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  #101  
Old 05-31-2017, 07:40 AM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
In other words, small scale non-mechanized farming is largely economically unviable, given any alternative.
Um no that's not other words for the same thing.

One model prevailing over time over another ≠ unviability of the latter, given any alternative.


Anyway since the discussion is now into cooperative group efforts vs more individualistic efforts - there is some interesting work on how the sort of farming needed for an area results in different levels of individualism vs cooperativism and other psychologic traits within its members as cultural norms.

Wheat farming allows for more nuclear household smaller stake models while rice paddy farming has to be more of a group effort.

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Cross-cultural psychologists have mostly contrasted East Asia with the West. However, this study shows that there are major psychological differences within China. We propose that a history of farming rice makes cultures more interdependent, whereas farming wheat makes cultures more independent, and these agricultural legacies continue to affect people in the modern world. We tested 1162 Han Chinese participants in six sites and found that rice-growing southern China is more interdependent and holistic-thinking than the wheat-growing north. To control for confounds like climate, we tested people from neighboring counties along the rice-wheat border and found differences that were just as large. We also find that modernization and pathogen prevalence theories do not fit the data.
Human culture evolves and adapts to new circumstances and to how it changes the circumstances (the latter a self-imposed red queen race). Better worse ... "choice" ... is not the issue ... the construct that spreads the most tautologically is the one that is most fit; as another one becomes more fit for that niche, whatever its size, for whatever the reason, it will prevail.
  #102  
Old 05-31-2017, 10:02 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Quoting myself for context:
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Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
...
The defining characteristic of our species is social tool use. No other Earth species does tools, or social, anywhere near as well as we do. The synergistic effect of those two behaviors together is vastly more powerful than either one in isolation. It's not X + Y. It's more like XY.
...
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
...
The only thing I'll take exception to is your claim that the defining characteristic of our species is "social tool use". I'm not a big fan of making claims about single, "defining characteristics", but if there is one for us it would be the transmission of knowledge and information through the use of fully articulate language. Perhaps that is more or less what you meant by "social" tool use, but it wasn't clear.
Yup, you got it. I was a little too telegraphic there. I was trying to keep it short, sweet, and sorta poetic for the OP.

Long version:

By "social" what I really mean is cooperative. As you say, language is a key tool of humanity. IMO language exists in support of the urge to cooperate, to be a society, rather than a bunch of independent individuals leading a solitary existence except to occasionally mate, probably forcefully.

When ancient Og figured out he could get tasty clams open more easily by whacking them with a rock, he was tool-using. Later he thought to whack this kind of rock on that kind of rock to make a sharp edge to pry clams open intact so he didn't need to pick shell bits out of the tasty innards before eating. That's tool-making.

But if Og had no interest in sharing this info with anyone else, each human would have to discover this independently for themselves. Very few people would and human progress would be negligible over even geologic time.

It's the incentive to share information that drives the virtuous circle of learning which lets us "stand on the shoulders of giants" who came before. And which got us from pounding clams to the heights of today's technical & social / political / economic arrangements. All of which are about cooperating because the total results are greater than the sum of the individual efforts.

Whether that info-sharing is delivered via cave pictograms, grunts & gestures, flowery Victorian prose, or a silent YouTube how-to vid is immaterial.

My argument to your point is that language as communicative facility came after the desire / drive to have communication. And so the social desire is the more fundamental feature of human nature.


OTOH ...
Agree that there's "language" as "communicative facility" and "language" as "method for modeling a representation of the world within the mind." As to the latter definition I see a chicken and egg problem. Why did we have a drive to mentally model the world? How is it that we developed a tool to transfer these models between individuals which in turn molds how the individual mind constructs its models? A fascinating question I know diddly beans about.

If you have anything on this, please share.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 05-31-2017 at 10:06 AM.
  #103  
Old 05-31-2017, 10:52 AM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Chimps learn to use tools by watching their mothers, and it takes them years to master what could be taught to a human child in a a few weeks, at most, once the child is 3 or 4 years old and has a good command of language.

The other thing that language allows us to do is to extend our "theory of mind" well beyond what a non-language capable species can do. "Theory of mind" is the ability to imagine what another being is thinking, or to know what knowledge another being has or doesn't have. Chimps are pretty good at that, but nothing beats telling the other guy exactly what you're thinking. It's that ability to see inside another person's mind that really allows us to cooperate in much more complex ways than other species.

It also allows us to just get along better. As the observation goes... fill a cross-country flight with chimps and when it lands, there's a good chance that only one chimp will still be alive. (That might not work as well for bonobos, but it's still an interesting observation about the difference between common chimps and us.)

Last edited by John Mace; 05-31-2017 at 10:53 AM.
  #104  
Old 05-31-2017, 11:27 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
OTOH ...
Agree that there's "language" as "communicative facility" and "language" as "method for modeling a representation of the world within the mind." As to the latter definition I see a chicken and egg problem. Why did we have a drive to mentally model the world? How is it that we developed a tool to transfer these models between individuals which in turn molds how the individual mind constructs its models? A fascinating question I know diddly beans about.

If you have anything on this, please share.
First consider that most knowledge in such early times was transferred by watching and imitating. Thag picked up flint chipping by watching Og do it. There wasn't anything complex enough that needed advanced language to describe. Language would have developed for other purposes. I don't know what purposes, but I suppose anything from entertainment to resolving conflicts without combat. Earlier on language developed from the same rudimentary form we can see in other animals.

Speculating now, I don't think we needed a drive to mentally model the world, other animals have some sense of knowing their environment. As pre-humans became more complex socially and became tool makers and users that better brains evolved and more complex language naturally followed the larger world the mental map had to encompass. Interestingly it is the tool making and use that is what is distinct in humans, other animals cooperate and have complex social structures but didn't increase their communication ability in the same way.
  #105  
Old 05-31-2017, 11:59 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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I'll make the wild guess that language and conceptual thinking evolved together. This would be necessary in more complex hunts, where the cooperation of a group had to over-rule individual instincts to charge in and get the big one for yourself; or making nets for fishing, or building boats to go fishing, etc. It's easy to watch Thag chip flint and copy. It's harder to arrange - "you guys go around the back, upwind of the herd and make lots of noise and chase them. Ogg and I will hide behind these boulders where the canyon narrows and chuck spears at them as they rush by..."
  #106  
Old 05-31-2017, 12:08 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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There's also the theory that language evolved as a form of grooming. For the more advanced (non-verbal) primates grooming is a form of social structure- the higher ups get their fleas picked by the socially lower down, establishing and acknowledging a form of hierarchy. The tribe size is limited by the number of higher-ups who can be "serviced" in a day - typically about 10 according to an article I read.

However, with speech, one person can "service" multiple recipients at once, increasing the cooperative social group and increasing the nuances of the hierarchy. Plus, the major topic of gossip continues to be about interpersonal relationships, and particularly in a species where fertility and so paternity is hidden, the question "who's boinking whom?"
  #107  
Old 05-31-2017, 12:30 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is online now
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
In other words, small scale non-mechanized farming is largely economically unviable, given any alternative.
Or "in the long run, unregulated capitalism fucks almost everybody"
  #108  
Old 05-31-2017, 12:39 PM
even sven even sven is offline
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Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
Or "in the long run, unregulated capitalism fucks almost everybody"

Eh. I'm pretty happy I don't have to worry about my whole town starving because the rains failed.
  #109  
Old 05-31-2017, 04:09 PM
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I read the title as "Why did humans start farting?"
  #110  
Old 05-31-2017, 04:31 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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I read the title as "Why did humans start farting?"
Because the started farming beans?
  #111  
Old 05-31-2017, 07:53 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
First consider that most knowledge in such early times was transferred by watching and imitating. Thag picked up flint chipping by watching Og do it. There wasn't anything complex enough that needed advanced language to describe. Language would have developed for other purposes. ...
The data begs to differ.
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... The researchers recruited 184 students from the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom, where some members of the team were based, and organized them into five groups. The first person in each group was taught by archaeologists how to make artifacts called Oldowan tools, which include fairly simple stone flakes that were manufactured by early humans beginning about 2.5 million years ago ... The students in each of the five groups learned to produce Oldowan flakes in different ways. Subjects in the first group were presented with a core, hammer, and some examples of finished flakes and told to just get on with it by themselves. In the next group, a second student learned how to make the tools by simply watching the first subject and trying to duplicate what he or she did with no interaction at all between them; in the third group, subjects actively showed each other what they were doing but without gesturing; in the fourth group, gesturing and pointing were allowed but no talking; and in the fifth group, the “teacher” was permitted to talk to the “learner” and say whatever was necessary.

In each group, the learner became the teacher in the next round. In this fashion, the research team created five different “chains of transmission” of Oldowan toolmakers, which produced a total of more than 6000 flakes. The results of the experiment, reported online today in Nature Communications, were striking. As might be expected, subjects sitting alone and attempting to “reverse engineer” Oldowan flakes simply by looking at cores, hammers, and examples of the flakes had only limited success. But performance improved very little among students who just watched others make the tools. Only the groups in which gestural or verbal teaching was allowed performed significantly above the reverse engineering baseline on several indicators of toolmaking skill, such as the total number of flakes produced that were long enough and sharp enough to be viable and the proportion of hits that resulted in a viable flake. For example, gestural teaching doubled and verbal teaching quadrupled the likelihood that a single strike would result in a viable flake, the team found.

The researchers conclude that the successful spread of even the earliest known toolmaking technology, more than 2 million years ago, would have required the capacity for teaching, and probably also the beginnings of spoken language—what the researchers call protolanguage. (Many researchers think that gestural communication was the prelude to spoken language, which might explain its effectiveness in these experiments.) “The ability to rapidly share the skill to make Oldowan tools would have brought fitness benefits” to early humans ...
Bolding in original.

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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
I'll make the wild guess that language and conceptual thinking evolved together. ...
One form of complex conceptual thinking that is felt to have driven and allowed for language development is the creation of, in particular, compound tools. Short version is that Broca's area is involved in both language and tool use and the cognitive complexities used to create compound tools, which are assemblages of parts, are the same cognitive processes needed for true language. The hypothesis is that spoken language was an exaptation of the cognitive processes used in tool-making, and in turn facilitated the transmission of those skills.
Quote:
... it is now clear that the so-called ‘language areas’ contribute to a wide array of non-linguistic behaviours [11], including tool use [12]. Indeed, one-to-one brain-behaviour mappings of complex functions like ‘language processing’ have largely been replaced by explanations of regional brain function in terms of more abstract computational properties [11] and context-specific interactions with anatomically distributed networks [13,14]. In this framework, it is expected that complex behaviours will map onto neural substrates in a flexible manner and that single regions will participate in multiple different functional networks [15,16]. From an evolutionary perspective, this presents an ideal context for the co-option of existing neural substrates to support new behavioural phenotypes (i.e. ‘exaptation’ [17]). The intersection of language and praxis networks in Broca's area currently provides one of the best known examples of such complex functional overlap in human neocortex. ...

... The Mirror System Hypothesis (MSH) [29] proposes that this primitive action-matching system underwent successive evolutionary modifications to support imitation, pantomime, manual ‘protosign’ and ultimately vocal language, thus providing a neural underpinning for ‘gestural hypotheses’ [30] of language origins. ...

... The similarity of cognitive processes and cortical networks involved in speech and tool use suggests that these behaviours are best seen as special cases in the more general domain of complex, goal-oriented action. This is exactly what would be predicted by hypotheses that posit specific co-evolutionary relationships between language and tool use ...

... The archaeologically attested ability of Late Acheulean hominins to implement hierarchically complex, multi-stage action sequences during handaxe production thus provides evidence of cognitive control processes that are computationally and anatomically similar to some of those involved in modern human discourse-level language processing. This provides a second behaviourally and chronologically grounded functional/anatomical link between technological and linguistic capacities, further extending the plausible context for co-evolutionary interactions (e.g. behavioural, developmental and/or evolutionary co-option). ...
  #112  
Old 05-31-2017, 08:10 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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The data begs to differ.Bolding in original.
First, using gesturing was successful, I was ruling out advanced language, not grunting and pointing. Second that study self selects for subjects whose expertise is in learning through the use of advanced language.
  #113  
Old 05-31-2017, 08:14 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Tres cool. Thank you.

The lego snap-together nature of language is akin to the lego snap-together nature of compound tools. And the same part of the brain does both.

Which implies to this non-expert that the fundamental innovation was snap-togetherness. Which any CS major will quickly mention is closely related to abstraction and meta-levels.

Our hardware support runs real deep for this stuff.
  #114  
Old 05-31-2017, 09:36 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
First, using gesturing was successful, I was ruling out advanced language, not grunting and pointing. Second that study self selects for subjects whose expertise is in learning through the use of advanced language.
Do you believe that the key aspect of language is the nature of the vocalizations? The premise is of course that proto-language was sign more than grunts with vocalizations exapting (or minimally co-evolving with) the fundamental cognitive capacity of making tools and of teaching with gestures, yes in shorthand as LSLGuy put it, "social tool use."

And if you think that gestures do not qualify as use of language then why do you care that the subjects were college students and therefore presumptively with expertise in learning through the use of advanced language?
  #115  
Old 05-31-2017, 10:34 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Chimps learn to use tools by watching their mothers, and it takes them years to master what could be taught to a human child in a a few weeks, at most, once the child is 3 or 4 years old and has a good command of language.

The other thing that language allows us to do is to extend our "theory of mind" well beyond what a non-language capable species can do. "Theory of mind" is the ability to imagine what another being is thinking, or to know what knowledge another being has or doesn't have. Chimps are pretty good at that, but nothing beats telling the other guy exactly what you're thinking. It's that ability to see inside another person's mind that really allows us to cooperate in much more complex ways than other species.

It also allows us to just get along better. As the observation goes... fill a cross-country flight with chimps and when it lands, there's a good chance that only one chimp will still be alive. (That might not work as well for bonobos, but it's still an interesting observation about the difference between common chimps and us.)
Good stuff here and in the subsequent posts by the others.

Ref just this: "Chimps learn to use tools by watching their mothers, ..."

Implicitly in most folks' posts upthread, "communication" means transmitting. People (or chimps) have a social goal to transmit their knowledge, whether of toolmaking techniques, or simply which way to the berry bush.

Inherent in communication is also the desire to receive.

The baby chimp (or human) somehow wants to observe Mom and somehow wants to store those observations. And store them not as a passive memory of Mom putting on an entertaining show, but as an active template for future self behavior abstracted to different, but somehow similar circumstances in somehow essential ways.

Low social animals, e.g. cougars, are essentially indifferent to conspecifics unless they pose a competitive threat or a mating opportunity.

Conversely, in high social animals like us, for some reason we (and chimps) are fascinated with other humans (chimps). That's the deep driver. The rest is just details floating on the surface.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 05-31-2017 at 10:35 PM.
  #116  
Old 05-31-2017, 10:59 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Originally Posted by DSeid View Post
Do you believe that the key aspect of language is the nature of the vocalizations? The premise is of course that proto-language was sign more than grunts with vocalizations exapting (or minimally co-evolving with) the fundamental cognitive capacity of making tools and of teaching with gestures, yes in shorthand as LSLGuy put it, "social tool use."
As you yourself are saying vocalizations don't make language. If communication in general is language than a lot of other animals are capable of it. A formal language, a high level language, abstract conceptual language, are not needed to make tools.
Quote:
And if you think that gestures do not qualify as use of language then why do you care that the subjects were college students and therefore presumptively with expertise in learning through the use of advanced language?
It is your premise that gestures don't qualify as language, not mine. I don't believe early took makers needed to communicate instructions to pass on their skills. And either way, college students are nothing like early tool builders and are not the kind of subjects needed for this kind of experiment. I have experience making things by hand, I've worked in restaurant kitchens with people who didn't speak English, and it was not at all difficult through demonstration, gestures, and non-formal language to exchange skills. The study itself finds similar results through the use of advanced language and gestures so clearly it shows advanced language is not necessary. What it doesn't show is that the skills cannot be acquired through imitation. The study shows that advanced language was not needed to learn and teach how to make stone tools which is the point I was making. If I was not clear about that then it is my fault but you are drawing your own conclusions about the intent of my statement.
  #117  
Old 06-01-2017, 12:24 AM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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... I don't believe early took makers needed to communicate instructions to pass on their skills. And either way, college students are nothing like early tool builders ...
Hard of course to exactly place when proto-language began but "nothing like" is very clearly an overstatement. Most who I've read think that the major changes from early proto-language to language were not in brain structure but in how that structure was used. Most think language developed in anatomically modern humans. In that sense college students are not so different than humans a hundred thousand or so years ago.

And the point of the study was not "need to" but using gesture in even an ad hoc primitive proto-language fashion does so much more efficiently than just watching and imitating. A group that could do that would be able to make tools better, more reliably, and more of them, than one that relied on imitating alone. The behavior would be thus strongly selected for. "Advanced language" did not emerge fully formed. The hypothesis suggests that cognitive skills and manual skills needed to execute the "lego snap-together nature of compound tools" were applied as tool to more effectively and efficiently teach the skills to others, and that application to cultural transmission, communication, and teaching each other was also then more broadly applied to communicating about concepts other than tool making and provided the cognitive substrate for more advanced language to develop.

Clearly it is not the only hypothesis out there but it is true that current anatomically modern humans transmit tool making knowledge much more effectively using even just ad hoc gestures than by imitation alone and that the brain areas involved in language have great overlaps with those involved in tool use, and that mirror neurons are involved in both. Those facts seem to me to provide solid support for the hypothesis.

Wasn't this a farming thread?
  #118  
Old 06-01-2017, 08:43 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Hard of course to exactly place when proto-language began but "nothing like" is very clearly an overstatement. Most who I've read think that the major changes from early proto-language to language were not in brain structure but in how that structure was used. Most think language developed in anatomically modern humans. In that sense college students are not so different than humans a hundred thousand or so years ago.

And the point of the study was not "need to" but using gesture in even an ad hoc primitive proto-language fashion does so much more efficiently than just watching and imitating. A group that could do that would be able to make tools better, more reliably, and more of them, than one that relied on imitating alone. The behavior would be thus strongly selected for. "Advanced language" did not emerge fully formed. The hypothesis suggests that cognitive skills and manual skills needed to execute the "lego snap-together nature of compound tools" were applied as tool to more effectively and efficiently teach the skills to others, and that application to cultural transmission, communication, and teaching each other was also then more broadly applied to communicating about concepts other than tool making and provided the cognitive substrate for more advanced language to develop.

Clearly it is not the only hypothesis out there but it is true that current anatomically modern humans transmit tool making knowledge much more effectively using even just ad hoc gestures than by imitation alone and that the brain areas involved in language have great overlaps with those involved in tool use, and that mirror neurons are involved in both. Those facts seem to me to provide solid support for the hypothesis.

Wasn't this a farming thread?
But farming starts with tools... and passing on wisdom.

Another point is - that the tool-making human had to recognize the other wanted to see what they were doing, and needed to understand that they needed to show what the steps were, and needed to conceptual ability to realize that showing a fellow tribe member (offspring?) how to make their own was a good thing and they should do it. Which leads to more abstract knowledge that needs to be passed on, like the best season to plant... How to tell which rocks are good for making knives, etc.
  #119  
Old 06-01-2017, 09:05 AM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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But farming starts with tools... and passing on wisdom.
Does't have to. Ants farm without either.
  #120  
Old 06-01-2017, 10:59 AM
SeniorCitizen007 SeniorCitizen007 is offline
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Maybe hunter gatherers associated with places like Gobekli Tepe had to start farming or move away from what were apparently the most advanced construction projects man had yet priduced.
  #121  
Old 06-01-2017, 11:55 AM
iiandyiiii iiandyiiii is offline
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In my understanding, agriculture started independently in many different places. My hypothesis for how at least some of these instances might have gotten started:

A group of nomadic humans figures out the relationship between seeds and plant growth (i.e. there are always new food plants growing where they threw out their food waste, including seeds, the last time they were around a particular spot), and starts to put a little more effort into where they drop leftover seeds for the next time they come around to that spot.

Sometimes they come around to one of their planting spots and find all the plants have been eaten by animals. At some point, a few mobility-impaired (elderly or disabled) members of the tribe are left behind with some supplies to guard these plantings from animals (otherwise, they might be left behind to die when it's time to move on). Sometimes they die in the intervening seasons, but sometimes they survive and tend the crops, likely learning through trial and error some methods that boost productivity. The survivors are celebrated and praised when the body of the tribe returns. Gradually, more and more are left behind to tend crops while most of the tribe is still nomadic, as the techniques improve and production increases, to the point that true farming communities are born.

Another possible factor -- other groups of humans might learn that they can get enough to eat (and perhaps slaves too) by raiding and stealing from peaceful groups -- this would force the otherwise peaceful groups to band together, perhaps with some level of fortifications, to protect their territory, animals, crops, and members, thus increasing community size and density.
  #122  
Old 06-01-2017, 12:32 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Does't have to. Ants farm without either.
Doesn't have to but human farming starts with tools and even more so begins with the multi-step planning and risking of the investment of time and resources for future gains.

And FWIW HG ants use tools.

I do wonder if ants that have advanced farming techniques can inform some about the human transition ... a fun article.
Quote:
... this leap coincided with dramatic changes in ancient climate. Ants appear to have developed their advanced farming systems sometime after a global cooling event began lowering temperatures worldwide around 35 million years ago. The resulting shift from the wet rain forests of their hunter-gatherer ancestors to dryer environments, the researchers write, may have sparked agricultural innovation as ants maintained the controlled conditions to keep their fungal gardens growing. ...
The article also makes a comment about ant agriculture that is very reminiscent of Pollan's points in Botany of Desire:
Quote:
... Mycologists studying the same system may well view it as one in which the fungi used the ants, rather than the other way round. “It may sound kind of bad for the fungi but it's to their benefit as well. All their needs are being tended to,” says Diana Six, a University of Montana entomologist. “I think the fungi really do manipulate the situation as well.” ...
  #123  
Old 06-01-2017, 12:34 PM
Kobal2 Kobal2 is online now
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
Eh. I'm pretty happy I don't have to worry about my whole town starving because the rains failed.
Oh, they still starved. But because of grain speculation and an ingenious system of forced debt.
  #124  
Old 06-02-2017, 05:18 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Hard of course to exactly place when proto-language began but "nothing like" is very clearly an overstatement. ...
Thank you for your response. My response to you was out of place. I wasn't clear what I meant by language initially. I apologize for my tone, it's no excuse but I had just taken on a load of new stress in my life and I didn't handle it well.
  #125  
Old 06-02-2017, 10:32 PM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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Wheat farming allows for more nuclear household smaller stake models while rice paddy farming has to be more of a group effort. .

I've heard that theory, but I'm very skeptical. There are highly collectivist wheat-growing cultures (Scandinavia, Russia, etc.), and there are individualistic rice growing cultures (Madagascar, for example, where I lived several years. The family group is a much stronger source of loyalty there than the state).

For that matter, aren't the rice-growing Cantonese famous for having a culture of freewheeling entrepreneurialism? As are the Igbo in Nigeria (I don't know if they grow rice, but given the abundant rainfall in their regions I'd be surprised if they didn't). Which seem to complicate the idea that rice cultures are naturally more collectivistic.

Last edited by Hector_St_Clare; 06-02-2017 at 10:34 PM.
  #126  
Old 06-02-2017, 10:39 PM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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Originally Posted by iiandyiiii View Post
In my understanding, agriculture started independently in many different places. My hypothesis for how at least some of these instances might have gotten started:

A group of nomadic humans figures out the relationship between seeds and plant growth (i.e. there are always new food plants growing where they threw out their food waste, including seeds, the last time they were around a particular spot), and starts to put a little more effort into where they drop leftover seeds for the next time they come around to that spot.
You can still see this process today in some agricultural cultures, where people are kind of in the process of 'domesticating' some wild species. In Madagascar, for example, people will collect wild yams from the forest during the 'hungry season' and then replace little bits of the tubers in the whole so that they can re-grow. And they have at least one species, the guinea-fowl, which they don't breed in captivity but instead capture from the wild and raise in captivity up to the point where they can be sold.

To be clear, these people aren't 'incipient agriculturalists', since their ancestors both on the Indonesian and the African sides have been practicing agriculture for thousands of years. The only hunter-gatherers in Madagascar reverted to it when they moved into environments too dry for agriculture, and they live by selling what they hunt to farming or urban cultures. But it illustrates there are stages intermediate between agriculture and hunting / gathering.
  #127  
Old 06-02-2017, 11:23 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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I've heard that theory, but I'm very skeptical. There are highly collectivist wheat-growing cultures (Scandinavia, Russia, etc.), and there are individualistic rice growing cultures ...
The advantage of the study was that it relatively controlled for other factors. No one would claim that other factors do not potentially swamp the impact of past agricultural practices in particular cases. No one is claiming that wheat farmers cannot adopt collectivist practices under any circumstance or rice farmers that no circumstance would create relatively individualist rice farmers. The fact however that not only were difference large within the same country but that they found differences that were just as large in people from neighboring counties along the rice-wheat border, who presumptively are most otherwise alike, is pretty striking.
  #128  
Old 06-04-2017, 01:58 PM
betterlifethroughchemistry betterlifethroughchemistry is offline
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You need heat (so, lotsa wood that you don't have to go gather in the freezing cold)
There was a PBS homesteading reality show several years ago (I think it was called, "Frontier House") where modern families would try to live for a summer and fall as homesteaders and prepare for winter...after a certain period of time, they would be judged by several experts who would determine whether or not they would have survived...the biggest mistake they all made was not cut enough wood...I remember one expert looking at a wood pile and making the comment to the effect that they only cut enough wood for a couple of months, and that, basically, in order to survive, people would spend any spare time they had cutting wood...
  #129  
Old 06-04-2017, 05:20 PM
Chimera Chimera is offline
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On that note;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schoolhouse_Blizzard

If I remember one of the stories from MN, a couple went into town to get supplies when it hit. Their wood pile was in their barn, but they had forbidden the children to leave the house if it was snowing. Once the blizzard started, the children couldn't even see the barn. Trapped in the house, they burned every stick of furniture in the place, ran out of wood and froze to death before their father was able to return.
  #130  
Old 06-04-2017, 10:20 PM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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The advantage of the study was that it relatively controlled for other factors. No one would claim that other factors do not potentially swamp the impact of past agricultural practices in particular cases. No one is claiming that wheat farmers cannot adopt collectivist practices under any circumstance or rice farmers that no circumstance would create relatively individualist rice farmers. The fact however that not only were difference large within the same country but that they found differences that were just as large in people from neighboring counties along the rice-wheat border, who presumptively are most otherwise alike, is pretty striking.
Since these comparisons were all of counties within one country (and one with a long history of centralized administration at that), they aren't statistically independent comparisons, so six counties or however many is really meaningless. How do you know that the higher degree of collectivism in the rice counties wasn't due to some China-specific factor? (Maybe, e.g., there was at some point a central government policy of encouraging collective efforts at irrigation in rice growing areas. If so, then these six counties are all correlated and the number of samples drops from six to one).

For what it's worth, the Igbo are apparently not rice farmers, sorry for my error above.
  #131  
Old 06-04-2017, 10:22 PM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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Also you said rice farming "has to be" a collectivist endeavor, and that doesn't seem to be true. Some rice growing cultures are famous for being relatively individualist and capitalist-oriented.
  #132  
Old 06-04-2017, 11:25 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Also you said rice farming "has to be" a collectivist endeavor, and that doesn't seem to be true. Some rice growing cultures are famous for being relatively individualist and capitalist-oriented.
Specifically I stated, relative to wheat farming, "rice paddy farming has to be more of a group effort." The statement was specific to the farming practice in comparison to wheat farming.

It is a simple reality of the practices: in rice paddy farming the community of neighboring farms needs to flood and drain their fields in a coordinated fashion and usually need to cooperate in a group irrigation system; wheat farming requires no such coordination between family farms or group irrigation systems. Rice paddy farming indeed has to be more of a group effort.
  #133  
Old 06-05-2017, 04:02 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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wheat farming requires no such coordination between family farms or group irrigation systems.
This was demonstrably not the case with original Mesopotamian and Egyptian wheat farming. Those systems required and encouraged collective planning. That's partly why those places developed civilisation.
  #134  
Old 06-05-2017, 08:29 AM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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It is a simple reality of the practices: in rice paddy farming the community of neighboring farms needs to flood and drain their fields in a coordinated fashion and usually need to cooperate in a group irrigation system; wheat farming requires no such coordination between family farms or group irrigation systems. Rice paddy farming indeed has to be more of a group effort.
At best, you could show that it's more efficient to do so. But people engage in inefficient practices all the time for cultural reasons.

You can also coordinate wheat farming: if people in a community share or rotate the oxen, horses, tractors etc. that they're using to plow the fields, that's more efficient use of the animals or machines than if each household has their own that they only use for a short time per year.
  #135  
Old 06-05-2017, 08:31 AM
Hector_St_Clare Hector_St_Clare is offline
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Anyway a lot of productive wheat growing areas like Egypt and the modern-day Punjab rely on irrigation too.
  #136  
Old 06-05-2017, 09:03 AM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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This was demonstrably not the case with original Mesopotamian and Egyptian wheat farming. Those systems required and encouraged collective planning. That's partly why those places developed civilisation.
Noted that historic exceptions do in fact exist ... and as the hypothesis is predicated on the method that is typically associated with the agricultural product rather than the product itself those specific methods (complex irrigation canals, basin irrigation with controlled flooding very much akin to rice paddy farming methods) would be expected to contribute to a culture with a greater sense of interdependence, than a culture that developed with wheat farming method that did not depend on such methods.

To be more precise I modify the statement to "... wheat farming generally requires no such coordination between family farms or group irrigation systems." Historically wheat farming is much more likely to rely on rainfall and to not require group irrigation methods and rice farming is much more likely to require group irrigation methods. In general also rice farming is much more labor intensive.


It also must be clarified that the difference they are theorizing about are not capitalistic but a relative tendency of different cultures to think in more interrelated and holistic terms and why. The exact measures from the study (behind paywall) are always of interest and also the background of other hypotheses.
Quote:
Over the past 20 years, psychologists have cataloged a long list of differences between East and West (1–3). Western culture is more individualistic and analytic-thinking, whereas East Asian culture is more interdependent and holistic-thinking. Analytic thought uses abstract categories and formal reasoning, such as logical laws of noncontradiction—if A is true, then “not A” is false. Holistic thought is more intuitive and sometimes even embraces contradiction—both A and “not A” can be true.

Even though psychology has cataloged a long list of East-West differences, it still lacks an accepted explanation of what causes these differences. Building on subsistence style theory (1, 4), we offer the rice theory of culture and compare it with the modernization hypothesis (5) and the more recent pathogen prevalence theory (6).

The modernization hypothesis argues that, as societies become wealthier, more educated, and capitalistic, they become more individualistic and analytical. World Values Surveys (7) and studies on indigenous Mayans’ transition to a market economy (5) have given some support to the modernization hypothesis. But this theory has difficulty explaining why Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong are persistently collectivistic despite per-capita gross domestic products (GDPs) higher than that of the European Union.

The pathogen prevalence theory argues that a high prevalence of communicable diseases in some countries made it more dangerous to deal with strangers, making those cultures more insular and collectivistic (6). Studies have found that historical pathogen prevalence correlates with collectivism and lower openness to experience (6). However, pathogens are strongly correlated with heat (8). Because rice grows in hot areas, pathogens may be confounded with rice—a possibility that prior research did not control for.

The Rice Theory
The rice theory is an extension of subsistence style theory, which argues that some forms of subsistence (such as farming) require more functional interdependence than other forms (such as herding). At the same time, ecology narrows the types of subsistence that are possible. For example, paddy rice requires a significant amount of water. Over time, societies that have to cooperate intensely become more interdependent, whereas societies that do not have to depend on each other as much become more individualistic.

In the past, most subsistence research has compared herders and farmers, arguing that the independence and mobility of herding make herding cultures individualistic and that the stability and high labor demands of farming make farming cultures collectivistic (1). We argue that subsistence theory is incomplete because it lumps all farming together. Two of the most common subsistence crops—rice and wheat—are very different, and we argue that they lead to different cultures. ...

... Our main dependent variable was a common measure of cultural thought, the triad task (17). The triad task shows participants lists of three items, such as train, bus, and tracks. Participants decide which two items should be paired together. Two of the items can be paired because they belong to the same abstract category (train and bus belong to the category vehicles), and two because they share a functional relationship (trains run on tracks). People from Western and individualistic cultures choose more abstract (analytic) pairings, whereas East Asians and people from other collectivistic cultures choose more relational (holistic) pairings (1, 17). We report scores as a percentage of holistic choices, where 100% is completely holistic and 0% is completely analytic.

We first tested the modernization hypothesis by testing whether people from provinces with lower GDP per capita thought more holistically. People from richer provinces actually thought more holistically: γ(25) = 0.52, P = 0.03, r = 0.46. (γ represents province-level HLM regression coefficients.)

We then tested the pathogen prevalence theory by testing whether provinces with higher rates of disease thought more holistically. Provinces with higher disease rates actually thought less holistically: γ(18) = –0.22, P = 0.04, r = –0.44. ...

... To test whether the findings generalize beyond thought style, we tested subsamples on two measures previously used for East-West cultural differences. The first was the sociogram task (n = 515), which has participants draw a diagram of their social network, with circles to represent the self and friends (18). Researchers measure how large participants draw the self versus how large they draw their friends to get an implicit measure of individualism (or self-inflation). A prior study found that Americans draw themselves about 6 mm bigger than they draw others, Europeans draw themselves 3.5 mm bigger, and Japanese draw themselves slightly smaller (18).

People from rice provinces were more likely than people from wheat provinces to draw themselves smaller than they drew their friends: γ(24) = –0.20, P = 0.03, r = 0.81 (fig. S2). On average, people from wheat provinces self-inflated 1.5 mm (closer to Europeans), and people from rice provinces self-inflated –0.03 mm (similar to Japanese).

Pathogen prevalence did not predict self-inflation on the sociogram task: γ(17) = 0.003, P = 0.95, r = 0. GDP per capita also failed to predict self-inflation: γ(24) = 0.04, P = 0.81, r = 0.

The second measure was the loyalty and nepotism task, which measures whether people draw a sharp distinction between how they treat friends versus strangers (n = 166). One defining feature of collectivistic cultures is that they draw a sharp distinction between friends and strangers (3) ... People from rice provinces were more likely to show loyalty/nepotism: γ(25) = 2.45, P = 0.04, r = 0.49. In their treatment of strangers, people from rice and wheat provinces did not differ: γ(24) = –0.09, P = 0.90, r = 0. ...
To my read the hypothesis is so far strongly supported. What should come next to further test it, per the researchers, is comparing areas that do dry land rice farming to ones that paddy rice farm, and seeing if the same rice/wheat split is also seen in other areas that have both like India and Africa.

Last edited by DSeid; 06-05-2017 at 09:04 AM.
  #137  
Old 06-06-2017, 03:33 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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Noted that historic exceptions do in fact exist ...
I'd say, historically, they are more the rule than the exception, in terms of amount of wheat production.
Quote:
To be more precise I modify the statement to "... wheat farming generally requires no such coordination between family farms or group irrigation systems." Historically wheat farming is much more likely to rely on rainfall
Cite?
  #138  
Old 06-06-2017, 06:52 AM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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I... Cite?
The article already cited to start ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Science
Paddy rice also requires an extraordinary amount of work. Agricultural anthropologists visiting premodern China observed the number of hours farmers worked and found that growing paddy rice required at least twice the number of hours as wheat (9). The difference in man-hours was not a difference only noticeable to scientists. Medieval Chinese people grew both wheat and rice, and they were aware of the huge labor difference between the two. A Chinese farming guide in the 1600s advised people, “If one is short of labor power, it is best to grow wheat” [quoted in (10)]. A Chinese anthropologist in the 1930s concluded that a husband and wife would not be able to farm a large enough plot of rice to support the family if they relied on only their own labor (11). Strict self-reliance might have meant starvation.

To deal with the massive labor requirements, farmers in rice villages from India to Malaysia and Japan form cooperative labor exchanges (12). Farmers also coordinate their planting dates so that different families harvest at different times, allowing them to help in each others’ fields (12). These labor exchanges are most common during transplanting and harvesting, which need to be done in a short window of time, creating an urgent need for labor. In economic terms, paddy rice makes cooperation more valuable. This encourages rice farmers to cooperate intensely, form tight relationships based on reciprocity, and avoid behaviors that create conflict.

In comparison, wheat is easier to grow. Wheat does not need to be irrigated, so wheat farmers can rely on rainfall, which they do not coordinate with their neighbors. Planting and harvesting wheat certainly takes work, but only half as much as rice (9). The lighter burden means farmers can look after their own plots without relying as much on their neighbors.
Also the history of farming in America ... which was one mostly of individual homesteaders.
Quote:
Irrigation was not widespread in the Great Plains before the middle of the twentieth century. What little irrigation there was had to be located on gently sloping river floodplains where water, diverted from a river channel upstream, could flow across fields and eventually drain back into the main channel farther downstream. In the United States, the federal government's policies related to land and reclamation encouraged the construction of dams and diversion projects on smaller streams; in Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway promoted large river diversions for irrigation in the early twentieth century. But prior to the 1960s irrigation was limited by the availability of streamside locations– the only place irrigation was feasible
  #139  
Old 06-06-2017, 09:18 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Oh, carême !
Huh. You know I'd never made the link between the religious ritual and the season/time of the year. I strongly suspect they're linked - you know, "Good folks, god says to not eat so much right now (because unlike you I can count, and at this rate you'll start digging into the sowing reserves soon)". Or, possibly "yes, brothers, I know you're starving, but it's a good thing ! Jesus did too, everything's FINE !"

Which would also explain why these days the "fast" of Lent is not exactly drastic and more symbolic than anything.
And Carnaval and Purim take place when you go through those reserves which will be bad if you try to keep them any longer. This includes things that have been kept in a cold room and what we call in Spanish semiconservas, "stuff that's preserved but which doesn't really have that long a shelf life"; I don't know what would they be called in English or French (Google isn't being helpful). Techniques such as home pasteurizing preserves and using jars that really are air- and water-tight are relatively recent: much more than those religious rituals.

Last edited by Nava; 06-06-2017 at 09:21 AM.
  #140  
Old 06-06-2017, 04:19 PM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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The article already cited to start ...

Also the history of farming in America ... which was one mostly of individual homesteaders.
I meant a cite for the " Historically wheat farming is much more likely to rely on rainfall", as I've already made my case for that not being true - historically, most wheat farming was irrigated.
  #141  
Old 06-06-2017, 08:30 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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Pointing out two examples of large scale coordinated irrigation systems in no way makes the case that in general wheat farming required such. OTOH rice paddy farming fairly consistently required groups of families working together and coordinating their efforts.

In point of fact even today
Quote:
rainfed agriculture accounts for more than 95% of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa, 90% in Latin America, 75% in the Near East and North Africa; 65% in East Asia and 60% in South Asia.
Wheat is not the only rainfed crop across the globe today, sorghum and millet are more drought tolerant, but even in recent years there is increasing amount of rainfed wheat agriculture (with increasing yield).

And of course the spread of wheat in history was by way of dryland farming.

Historically in the Near East and the Fertile Crescent
Quote:
Artificial irrigation systems existed, but people preferred to rely on the rainy, hilly areas to ensure a more even spread of precipitation.
Main crops were wheat, barley, millet, and emmer. In drier areas irrigation was required. The same logic that underlays the "rice hypothesis" would predict that drier areas that did require large scale coordinated irrigation systems would develop cultural norms that involved thinking in more interrelated and holistic terms than neighboring cultures that did not require irrigation to farm their wheat. Testing that would be an interesting study.


And of course your stating two examples completely misses the point of the premise that is a relative comparison between the two methods.
  #142  
Old 06-07-2017, 11:55 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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Pointing out two examples of large scale coordinated irrigation systems in no way makes the case that in general wheat farming required such.
I didn't say anything about "requires", so this is a bit of a strawman. I was merely pointing out that it was irrigated wheat farming that led to all the first states and civilizations, so it's not a convincing argument to me that rice farming somehow has a more collective character, or whatever, than wheat farming. That's clearly not the case. Also, pointing to a modern increase in dryland farming is a non sequitur for this argument, which is about the origins of the disparate lifeways.

I'm not arguing that rice farming doesn't involve more (small-scale) collectivism. I'm arguing that, in the main, early historic wheat farming was even more of a collectivist effort, just at the state level.

Yes, you're right, so far I've only provided two examples (although irrigation was also a feature in Chinese wheat-growing areas)- but in the ancient Near East, the origin of "wheat culture", those two cultures represented the majority of the production and population.

Last edited by MrDibble; 06-07-2017 at 11:56 AM.
  #143  
Old 06-07-2017, 12:00 PM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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I guess I'm also saying I inherently distrust such easy, evo-devo thinking as "wheat vs rice" when it smacks of hasty generalization, localized data and mere correlation not causation.
  #144  
Old 06-07-2017, 08:27 PM
DSeid DSeid is online now
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I'm going to restrain myself from furthering this with the one exception ... what exactly do you think "evo-devo" means?

"Evo-devo" actually has a meaning in the scientific literature you know ... evolutionary developmental biology, the study of how evolution acts by way of controlling the developmental mechanisms that control body shape and form.

No idea what you think these authors formulated hypothesis and experiment which had the potential to falsify it has to do with evo-devo.
  #145  
Old 06-08-2017, 08:39 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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Yeah, my bad, I'm not using it in the strict sense there, I couldn't think of a more accurate term for the sociological/anthropological equivalent of evo-devo's habit of making simple "Just So" stories for complicated situations.
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