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August 07, 2005

Cro-Magnon Communication

The Twelve-Year-Old is on strike. She refuses to write more than one paragraph of a letter detailing her day to our pre-Neolithic Revolution ancestors. Why? Because she says the idea is stupid because it cannot be done--the Singularity, you see, is not in our future but in our past.

Nevertheless it is quite a good first paragraph:

I was jigging to my iPod when my friend Noelle rode up in the front passenger seat of her family's minivan. "Will your parents let you come see 'The Wedding Crashers'?" she asked.

She has a point. "Jigging" can be gotten across. And the East African Plains Ape social dynamics can be gotten across--friends, marriage, excessive parental control of the activities of adolescent females, et cetera (although not all of them: the idea of a "wedding crasher" is a very complicated concept to get across to a hunter-gatherer who has lived in a group of 40 or so her whole life).

But the rest?

Maybe I should have reversed the assignment: What kinds of science fiction would hunter-gatherers have written?

Perhaps:

"As you know, Bob," said Throg son of Throg son of Throg, "these new flint deposits allow us to make 147% more hand-axes from each flint core. That will be a great help in butchering the mastadon carcasses and preparing for the winter. If only we could build fires on a large enough scale to make the cold of the winter less deep."

"Build enough fires to warm the whole world? There will never be enough people to build enough fires to warm the world by even 1/212 of the difference between the coldness of ice and the hotness of the cloud that comes when you forget and leave the water-pot on the fire too long!"

Or:

"But we can dream dreams. Someday, in the far future, there will be not hundreds of people but hundreds of hundreds of hundreds of hundreds!"

"No."

"And they will acknowledge the leadership of one man--a man from the hot country of the Permian Basin."

"That's just not credible. There's so little water there. Anyone who voluntarily lived there would automatically disqualify himself from leadership by virtue of obvious stupidiy."

"And he will believe that changes in the kinds of plants and animals come about not because of mutation, resulting variation, and natural selection but because they are impelled to do so by the guidance of a Great Spirit!"

"Now you've gone too far--over into complete fantasy."

Posted by DeLong at August 7, 2005 08:30 PM