same psychological makeup as the modern bourgeoisie—they wanted profits, they believed that arranging for monopolies by corrupting the government was the best way to attain them, but they were willing to innovate if forced by competition and enabled by cooperation.

Allow me to show you the blackboard proofs that protectionism is bad and that investment is good. Beautiful stuff. 19 By contrast, ideas and rhetoric stand at present outside her science. The economist does not admit that humans are speaking animals, and that the humans put more of meaning into their talk than “I bid $2.71828.” 20 Yet in explaining the most important economic event since the invention of agriculture, or perhaps since the invention of language, the facts seem to demand, alas, a rejection of the materialist and anti-rhetorical ideology I long believed. A materialist economic science appears therefore to need a good deal of amending. I’m not an idealist by predilection, believe me. I’m a disappointed materialist. You should become one, too. A third volume, soon to appear (a draft is available at, The Bourgeois Revaluation: How Innovation Became Virtuous, 1600-1776, asks in detail how attitudes towards bourgeois life changed.

pages: 225 words: 54,010

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright


Albert Einstein, Atahualpa, Bretton Woods, British Empire, clean water, Columbian Exchange, cuban missile crisis, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Haber-Bosch Process, Hernando de Soto, invention of agriculture, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, nuclear winter, out of africa, Parkinson's law, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Malthus, urban sprawl

These usually act together.1 The Sumerians’ irrigation was certainly a runaway train, a disastrous course from which they could not deviate; the rulers’ failure to tackle the problem qualifies them as dinosaurs, and the civilization’s swift and irreparable fall shows it to have been a house of cards. Much the same can be said of the other failures. We are faced by something deeper than mistakes at any particular time or place. The invention of agriculture is itself a runaway train, leading to vastly expanded populations but seldom solving the food problem because of two inevitable (or nearly inevitable) consequences. The first is biological: the population grows until it hits the bounds of the food supply. The second is social: all civilizations become hierarchical; the upward concentration of wealth ensures that there can never be enough to go around.

pages: 144 words: 43,356

Surviving AI: The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence by Calum Chace


3D printing, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Airbnb, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, barriers to entry, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, brain emulation, Buckminster Fuller, cloud computing, computer age, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, credit crunch, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, dematerialisation, discovery of the americas, disintermediation, don't be evil, Elon Musk,, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Flash crash, friendly AI, Google Glasses, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, life extension, low skilled workers, Mahatma Gandhi, means of production, mutually assured destruction, Nicholas Carr, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer model, Peter Thiel, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Skype, South Sea Bubble, speech recognition, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, strong AI, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Vernor Vinge, wage slave, Wall-E, zero-sum game

It will mark the end of our long reign as the only species on this planet capable of abstract thought, sophisticated communication, and scientific endeavour. In a very important sense, it will mean that we are no longer alone in this huge, dark universe. As British journalist Andrew Marr said in the conclusion of his epic 2013 TV documentary series, History of the World, “it would be the greatest achievement of humanity since the invention of agriculture.” But it is the arrival of superintelligence – not AGI – which would be, in Stephen Hawking’s famous words, “the best or worst thing ever to happen to humanity.” An AGI with human levels of cognitive ability (if perhaps rather better at mental arithmetic) would be a technological marvel, and a harbinger of things to come. It is superintelligence which would be the game-changer. We saw in chapter 4 that the ratio between neocortex and other brain areas in humans is twice that of chimpanzees, and that this may be what gives us our undoubted intellectual advantage over them.

pages: 273 words: 83,186

The botany of desire: a plant's-eye view of the world by Michael Pollan


back-to-the-land, clean water, David Attenborough, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Francisco Pizarro, invention of agriculture, Joseph Schumpeter, mandatory minimum, Maui Hawaii, means of production, paper trading, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Steven Pinker

Plants began evolving burrs that attach to animal fur like Velcro, flowers that seduce honeybees in order to powder their thighs with pollen, and acorns that squirrels obligingly taxi from one forest to another, bury, and then, just often enough, forget to eat. Even evolution evolves. About ten thousand years ago the world witnessed a second flowering of plant diversity that we would come to call, somewhat self-centeredly, “the invention of agriculture.” A group of angiosperms refined their basic put-the-animals-to-work strategy to take advantage of one particular animal that had evolved not only to move freely around the earth, but to think and trade complicated thoughts. These plants hit on a remarkably clever strategy: getting us to move and think for them. Now came edible grasses (such as wheat and corn) that incited humans to cut down vast forests to make more room for them; flowers whose beauty would transfix whole cultures; plants so compelling and useful and tasty they would inspire human beings to seed, transport, extol, and even write books about them.

pages: 237 words: 64,411

Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Jerry Kaplan


Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Amazon Web Services, asset allocation, autonomous vehicles, bank run, bitcoin, Bob Noyce, Brian Krebs, buy low sell high, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, combinatorial explosion, computer vision, corporate governance, crowdsourcing,, Erik Brynjolfsson, estate planning, Flash crash, Gini coefficient, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, haute couture, hiring and firing, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, information asymmetry, invention of agriculture, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Loebner Prize, Mark Zuckerberg, mortgage debt, natural language processing, Own Your Own Home, pattern recognition, Satoshi Nakamoto, school choice, Schrödinger's Cat, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, software as a service, The Chicago School, The Future of Employment, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, working poor, Works Progress Administration

But learning the new skills doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes the redundant workers simply aren’t capable of adapting—that will have to wait for a new generation of workers. For an example of labor market transformation that we have weathered successfully, consider agriculture. As recently as the early 1800s, farms employed a remarkable 80 percent of U.S. workers.1Consider what this means. Producing food was by far the dominant thing people did for a living, and no doubt this pattern had been typical since the invention of agriculture about five thousand years ago. But by 1900, that figure had dropped in half, to 40 percent, and today it’s only 1.5 percent, including unpaid family and undocumented workers.2 Basically, we managed to automate nearly everyone out of a job, but instead of causing widespread unemployment, we freed people up for a host of other productive and wealth-producing activities. So over the last two centuries the U.S. economy was able to absorb on average about 1/2 percent loss of agricultural job opportunities each year without any obvious dislocations.

pages: 282 words: 80,907

Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design by Alvin E. Roth


Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, algorithmic trading, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Build a better mousetrap, centralized clearinghouse, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable, commoditize, computer age, computerized markets, crowdsourcing, deferred acceptance, desegregation, experimental economics, first-price auction, Flash crash, High speed trading, income inequality, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, invisible hand, Jean Tirole, law of one price, Lyft, market clearing, market design, medical residency, obamacare, proxy bid, road to serfdom, school choice, sealed-bid auction, second-price auction, second-price sealed-bid, Silicon Valley, spectrum auction, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, two-sided market

The computer can then run through offer-rejection-offer chains fast enough that there’s time for every offer that someone wants to make to be made. The key to such a clearinghouse is making it safe for people to state their preferences honestly. So before I start to describe the clearinghouses we’ve built, let’s talk more about safety. 7 Too Risky: Trust, Safety, and Simplicity MAKING MARKETS SAFE is one of the oldest problems of market design, going back to well before the invention of agriculture, when hunters traded the ax heads and arrowheads that archaeologists today find thousands of miles from where they were made. More recently, one of the responsibilities of kings in medieval Europe was to provide safe passage to and from markets and fairs. For healthy commerce, buyers and sellers needed to be able to participate in these markets safely, without being waylaid and robbed (or worse) by highwaymen.

pages: 231 words: 72,656

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage


Berlin Wall, British Empire, Colonization of Mars, Copley Medal, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Eratosthenes, European colonialism, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, laissez-faire capitalism, Lao Tzu, multiplanetary species, out of africa, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transatlantic slave trade

The drink that already lubricated China's immense empire could then conquer vast new territories: Having won over the British, tea spread throughout the world and became the most widely consumed beverage on Earth after water. The story of tea is the story of imperialism, industrialization, and world domination, one cup at a time. The Rise of Tea Culture According to Chinese tradition, the first cup of tea was brewed by the emperor Shen Nung, whose reign is traditionally dated to 2737-2697 BCE. He was the second of China's legendary emperors and was credited with the inventions of agriculture and the plow, along with the discovery of medicinal herbs. (Similarly, his predecessor, the first emperor, is said to have discovered fire, cooking, and music.) Legend has it that Shen Nung was boiling some water to drink, using some branches from a wild tea bush to fuel his fire, when a gust of wind carried some of the plant's leaves into his pot. He found the resulting infusion a delicate and refreshing drink.

pages: 377 words: 97,144

Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World by James D. Miller


23andMe, affirmative action, Albert Einstein, artificial general intelligence, Asperger Syndrome, barriers to entry, brain emulation, cloud computing, cognitive bias, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Deng Xiaoping,, feminist movement, Flynn Effect, friendly AI, hive mind, impulse control, indoor plumbing, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, knowledge worker, Long Term Capital Management, low skilled workers, Netflix Prize, neurotypical, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, phenotype, placebo effect, prisoner's dilemma, profit maximization, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Silicon Valley, Singularitarianism, Skype, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, supervolcano, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture

FURTHER IMPLICATIONS OF A SINGULARITY From the time of Alexander the Great up to that of George Washington, the lot of the average person didn’t much change because there was little economic growth. On average, a man lived no better than his great-grandfathers did. But shortly after Washington’s death, an industrial revolution swept England that married science to business. The Industrial Revolution was the most important turning point in history since the invention of agriculture because it created sustained economic growth arising from innovation—the creation of new and improved goods and services. Innovation, and therefore economic growth, comes from human brains. Think of our economy as a car. Before the Industrial Revolution, the car was as likely to move backward as forward. The Industrial Revolution gave us an engine powered by human brains. Technologies that increase human intelligence could supercharge this engine.

pages: 323 words: 95,939

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff


algorithmic trading, Andrew Keen, bank run, Benoit Mandelbrot, big-box store, Black Swan, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, cashless society, citizen journalism, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, disintermediation, Donald Trump, double helix, East Village, Elliott wave, European colonialism, Extropian, facts on the ground, Flash crash, game design, global supply chain, global village, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, Inbox Zero, invention of agriculture, invention of hypertext, invisible hand, iterative process, John Nash: game theory, Kevin Kelly, laissez-faire capitalism, Law of Accelerating Returns, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Merlin Mann, Milgram experiment, mutually assured destruction, negative equity, Network effects, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, passive investing, pattern recognition, peak oil, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, Ralph Nelson Elliott, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, Skype, social graph, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, Y2K, zero-sum game

These processes may be little more than artifacts of more primitive human societies, but they may also be essential coordinators of activity and behavior that we should think twice about overriding. Rather than being paced by our technologies, we can just as easily program our technologies to follow our own paces—or those of our enterprise’s remaining natural cycles. Or better than simply following along, technologies can sync to us and generate greater coherence for all of us in the process. After all, people have been achieving the benefit of sync since the invention of agriculture. Farmers learned that certain crops grow better in particular climates and seasons, so they plant the right seeds at the right times. Not only is the crop better and more bountiful when planting is organized in this fashion, but the fruits, vegetables, and grains available end up better matched to the human physiology’s needs during that season. Potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, and other root vegetables are in high supply during the winter months, providing sustained energy and generating warmth.

pages: 379 words: 108,129

An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson


23andMe, Albert Einstein, Andy Kessler, augmented reality, bank run, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, clean water, computer age, decarbonisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, flex fuel, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hans Rosling, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, Louis Pasteur, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, off grid, packet switching, peak oil, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart cities, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, the scientific method, Wall-E, X Prize

As the population rises we have two choices: find a way to increase carrying capacity; or fight (justifying the latter with some form of ideology). But what has this to do with nanotechnology? The same Stewart Brand who suggested the impacts of nanotechnology would be ‘revolutionary-times-revolutionary’ provides a link in his book Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto: Peace can break out, though, when carrying capacity is pushed up suddenly, as with the invention of agriculture, or newly effective bureaucracy, or remote trade or technological breakthroughs. Nanotechnology can potentially (and dramatically) increase carrying capacity and, crucially, the distribution of resources – because everyone has the raw materials needed to make whatever they need, including food. And, as Eric maintains, at the same speed at which nanotechnology offers us more inventive weapons, it’s offering a reason not to use them:‘Scenarios where the motivation is to win resources are incoherent.’

Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander


Alistair Cooke, commoditize, conceptual framework, dematerialisation, full employment, invention of agriculture, Menlo Park, music of the spheres, placebo effect, profit motive, Ralph Nader, Ronald Reagan, sexual politics, Stewart Brand, the medium is the message, trickle-down economics

The child seeking to know how nature works finds only spray planes, automated threshers, and miles of rows of a single crop. Rooms insi{/e Rooms There are differences of opinion about what the critical mo- ments were that led human beings away fronl the primary forms of experience-between person and planet-into secondary, 66 THE WALLING OF AWARENESS mediated environments. Some go back as far as the control of fire, the domestication of animals, the invention of agriculture or the imposition of monotheism and patriarchy. In my opinion, however, the most significant recent moment came with the control of electricity for power, about four gen- erations ago. This made it possible to begin moving nearly all hunlan functions indoors, and made the outdoors more like indoors. In less than four generations out of an estimated one hun- dred thousand, we have fundanlcntally changed the nature of our interaction with the planet.

pages: 606 words: 87,358

The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization by Richard Baldwin


3D printing, additive manufacturing, Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, air freight, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, bilateral investment treaty, Branko Milanovic, buy low sell high, call centre, Columbian Exchange, commoditize, Commodity Super-Cycle, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, domestication of the camel, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Erik Brynjolfsson, financial intermediation, George Gilder, global supply chain, global value chain, Henri Poincaré, imperial preference, industrial cluster, industrial robot, intangible asset, invention of agriculture, invention of the telegraph, investor state dispute settlement, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Dyson, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Lao Tzu, low skilled workers, market fragmentation, mass immigration, Metcalfe’s law, New Economic Geography, out of africa, paper trading, Paul Samuelson, Pax Mongolica, profit motive, rent-seeking, reshoring, Richard Florida, rising living standards, Robert Metcalfe, Second Machine Age, Simon Kuznets, Skype, Snapchat, Stephen Hawking, telepresence, telerobotics, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, trade route, Washington Consensus

As the population rose and fell, the search for additional food expanded and contracted humanity’s geographic range. For seventy-five millennia or so, this consumption-moving-to-production happened only in Africa. This chapter first relates the story of how humans hunted and gathered their way across the globe in Phase One. It then turns to explaining how the nature of globalization changed radically when a large share of humans got “stuck” in certain locales after the invention of agriculture. Phase One: Humanizing the Globe The detailed timing of modern humans moving beyond Africa is not fully understood, but it was certainly not linear. Given the close ties between climate, food, and population—and the vast climate change going on during this period (Figure 4)—humanity’s dispersion quite naturally waxed and waned. Archaeological evidence shows that one group exited Africa during the last really warm period—something like 125,000 years ago.

pages: 1,152 words: 266,246

Why the West Rules--For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris


Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, conceptual framework, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Doomsday Clock,, falling living standards, Flynn Effect, Francisco Pizarro, global village, God and Mammon, hiring and firing, indoor plumbing, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Kitchen Debate, knowledge economy, market bubble, mass immigration, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, out of africa, Peter Thiel, phenotype, pink-collar, place-making, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Sinatra Doctrine, South China Sea, special economic zone, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, upwardly mobile, wage slave, washing machines reduced drudgery

They tend to focus on the last few generations, looking back at most five hundred years and treating earlier history briefly, if at all—even though the main issue at dispute is whether the factors that gave the West dominance were already present in earlier times or appeared abruptly in the modern age. A handful of thinkers approach the question very differently, focusing on distant prehistory then skipping ahead to the modern age, saying little about the thousands of years in between. The geographer and historian Alfred Crosby makes explicit what many of these scholars take for granted—that the prehistoric invention of agriculture was critically important, but “between that era and [the] time of development of the societies that sent Columbus and other voyagers across the oceans, roughly 4,000 years passed, during which little of importance happened, relative to what had gone before.” This, I think, is mistaken. We will not find answers if we restrict our search to prehistory or modern times (nor, I hasten to add, would we find them if we limited ourselves to just the four or five millennia in between).

Hard as it is to get our minds around the idea, the trends of the last couple of centuries are leading toward a change in what it means to be human, making possible the vast cities, astonishing energy levels, apocalyptic weapons, and science-fiction kinds of information technology implied by social development scores of five thousand points. This book has been full of upheavals in which social development jumped upward, rendering irrelevant many of the problems that had dominated the lives of earlier generations. The evolution of Homo sapiens swept away all previous ape-men; the invention of agriculture made many of the burning issues of hunter-gatherer life unimportant; and the rise of cities and states did the same to the concerns of prehistoric villagers. The closing of the steppe highway and the opening of the oceans ended realities that had constrained Old World development for two thousand years, and the industrial revolution of course made mockery of all that had gone before. These revolutions have been accelerating, building on one another to drive social development up further and faster each time.

pages: 1,104 words: 302,176

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Robert J. Gordon


3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, airport security, Apple II, barriers to entry, big-box store, blue-collar work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, creative destruction, deindustrialization, Detroit bankruptcy, discovery of penicillin, Donner party, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser,, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, feminist movement, financial innovation, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, glass ceiling, high net worth, housing crisis, immigration reform, impulse control, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, inflight wifi, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, jitney, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, labor-force participation, Loma Prieta earthquake, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market fragmentation, Mason jar, mass immigration, mass incarceration, McMansion, Menlo Park, minimum wage unemployment, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Norbert Wiener, obamacare, occupational segregation, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, payday loans, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, Productivity paradox, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, refrigerator car, rent control, Robert X Cringely, Ronald Coase, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Skype, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban decay, urban planning, urban sprawl, washing machines reduced drudgery, Washington Consensus, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration, yellow journalism, yield management

According to the great historian of economic growth, Angus Maddison, the annual rate of growth in the Western world from AD 1 to AD 1820 was a mere 0.06 percent per year, or 6 percent per century.1 As succinctly stated by economic commentator Steven Landsburg, Modern humans first emerged about 100,000 years ago. For the next 99,800 years or so, nothing happened. Well, not quite nothing. There were wars, political intrigue, the invention of agriculture—but none of that stuff had much effect on the quality of people’s lives. Almost everyone lived on the modern equivalent of $400 to $600 a year, just above the subsistence level…. Then—just a couple of hundred years ago—people started getting richer. And richer and richer still.2 This book adopts the “special century” approach to economic growth, holding that economic growth witnessed a singular interval of rapid growth that will not be repeated—the designation of the century between 1870 and 1970 as the special epoch applies only to the United States, the nation which has carved out the technological frontier for all developed nations since the Civil War.

Soon full-fledged research universities, headed by world-leading institutions such as the University of Michigan and the University of California, surrounded the initial undergraduate college with a wide array of graduate schools and departments. Though most of the funding for these universities and colleges was provided by state governments, the federal government through the Department of Agriculture provided most of the funding for the agricultural research activities.65 The transition of American agriculture between 1870 and 1940 to much higher levels of output per person and per acre relied on more than the invention of agricultural machinery by private entrepreneurs such as Cyrus McCormick and John Deere. The government played a major role in making modern agriculture possible through the Agricultural Extension Service, which provided the research that individual farmers could not possibly perform on their own. The service did fundamental research on “the maintenance of soil fertility, the development of improved crop varieties, the control of plant diseases and insects, the breeding and feeding of animals, … as well as those principles which have to do with the marketing and distribution of the products of the farm.”

pages: 913 words: 265,787

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, double helix, experimental subject, feminist movement, four colour theorem, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Henri Poincaré, income per capita, information retrieval, invention of agriculture, invention of the wheel, John von Neumann, lake wobegon effect, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, Mikhail Gorbachev, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Necker cube, out of africa, pattern recognition, phenotype, Plutocrats, plutocrats, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, sexual politics, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, Turing machine, urban decay, Yogi Berra

In everyday usage the word refers to bestowing favors on relatives (literally, “nephews”) as a perquisite of a job or social rank. Institutional nepotism is officially illicit in our society, though it is widely practiced, and in most societies people are surprised to hear that we consider it a vice. In many countries a newly appointed official openly fires all the civil servants under him and replaces them with relatives. Relatives are natural allies, and before the invention of agriculture and cities, societies were organized around clans of them. One of the fundamental questions of anthropology is how foraging people divide themselves into bands or villages, typically with about fifty members though varying with the time and place. Napoleon Chagnon amassed meticulous genealogies that link thousands of members of the Yanomamö, the foraging and horticultural people of the Amazon rainforest whom he has studied for thirty years.

Wealthy and prestigious men have more than one wife; ne’er-do-wells have none. Typically a man who has been married for some time seeks a younger wife. The senior wife remains his confidante and partner and runs the household; the junior one becomes his sexual interest. In foraging societies wealth cannot accumulate, but a few fierce men, skilled leaders, and good hunters may have two to ten wives. With the invention of agriculture and massive inequality, polygyny can reach ridiculous proportions. Laura Betzig has documented that in civilization after civilization, despotic men have implemented the ultimate male fantasy: a harem of hundreds of nubile women, closely guarded (often by eunuchs) so no other man can touch them. Similar arrangements have popped up in India, China, the Islamic world, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Americas.

pages: 421 words: 120,332

The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith


Bretton Woods, BRICs, clean water, Climategate, colonial rule, deglobalization, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, energy security, flex fuel, global supply chain, Google Earth, guest worker program, Hans Island, hydrogen economy, ice-free Arctic, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, invisible hand, land tenure, Martin Wolf, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, New Urbanism, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, Pearl River Delta, purchasing power parity, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, side project, Silicon Valley, smart grid, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, trade route, UNCLOS, UNCLOS, urban planning, Washington Consensus, Y2K

FOUR GLOBAL FORCES The first global force is demography, which essentially means the ups, downs, and movements of different population groups within the human race. Demographic measures include things like birth rates, income, age structure, ethnicity, and migration flows. We shall examine all of these in due course but for now, let us start with the most basic yet profound measure of all: the total number of people living on Earth. Before the invention of agriculture some twelve thousand years ago, there were perhaps one million persons in the world.12 That is roughly the present-day population of San Jose, California. People foraged and hunted the land, living in small mobile clans. It took twelve thousand years (until about 1800 A.D.) for our numbers to grow to one billion. But then, oh boy, liftoff. Our second billion arrived in 1930, a mere 130 years later.

pages: 393 words: 115,263

Planet Ponzi by Mitch Feierstein


Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, break the buck, centre right, collapse of Lehman Brothers, collateralized debt obligation, commoditize, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, disintermediation, diversification, Donald Trump, energy security, eurozone crisis, financial innovation, financial intermediation, fixed income, Flash crash, floating exchange rates, frictionless, frictionless market, high net worth, High speed trading, illegal immigration, income inequality, interest rate swap, invention of agriculture, light touch regulation, Long Term Capital Management, mega-rich, money market fund, moral hazard, mortgage debt, negative equity, Northern Rock, obamacare, offshore financial centre, oil shock, pensions crisis, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, price anchoring, price stability, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, risk tolerance, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, too big to fail, trickle-down economics, value at risk, yield curve

I don’t know how the world will look in 1.5 billion years’ time, but 1.5 billion years ago, the planet was in the middle of the Proterozoic Eon. The planet hadn’t too long ago encountered its first multicellular organisms and the big new thing was fungi. There were no plants. No vertebrates or invertebrates. Dinosaurs lay way, way into the future. Ditto mammals. Double ditto humanity. Triple ditto the invention of agriculture, the first cities, the origin of writing. And from that unimaginably distant point to this, you and your partner would need to toil away, earning $50,000 a year, not one penny of which you could keep, in order to generate the funds needed to pay off the US government’s debt.8 At this point, however, I need to come clean. I don’t believe these stats. With one exception, every element in the table above comes from official government data.

pages: 286 words: 94,017

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler


Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, corporate governance, East Village, global village, Haight Ashbury, information retrieval, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of writing, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, Menlo Park, New Urbanism, Norman Mailer, post-industrial society, RAND corporation, the market place, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, urban renewal, Whole Earth Catalog, zero-sum game

Indeed, a growing body of reputable opinion asserts that the present movement represents nothing less than the second great divide in human history, comparable in magnitude only with that first great break in historic continuity, the shift from barbarism to civilization. This idea crops up with increasing frequency in the writings of scientists and technologists. Sir George Thomson, the British physicist and Nobel prizewinner, suggests in The Foreseeable Future that the nearest historic parallel with today is not the industrial revolution but rather the "invention of agriculture in the neolithic age." John Diebold, the American automation expert, warns that "the effects of the technological revolution we are now living through will be deeper than any social change we have experienced before." Sir Leon Bagrit, the British computer manufacturer, insists that automation by itself represents "the greatest change in the whole history of mankind." Nor are the men of science and technology alone in these views.

pages: 405 words: 117,219

In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence by George Zarkadakis


3D printing, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, anthropic principle, Asperger Syndrome, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, British Empire, business process, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, continuous integration, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Snowden, epigenetics, Flash crash, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, liberal capitalism, lifelogging, millennium bug, Moravec's paradox, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, off grid, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, post-industrial society, prediction markets, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

However, their analysis assumes that all other things will remain more or less equal, for instance our political system of parliamentary representation, or our free economies of prices mostly regulated by markets. But this is not necessarily so. Indeed, history has already shown us that major technological changes are the causes of social and economic paradigm shifts. For instance, we refer to the invention of agriculture around 12,000 years ago as the ‘agricultural revolution’ because it completely changed how people lived and organised themselves. Nomads and hunter-gatherers who once roamed freely over lands belonging to no one became the subjects of kingdoms and empires with hereditary property laws. The Industrial Revolution that began in late eighteenth century created a new stratification in society, with the professional and entrepreneurial middle classes displacing the landed gentry and nobility.

pages: 901 words: 234,905

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, British Empire, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, conceptual framework, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Defenestration of Prague, desegregation, epigenetics, Exxon Valdez, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, ghettoisation, glass ceiling, Hobbesian trap, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invisible hand, long peace, meta analysis, meta-analysis, More Guns, Less Crime, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Norman Mailer, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, Plutocrats, plutocrats, Potemkin village, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Bork, Rodney Brooks, Saturday Night Live, speech recognition, stem cell, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the new new thing, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, ultimatum game, urban renewal, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

What they mean is that the amount of genetic variation found among humans is what a biologist would expect in a species with a small number of members.5 There are more genetic differences among chimpanzees, for instance, than there are among humans, even though we dwarf them in number. The reason is that our ancestors passed through a population bottleneck fairly recently in our evolutionary history (less than a hundred thousand years ago) and dwindled to a small number of individuals with a correspondingly small amount of genetic variation. The species survived and rebounded, and then underwent a population explosion after the invention of agriculture about ten thousand years ago. That explosion bred many copies of the genes that were around when we were sparse in number; there has not been much time to accumulate many new versions of the genes. At various points after the bottleneck, differences between races emerged. But the differences in skin and hair that are so obvious when we look at people of other races are really a trick played on our intuitions.

pages: 578 words: 168,350

Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West

Alfred Russel Wallace, Anton Chekhov, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, British Empire, butterfly effect, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, clean water, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, continuous integration, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, dark matter, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Frank Gehry, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, Guggenheim Bilbao, housing crisis, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of agriculture, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, laissez-faire capitalism, life extension, Mahatma Gandhi, mandelbrot fractal, Marchetti’s constant, Masdar, megacity, Murano, Venice glass, Murray Gell-Mann, New Urbanism, Peter Thiel, profit motive, publish or perish, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, urban renewal, Vernor Vinge, Vilfredo Pareto, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Review, wikimedia commons, working poor

A crucial element in how life has been sustained is that the energy source, namely the sun, was external, reliable, and relatively constant. It shone every day and any variation in its output occurred over long enough periods of time for adaptations to accommodate to the change. This ongoing, ever-evolving, quasi-steady state very slowly began to change with our discovery of fire, which is the chemical process that releases the sun’s energy stored in dead wood. When coupled with the invention of agriculture, this began the transition to the Anthropocene as we emerged from a purely biological organism to our present state as an urbanized socioeconomic creature no longer in meta-equilibrium with the “natural” world. The truly dramatic and revolutionary departure from almost three billion years of sustainable business as usual came about in just the last two hundred years when our discovery and exploitation of the sun’s energy stored underground in coal and oil heralded the beginning of the Urbanocene.

pages: 1,402 words: 369,528

A History of Western Philosophy by Aaron Finkel


British Empire, Eratosthenes, Georg Cantor, George Santayana, invention of agriculture, liberation theology, Mahatma Gandhi, Plutocrats, plutocrats, source of truth, the market place, William of Occam

They were influenced by industrialism in the problems that they considered, but not much in the ideas that they employed in the solution of their problems. The most important effect of machine production on the imaginative picture of the world is an immense increase in the sense of human power. This is only an acceleration of a process which began before the dawn of history, when men diminished their fear of wild animals by the invention of weapons and their fear of starvation by the invention of agriculture. But the acceleration has been so great as to produce a radically new outlook in those who wield the powers that modern technique has created. In old days, mountains and waterfalls were natural phenomena; now, an inconvenient mountain can be abolished and a convenient waterfall can be created. In old days, there were deserts and fertile regions; now, the desert can, if people think it worth while, be made to blossom like the rose, while fertile regions are turned into deserts by insufficiently scientific optimists.