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The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution (MacSci) by [Taylor, Timothy]
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The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution (MacSci) Kindle Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Length: 257 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

'Taylor is an engaging and entertaining writer...this is a stimulating book...' - Engineering and Technology
 
'Taylor is a good storyteller.' -Antiquity

Book Description

A new take on the evolutionary story as archaeological evidence unravels the great mystery of why human evolution defies the principles of natural selection

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2500 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (20 July 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003UES8UM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #437,385 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book presents the hypothesis that tools had and have critical impacts on the evolution of humanity: "instead of our becoming intelligent enough to invent things, the things actually allowed us to evolve into intelligent human beings (page 57)," going even further to claim that "Technology is at least as critical to our identity as out soft tissues" (page 189). Going beyond accepted theories of genetic and cultural coevolution, the author proposed revisions of Darwin's theories so as to recognize tools into a main shaper of the human species, with technology having a dynamics of its own, up to claiming that "Things rule us" (page 160).
He makes a strong case about the crucial importance of tools in shaping human evolution. Indeed, we might do well to stop using the term genetic-cultural coevolution and think instead in terms of genetic-cultural synergetic interaction. But there are two main missing links in his argumentation. First of all, the book does not present any reasonable conjectures on the processes producing the results he describes. Thus, on the critical example of infant-carrying slings he says that they were "an essential tool" (page 122) because of the need to carry infants for long distances "So the pressure to make this discovery....is huge...It becomes conceivable that the first bestoke and standardized stone tools...were made in order to obtain the materials for... the simple fabrication process for basic slings" (page 123). Maybe this is conceivable, but "being conceivable" is a far cry from "being likely" even if we accept abduction as a reasonable logic of discovery.
The second missing link concerns the mental bases of advanced technologies, which are not a continuation of stone-age technologies but depend on science and its philosophical underpinnings.
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Format: Hardcover
Timothy Taylor has written a most thought provoking book following on from and in line with the recent publication by Richard Wrangham: Catching Fire how cooking made us human. The central thesis is that the evolution of humans has been dominated by the ability to adopt technology which compared to other species amounts to an artificial selection. Through technology the laws of nature are supplanted by the will of humans. He develops the concept that we did not evolve to use technology because of our superior intelligence but it was technology itself that was the evolutionary pull which we responded to and adapted by evolving our intelligence. This pull selected out the trend/evolution to higher intelligence.
Examples are given which the author concludes launched humans on the technology/evolutionary line some 2.6 Million years ago. These include the making of hunting implements and cooking to become more efficient in the use of food which resulted in more energy becoming available to support the evolution of larger more intelligent brains. In addition, he highlights the less appreciated technology developed to support immature infants by adapting energy efficient means for carrying them such as slings and rucksacks. While the discovery of stone implements which define the technology developed for hunting; arrow heads, axes and implements for cleaving and slicing carcasses, the technology of carry infants would not have been preserved i.e. archeologically invisible.
An illustration on how dependant we are on technology is succinctly given by how far we have lost direct contact with the raw source of our food which is termed "visceral insulation." Getting back to nature is not an option for us as we have never lived with nature.
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Format: Hardcover
This book pretends to be academic and informed - at least I get that impression by the prominent 'PhD' qualification advertised alongside the author. Its subject matter is basically the way we live and that of the series of Homo species before us. This subject is ecology, and it is immediately obvious that the author has no experience of humans living in remote societies without - until 50 years ago - electricity, money or wheeled vehicles. He would have found their lives to contradict his repeated claim of how weak our bodies have become. Nope, not in the far back of beyond they haven't. I've seen a team of men run down a fully-grown wild yak. And babies are not dumped on the ground in remote places in order for their mothers to work but kept in contact with the mother's body in a sling, When the baby reaches 3 -4 years it can carry a baby on its back, and ride a horse bareback, and tell good wild food from poisonous. And what about tribes in the Amazon or New Guinea - they survived without the 20th century until forcibly brought into contact with our world.

He says that human bodies have become more 'gracile'; slender, shorter, thin-boned since the stone ages. That depends. In the Sahara a slender people was replaced by a tall, stocky, race about 8000 years ago. In the Himalaya, there are Sherpas who tend to be small and short but also Kampas - people of the district of Kam in Tibet, who are noticeably tall.

He cites computers playing chess as their having great (artificial) intelligence. Nope - that's merely a greater amount of active memory and holding a lot more than 7 items in your 'head' at once.
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