Wild to Civilized
From small nomadic packs
in the African wilderness . . .
. . . to megacities linked in
a global indusrial civilization
To consist of several chapters including the following:
Freedom & tyranny: atomized individuals
Loneliness & depression
Are bureaucracies incompetent?
The "bubble" theory of human perception and language (see draft below)
Schooling: A factory that fails
Civilization’s trade-offs: wealth & slavery
The future of industrial civilization: Time to decentralize?
Toward a science of society: World History Mapping Project
The "bubble" theory of perception and conception
We all live our daily lives in a “bubble.” Each one of us has a bubble around us at each moment in time, at every moment in time. We only know what we can see or hear within the bubble, what is immediately visible or audible or perceptible by our senses. We cannot see and know what is beyond our own bubble except with certain skills we have invented.
As we evolved from apes into modern Homo sapiens, we developed skills like language, writing, and other modes of communication that often refer to things outside our visual, auditory, and sensory boundaries. They are the only way we know about all the things we cannot observe directly with our eyes or hear with our ears.
"Living in a bubble means to live in one's own world, completely isolated from what is happening all around. A person living in a bubble can't see or perceive out-of-sight events around him as he is too engrossed in the little world he has created for himself.”
“Bubble” is perhaps a bad metaphor, but the essential characteristics of our human experience moment by moment are similar to a bubble. A bubble has a clear boundary; we can only know what is inside the bubble, nothing beyond that boundary. Moreover, a bubble’s boundary is flexible and changing. If we turn our heads or move to another location, the bubble changes. We walk out the front door, and we are in a new bubble. We drive to work, passing through a succession of bubbles.
For each of us, the bubble we live in is what we see and sense in our immediate environment at any moment. At the present moment, as I sit before my computer writing this essay, I can see my computer screen and mouse, I can see the clutter of objects all over my worktable, I can see the room in which my worktable sits and the room’s various furniture and contents. I can see partially into other rooms attached to my immediate room, such as partial views of the kitchen, of our entry hall, of an opening to my wife’s office, and of a hallway leading to our bedroom and master bath.
These visible areas in front of me and around me are my bubble at this moment. Everyone lives in a similar bubble of their own.
The “bubble” metaphor applies to the convoluted shape of what we can see from any given position at any given moment, a shape that we can change if we turn our head or move to a new location. Whatever is not visible from my current position – say, the refrigerator in the kitchen or the wall behind our pantry cabinet or the additional pile of clutter on the other side of a divider on my worktable.
How do we know what is beyond our bubble? One way is to move to another location and see whatever we can see from that location. If I move to a new location in my house, I get a different view in my bubble. As I go to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, for example, I can experience exiting through our front door, going to our car in the driveway, getting in it, backing out of the driveway, and driving through various streets lined with houses and then stores, then parking and entering the pharmacy, moving through aisles of products to the pharmacy window, and picking up my prescription. Thankfully, we have memory, so that all these experiences that we see in one location can be related to what we see in other locations and held in some kind of image in our brains. I have a general sense of where the pharmacy exits in a kind of map in my brain that includes my home and the streets and houses and stores on the way to the pharmacy.
My brain, however, does not remember all the details in my bubble visions. We have a mental capacity, called “gestalt” perception, that allows us to distinguish an object from its environment. We focus on the object – say, a clock on the wall – but our brain is aware of the existence of more in our bubble, a kind of hazy “image” that tells us the rough contents of everything around the object….
As we evolved into Homo sapiens, we started without language in the earliest stages, such at Homo habilis, who is considered the first to use stone tools (although wooden tools likely preexisted stone tools but have disintegrated and are lost to us). Perhaps our first word was “stone” or its equivalent, a word that we might use to communicate with others, a word that organizes a multitude of objects in our sensory experience into a single conceptual category. "Word" is perhaps the first concept as well as the first word.
As our technology developed, as we shaped stones into arrow tips and tied them to a slender, straight arrow shaft with a feather at the tail end to help steer it straight, our words likely developed, in large part to be able to communicate to fellow tribe members and the younger generation on the ways to create a bow and arrow,. The bow-and-arrow culture of prehistoric Africa was a critical development coinciding with when we arrived at and became Homo sapiens, with our anatomically modern bodies and brains. In other words, our brains today began at a time when our social and technological developments required just a much “brain power” as we have today – not necessarily exactly the same, but capable of the same kinds of brain processes, of words and concepts linked into coherent “pictures” in our brains about the environment that we live in and all its aspects: the people we relate to, the people we consider enemies, the process of procreation, the environment we wandered through with all its resources that we used for our survival.
[This is a first, rough draft, with the last paragraphs drafted on 8-8-2023]
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