An Interpretation Of History
From A Zoological Perspective
Accelerative growth in complexity began with the emergence of a central nervous system around 550 million years ago, and must end, at latest, around the middle of this century.
Accelerative growth in complexity with respect to a neural network lineage began with the emergence of a central nervous system around 550 million years ago. This point is the first in a sequence of communication revolutions. These points form the terms of a geometric progression, verging in the future around the year 2048. Interspersed, somewhat randomly, within the time interval between every pair of these successive points lies a single period during which there is an ecological transition to a new mode of sustenance. The next communication revolution is expected around the year 2043. Regardless of what might emerge, it is proposed that accelerative growth in complexity cannot continue beyond this point.
The universe is estimated to be around 13 700 million years old, and life on earth, 3 800 million years old. Accelerative change with respect to history implies continuity in ancestry from the past to the present. A neural network is defined to be any communication system whose foundational level consists of interconnected neurons. Therefore, this includes all manifestations of human expression.
It is suggested that the sudden appearance of the first animals with forms representative of current bilaterian phyla during the Cambrian Explosion and their rapid diversification ever since was caused by the emergence of a central nervous system. In retrospect, this point marks the beginning of a now roughly 550 million-year-old trajectory with accelerative growth in complexity. This neural network lineage is initially traced through genetic ancestry and then, after the emergence of Behaviourally Modern Humans, through cultural ancestry.
Subsequently, it will be demonstrated that the emergence of a central nervous system was the first point in a sequence of communication revolutions. The time interval between every pair of successive points is around one tenth in duration of the previous time interval. The sum of this geometric series occurs around the year 2048. This future date will be referred to as the communication climax (henceforth CC).
Subsequently, it will be demonstrated that interspersed within the time interval between communication revolution points lies a single period during which there is an ecological transition to a new mode of sustenance. These periods are somewhat randomly placed, as if their initiation and progression were highly sensitive to natural and social environmental circumstances.
The reorganization of neurons from a diffuse network to a concentrated network, made possible by the advent of an animal body plan having bilateral symmetry instead of radial symmetry, led to the emergence of a central nervous system.
0 Central Nervous System
≈ .55 billion years before CC in the last common ancestor (henceforth LCA) of current protostomes (for illustration, the holometabolous insects are extremely successful members of this clade) and current deuterostomes (for illustration, the jawed vertebrates are extremely successful members of this clade). Almost all current animal species are members of one of these two clades.
A Nurturing of Offspring
Start - Protected embryonic development in the LCA of current amniotes. Animal groups collectively described as reptiles, and birds descend from the sauropsid lineage, whereas mammals descend from the synapsid lineage.
Finish – Supplemental nourishing provided by milk delivered from teats in the LCA of current therian mammals (a clade that excludes primitive egg laying mammals).
1 Vision Dominance
≈ 55 million years before CC in the LCA of current strepsirrhines (wet-nosed primates) and current haplorhines (dry-nosed primates). Enhanced visual perception replaced olfactory perception as the dominant sense. The finer depth perception provided by more converged eye orbits combined with hands capable of grasping (and concomitant developments in eye-hand coordination) are very appropriate adaptations for the most likely primate origin scenarios. These involve leaping movements inside an arboreal habitat, catching insects, or feeding on fruit located at the end of tree branches.
B Manipulable Hands
Start - Opposable thumbs in the LCA of current catarrhines (Old World anthropoids: non-American monkeys, and the apes). The precision grip aided feeding, while the power grip aided locomotion.
Finish – Manual dexterity in the LCA of current great apes. The building of orangutan, gorilla, and chimpanzee nests, for example, demonstrates considerable sensorimotor coordination.
2 Observational Learning
≈ 5.5 million years before CC in the LCA of current chimpanzees (our closest surviving relatives) and current humans (descended from a lineage that had become adapted for bipedal locomotion before the advent of the first human species). The transmission of culture was now possible, initially commensurate with how novel behaviours are adopted throughout a chimpanzee social group.
Start - Skilled use of naturally occurring stone objects as hammering tools or raw material for creating cutting edges in the LCA of human species.
Finish – Stone tools made according to a shape suited for hand use in the LCA of Acheulean culture humans. It is possible that humans had already learned to control fire.
≈ .55 million years before CC in the LCA of Homo neanderthalensis (our closest extinct relatives) and Homo sapiens (Anatomically Modern Humans). Homo heidelbergensis, the putative ancestor of these two species, had a brain size approaching that of current humans. Neanderthals had the anatomical features necessary for speech and inherited the same version of the FOXP2 language gene as current humans.
Start – Division of labor according to gender like past hunter-gatherer societies in the LCA of Homo sapiens (Anatomically Modern Humans). In this context, a gracile frame was an adaption towards greater mobility and neotenous traits were a consequence of self-domestication.
Finish – Facilitation of trade with individuals outside the local community through symbolic means like past hunter-gatherer societies in the LCA of Homo sapiens sapiens. The earliest indicator of an important mechanism for building the necessary underlying social bonds is the production of beads for use in gifts.
4 General Intelligence
≈ 55 thousand years before CC in Behaviourally Modern Humans. With the Later Stone Age in Africa and Upper Palaeolithic in Eurasia, intellectual abilities which have remained fundamentally unimproved upon ever since spread with unprecedented speed across the world. Accelerative growth in human population now seems to have begun. Perhaps a collection of words could now encode a picture. It is suggested culture could now flow considerably more fluidly between divergent lineages, but that a fundamental impasse was reached at this point: henceforth, continued accelerative growth in complexity required human social networks getting larger or better connected.
Start – Cultivation of cereals and the employment of dogs in the Late Natufian culture of the Levant. This region acted as a corridor connecting Africa to Eurasia due to the surrounding physical geography. Subsequently, a similar set of plant and animal domesticates would be exploited by communities in the Levant, and — where civilizations would later arise — in the neighbouring regions of Anatolia, Crete, Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Finish – Farming settlements capable of seeding urbanization in the Naqada II culture of Upper Egypt. The Ancient Egyptian civilization blossomed from these Chalcolithic Age communities. Ancient Egyptian is an Afro-Asiatic language. The two most likely scenarios are that either proto-Afro-Asiatic spread alongside farmers from the Levant or expanded in Northeast Africa after farming had arrived there from the Levant.
≈ 5.5 thousand years before CC in Ancient Egypt (Early Dynastic Period) as an information storage system. The first documents were pictorial narratives almost without text.
Start – Control of the gold supply with the conquest of Nubia in the Ancient Egyptian Empire. Territorial expansion followed including the incorporation of Canaan. Subsequently — after the Bronze Age collapse — Iron Age Canaanites were of central importance to intercontinental commerce: especially the Hebrew tribes of Israel (in control of the most important trade route connecting Egypt to Mesopotamia) and the Phoenician city state of Tyre (the paramount Mediterranean Sea merchants).
Finish – Establishment of a central mint for issuing gold and silver coinage in the Roman Empire. An era of prosperity ensued requiring more elaborate administration. Roman culture was very strongly influenced by Greek culture. Greek was second in importance to Latin, being especially influential in education. The Greek alphabet (for illustration, the official script of the Greek Macedonian Empire) descended from the Phoenician alphabet, as did the Aramaic alphabet (for illustration, the official script of the Persian Achaemenid Empire).
6 Printing Press
≈ .55 thousand years before CC in the Holy Roman Empire as an information broadcasting system. Latin was the language of scholarship in this predominantly Germanophone state, as it still was across Western Europe. The mechanization of document copying was made possible by using a press with moveable type. The imperial administration of Western Christianity had helped carry forward the progress made prior to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
Start – Manufacturing as embodied by the factory system at the Cromford Mill (for cotton spinning) in the British Empire. The switch from Latin as the language of scholarship in England, to English, had occurred recently.
Finish – Mass production as embodied by the moving assembly line at the Highland Park Plant (for building automobiles) in the United States of America. This Anglophone state would direct the economic progress of the world.
7 World Wide Web
≈ 55 years before CC in the global community as an information access system. These hypertext linked documents distributed across computers connected to the internet became popular with the debut of the Mosaic web browser.
A cursory examination of the time periods during which ecological transitions are proposed to have occurred will reveal that there is an incredible concentration of key events — in the sense of originating new developmental pathways — within them. During these intervals, transformations occur in anatomical organization (accordingly mirrored in animal behaviour) or, after the emergence of Behaviourally Modern Humans, in economic organization (accordingly mirrored in the branches of knowledge and arts). The primary attribute of each ecological transition seems to always become more elaborate during all subsequent ecological transitional periods with cumulative consequences.
An insight into the future can be gained based upon an extrapolation of the retrospective interpretation so far presented. Assuming that accelerative growth in complexity is still continuing, the next communication revolution is expected to occur around the year 2043 based upon a simplistic calculation: 1993 (Mosaic debut) + 50 = 2043. When taking into consideration the potential for greater affluence around the world, it seems likely that there could be accelerative growth in complexity up until this point — as long as an ecological transition is completed before then. Increasing wealth per person could compensate for a plateauing world population.
It is impossible for accelerative growth in complexity to continue all the way up to the communication climax around 2048. Whatever might happen, by around 2043 obstacles to communication will no longer be the primary limiting factor preventing the development of humanity at an accelerative rate. Therefore, the next communication revolution would simultaneously demonstrate that accelerative growth in complexity had continued up until that point and mark its end; growth in complexity would still continue, albeit at a slower non-accelerative rate. It would probably not be coincidental if peak world population also occurs around 2043.
22 September 2012, Glasgow