Over the past 200,000 years since Homo sapiens evolved, something extraordinary happened. Somehow, we went from being clever monkeys with stone tools, to being insanely brilliant masterminds who use complex language, and control the planet with agriculture and technology. How did we start the intelligence explosion that anthropologists call the “human revolution”?
Perhaps one of the biggest mysteries in our evolution is how humans developed symbolic culture, a very general catch-all term that includes things like art, language, personal adornment, weapons, and rituals like funerals. Symbolic culture is what sets humans apart from other species, and yet it also seems to pre-date the emergence of Homo sapiens. We find plenty of stone tools in Africa before 200,000 years ago, as well as evidence of fire pits and art-making. Our Homo erectus ancestors were throwing spears and making colorful paint from pigments thousands of years before we evolved.
Ravitch is the queen. If only the government would listen…
We would also address poverty directly. We would increase the minimum wage and make post-secondary education cheap or free, and we’d improve improve unemployment benefits and offer free job-training to the unemployed.
These are not radical, liberal ideas. In fact, in Europe most of them are associated with the more conservative parties, and many of them were associated with the American Republican party in the 80s. But the United States’s political climate is so different from anywhere else in the industrialized world that I fear we will just continue to get farther behind in education (and in % of people living in poverty) until we decide to make some big domestic investments.