Monday, November 29, 2010

Educating Neanderthals

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We now know that Neanderthals were symbolic thinkers, probably made art, had exquisite tools and bigger brains. Does that mean they were smarter?

Evidence shows that over the last 30,000 years there has been an overall decrease in brain size and the trend seems to be continuing. That's because we can outsource our intelligence. I don't need to remember as much as a Neanderthal because I have a computer. I don't need such a dangerous and expensive-to-maintain biology any more. I would argue that humans are going to continue to get less biologically intelligent.

In summary, earlier humans not only were stronger, faster than us, they were also smarter. But smart here means "Rain Man smart"; they had more computational power in their biology. After we created technology in its many forms, we could outsource intelligence, which then shaped our evolution. I write on a piece of paper, learn to study a different way, I change my thinking habits, this effects the next generation.

It is obvious our education system is badly organized and ill suited for post-modern world due to the adverse effects of the Industrial Revolution. But another effect on its organization could be stemming from our "Neanderthal Ideal" -- maybe we are trying to recreate the earlier Neanderthal, that is create an "ubermensch". We mistakenly assume people need to hold stuff in their heads, "survive in a jungle", be strong, be fast (this is especially pushed through competitive sports that are absolutely inappropiate for blood types A, B and AB by the way -walking, swimming, etc are fine-).

But as the passage above indicates, we evolved according to our technology, and this trend will continue. In that case, computers must be #1 item in any student's arsenal. We should not try to recreate a Neanderthal, instead, a new breed of thinker who can use today's technology to its utmost potential.

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[1] An example of the Neanderthal Ideal in art is Superman story. Superman is basically a Neanderthal. But the more we move away from this ideal, because of our technology, the more irrelevant the story becomes. In fact, TV and Holywood dont know how to handle the typical Superman story anymore. Smallville took him to his earlier years (underdeveloped Neanderthal, fun to watch) while the movie Superman Returns bombed at the box office. But, stories of technologically augmented humans (Batman, Iron Man) are doing just fine.

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