March 2007

Question: Could the sciences and the arts—even writing itself—have appeared, and survive, without technology and ‘progress?'

Could disconnected hunter-gatherer tribes ever have formed common language, or common writings?

Would it be possible for a series of loosely connected, individually governed hunter-gatherer tribes to build and maintain any kind of shared technological infrastructure?

Nato commented:

In my humble opinion, it would be somewhat difficult. Progress means less time is devoted to finding necessities, which means more time spent on stuff like sciences, arts, and blogging.

Also, modern Science needs a lot of infrastructure, which you wouldn't have in a hunter-gatherer culture. Think metals for precise measurements, electricity as a basis for magnetism, and all sorts of consequent breakthroughs, sanitation as a basis for biology. Science and techonology tend to go hand in hand? Or maybe I just can't concieve of science outside of our technological culture?

Christina commented:

To follow on from Nato's comment, what infrastructure, common/shared knowledge or collective 'arts' (e.g. common myths and stories) any tribe may have had would have been stored and maintained via oral tradition. All the tribe members would've learnt and recited these by heart (and believe me, back in the day, their memories were the shiz for storing insane amounts of knowledge). Generic tribal stories probably would have had important information embedded in them, e.g. how to hunt, how to sharpen your spear or cook a woolly mammoth, that kind of thing.

From what I've heard, there is a certain amount of evidence to suggest this kind of thing was (and in very isolated areas today, still is) going on in hunter-gatherer tribes.

'Progress'? Not sure exactly what you're meaning by that - I'm going to assume for the purposes of this post that it's a natural human progression stemming from learning and developing new things - which has always happened, not just recently :P

Hmmm... I don't know if I've actually answered the question there... shrug