Farming Societies are more Advanced than Hunter and Gatherer Societies

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 24th, 2014

Week in Review

Why did the Europeans become the dominant people in the world?  Why did their colonies become some of the richest and most affluent nations?  Because when the Europeans entered those ships to cross the oceans they were farmers.  Having given up their hunter and gatherer past long ago (see DNA analysis solves the mystery of how Europeans came to be farmers by Steve Connor posted 4/24/2014 on The Independent).

It was the biggest cultural shift in European prehistory but the Stone Age transition from a lifestyle based on hunting animals and gathering wild berries to one built on farming and livestock was largely a mystery – until now.

A detailed analysis of the DNA extracted from the bones of 11 prehistoric Scandinavians who lived thousands of years ago around the Baltic Sea has shown that the transition from hunting to farming was more of a one-way takeover than previously supposed.

The genetic makeup of the people who lived through this cultural revolution has revealed that the incoming migrant farmers from southern Europe subsumed the indigenous hunter gatherers of the north, rather than the other way round, scientists said.

Farming people are more advanced than hunters and gatherers.  Because it takes knowledge and organization to master their environment and not live at its mercy.  Which is what hunters and gatherers must do.  As they travel across great expanses looking for food.  Food they can only eat if nature provides it.  And they can find it.  Whereas farmers can grow food and raise livestock.  On small farms.  And they can grow a surplus.  To carry them through winters.  And bad growing seasons.  While hunters and gatherers can only go hungry.  And die.

So farming societies are more advanced than hunter and gatherer societies.  Their knowledge and organization created food surpluses.  And economic activity.  Which created wealth.  This is why the Europeans went on to dominant the hunter and gatherers they met in the Americas, Australia, etc.  And why the transition from hunting to farming was a one-way takeover.  For advanced people have the knowledge, organization and wealth to dominant less advanced people who must live at the mercy of their environment.

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Hunters and Gatherers Live at the Mercy of their Environment, Farmers Control their Environment

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 26th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published October 18th, 2011)

We can Ultimately Blame Neanderthal’s Demise on the Hunter and Gatherer System

We’re Homo sapiens.  Neanderthals were here before us.  By a few hundred thousand years.  Give or take.  We have fossil evidence of their existence.  And we’ve been able to put them into the historical timeline.  But we’re not sure what happened to them.  For they were stronger than us.  And they had a similar brain size as ours.  Stronger and just as smart, you’d have to give them the edge when Homo sapiens met Neanderthal.  Yet here we are.  Homo sapiens.  Wondering what happened to Neanderthal man.

There are theories.  Neanderthal was adapted to live in the cold.  And he hunted cold-adapted mammals.  But then an ice age came.  And the temperatures fell.  It became too cold even for the cold-adapted.  The climate change pushed the 4-legged mammals south.  In search of food ahead of the advancing glaciers.  And Neanderthal followed.  Moving into what were at one time warmer climes.  Bumping into warmer-clime Homo sapiens.

The climatic change was rather sudden during this period.  One theory says that this rapid changing changed the environment.  Creating different plant and animal species.  And Neanderthal was unable to adapt.  Another theory says that as the glaciers advanced they just forced more people into a smaller area.  And they fought over a smaller food supply.  When the glaciers retreated, Homo sapiens then followed Neanderthals north.  And expanded into their hunting grounds.  Until they displaced them from the historical timeline.

Whatever happened one thing is sure.  We can ultimately blame their demise on the hunter and gatherer system.  Because this system requires large hunting grounds for survival.  Advancing glaciers reduced those hunting grounds.  Putting more people together in a smaller area.  Competing for limited food resources.  And they ultimately lost that competition.

The Hunter and Gatherer Culture Continued to do things as they had During the Stone Age

We can see a more recent example of the demise of a hunter and gatherer people.  In North America.  During the European colonization of that continent.

The North American continent is huge.  Much of it remains uninhabited to this date.  But it wasn’t big enough for the North American Indians and the Europeans.  Why?  The Indians were hunters and gatherers.  They needed a lot of land.  Each tribe had ‘braves’.  ‘Warriors’.  Soldiers.  Because they were a fighting people.  They had a warring culture.  They followed food.  Taking land from other tribes.  And protecting land from other tribes.  So they needed large numbers of warriors.  Which required large amounts of food.  And great expanses of land to hunt that food.

The Europeans, on the other hand, were farmers.  They could grow a lot of food.  And grow large populations on very small tracts of land.  They had higher population densities on their land.  They were better fed.  And they had a middle class thanks to a healthy food surplus.  Which created new technologies.  And provided tools and equipment to advance their civilization.  While the hunter and gatherer culture continued to do things as they had during the Stone Age.

Food Surpluses Created a Middle Class which allowed Advanced Civilizations

Hunters and gatherers live at the mercy of their environment.  Whereas farmers have taken control of their environment.  Creating food surpluses.  Which led to a middle class.  And to advanced civilizations.  Which is why they became the dominant civilization.  And displaced hunter and gatherer people from the historical timeline.  Simply by being a much more survivable people.  Because they took control of their environment.

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The Horse, Waterwheel, Steam Engine, Electricity, DC and AC Power, Power Transmission and Electric Motors

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 26th, 2012

Technology 101

(Original published December 21st, 2011)

A Waterwheel, Shaft, Pulleys and Belts made Power Transmission Complex

The history of man is the story of man controlling and shaping our environment.  Prehistoric man did little to change his environment.  But he started the process.  By making tools for the first time.  Over time we made better tools.  Taking us into the Bronze Age.  Where we did greater things.  The Sumerians and the Egyptians led their civilization in mass farming.  Created some of the first food surpluses in history.  In time came the Iron Age.  Better tools.  And better plows.  Fewer people could do more.  Especially when we attached an iron plow to one horsepower.  Or better yet, when horses were teamed together to produce 2 horsepower.  3 horsepower.  Even 4 horsepower.  The more power man harnessed the more work he was able to do.

This was the key to controlling and shaping our environment.  Converting energy into power.  A horse’s physiology can produce energy.  By feeding, watering and resting a horse we can convert that energy into power.  And with that power we can do greater work than we can do with our own physiology.  Working with horse-power has been the standard for millennia.  Especially for motive power.  Moving things.  Like dragging a plow.  But man has harnessed other energy.  Such as moving water.  Using a waterwheel.  Go into an old working cider mill in the fall and you’ll see how man made power from water by turning a wheel and a series of belts and pulleys.  The waterwheel turned a main shaft that ran the length of the work area.  On the shaft were pulleys.  Around these pulleys were belts that could be engaged to transfer power to a work station.  Where it would turn another pulley attached to a shaft.  Depending on the nature of the work task the rotational motion of the main shaft could be increased or decreased with gears.  We could change it from rotational to reciprocating motion.  We could even change the axis of rotation with another type of gearing.

This was a great step forward in advancing civilization.  But the waterwheel, shaft, pulleys and belts made power transmission complex.  And somewhat limited by the energy available in the moving water.  A great step forward was the steam engine.  A large external combustion engine.  Where an external firebox heated water to steam.  And then that steam pushed a piston in a cylinder.  The energy in expanding steam was far greater than in moving water.  It produced far more power.  And could do far more work.  We could do so much work with the steam engine that it kicked off the Industrial Revolution.

Nikola Tesla created an Electrical Revolution using AC Power

The steam engine also gave us more freedom.  We could now build a factory anywhere we wanted to.  And did.  We could do something else with it, too.  We could put it on tracks.  And use it to pull heavy loads across the country.  The steam locomotive interconnected the factories to the raw materials they consumed.  And to the cities that bought their finished goods.  At a rate no amount of teamed horses could equal.  Yes, the iron horse ended man’s special relationship with the horse.  Even on the farm.  Where steam engines powered our first tractors.  Giving man the ability to do more work than ever.  And grow more food than ever.  Creating greater food surpluses than the Sumerians and Egyptians could ever grow.  No matter how much of their fertile river banks they cultivated.  Or how much land they irrigated.

Steam engines were incredibly powerful.  But they were big.  And very complex.  They were ideal for the farm and the factory.  The steam locomotive and the steamship.  But one thing they were not good at was transmitting power over distances.  A limitation the waterwheel shared.  To transmit power from a steam engine required a complicated series of belts and pulleys.  Or multiple steam engines.  A great advance in technology changed all that.  Something Benjamin Franklin experimented with.  Something Thomas Edison did, too.  Even gave us one of the greatest inventions of all time that used this new technology.  The light bulb.  Powered by, of course, electricity.

Electricity.  That thing we can’t see, touch or smell.  And it moves mysteriously through wires and does work.  Edison did much to advance this technology.  Created electrical generators.  And lit our cities with his electric light bulb.  Electrical power lines crisscrossed our early cities.  And there were a lot of them.  Far more than we see today.  Why?  Because Edison’s power was direct current.  DC.  Which had some serious drawbacks when it came to power transmission.  For one it didn’t travel very far before losing much of its power. So electrical loads couldn’t be far from a generator.  And you needed a generator for each voltage you used.  That adds up to a lot of generators.  Great if you’re in the business of selling electrical generators.  Which Edison was.  But it made DC power costly.  And complex.  Which explained that maze of power lines crisscrossing our cities.  A set of wires for each voltage.  Something you didn’t need with alternating current.  AC.  And a young engineer working for George Westinghouse was about to give Thomas Edison a run for his money.  By creating an electrical revolution using that AC power.  And that’s just what Nikola Tesla did.

Transformers Stepped-up Voltages for Power Transmission and Stepped-down Voltages for Electrical Motors

An alternating current went back and forth through a wire.  It did not have to return to the electrical generator after leaving it.  Unlike a direct current ultimately had to.  Think of a reciprocating engine.  Like on a steam locomotive.  This back and forth motion doesn’t do anything but go back and forth.  Not very useful on a train.  But when we convert it to rotational motion, why, that’s a whole other story.  Because rotational motion on a train is very useful.  Just as AC current in transmission lines turned out to be very useful.

There are two electrical formulas that explain a lot of these developments.  First, electrical power (P) is equal to the voltage (V) multiplied by the current (I).  Expressed mathematically, P = V x I.  Second, current (I) is equal to the voltage (V) divided by the electrical resistance (R).  Mathematically, I = V/R.  That’s the math.  Here it is in words.  The greater the voltage and current the greater the power.  And the more work you can do.  However, we transmit current on copper wires.  And copper is expensive.  So to increase current we need to lower the resistance of that expensive copper wire.  But there’s only one way to do that.  By using very thick and expensive wires.  See where we’re going here?  Increasing current is a costly way to increase power.  Because of all that copper.  It’s just not economical.  So what about increasing voltage instead?  Turns out that’s very economical.  Because you can transmit great power with small currents if you step up the voltage.  And Nikola Tesla’s AC power allowed just that.  By using transformers.  Which, unfortunately for Edison, don’t work with DC power.

This is why Nikola Tesla’s AC power put Thomas Edison’s DC power out of business.  By stepping up voltages a power plant could send power long distances.  And then that high voltage could be stepped down to a variety of voltages and connected to factories (and homes).  Electric power could do one more very important thing.  It could power new electric motors.  And convert this AC power into rotational motion.  These electric motors came in all different sizes and voltages to suit the task at hand.  So instead of a waterwheel or a steam engine driving a main shaft through a factory we simply connected factories to the electric grid.  Then they used step-down transformers within the factory where needed for the various work tasks.  Connecting to electric motors on a variety of machines.  Where a worker could turn them on or off with the flick of a switch.  Without endangering him or herself by engaging or disengaging belts from a main drive shaft.  Instead the worker could spend all of his or her time on the task at hand.  Increasing productivity like never before.

Free Market Capitalism gave us Electric Power, the Electric Motor and the Roaring Twenties

What electric power and the electric motor did was reduce the size and complexity of energy conversion to useable power.  Steam engines were massive, complex and dangerous.  Exploding boilers killed many a worker.  And innocent bystander.  Electric power was simpler and safer to use.  And it was more efficient.  Horses were stronger than man.  But increasing horsepower required a lot of big horses that we also had to feed and care for.  Electric motors are smaller and don’t need to be fed.  Or be cleaned up after, for that matter.

Today a 40 pound electric motor can do the work of one 1,500 pound draft horse.  Electric power and the electric motor allow us to do work no amount of teamed horses can do.  And it’s safer and simpler than using a steam engine.  Which is why the Roaring Twenties roared.  It was in the 1920s that this technology began to power American industry.  Giving us the power to control and shape our environment like never before.  Vaulting America to the number one economic power of the world.  Thanks to free market capitalism.  And a few great minds along the way.

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Comparative Advantage and Free Trade

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 21st, 2012

Economics 101

Mercantilism benefited only Protected Industries which Profited Handsomely from Higher Consumer Prices  

The Age of Discovery ushered in the era of mercantilism.  An era of trade.  But protected trade.  Tariffs, quotas, protectionism, restrictions, subsidies, etc.  You name it they used it.  To favor their trade position and their domestic industries.  And to restrict that of everyone else.  For mercantilism was a zero-sum game.  You only did well if others did not.  A thought that still has traction today.  Especially in older, inefficient industries.  That cannot compete with international competition that provides better quality at lower prices.  Such as textiles.  Steel.  Automobiles.  The Americans protected these industries in the face of better foreign competition.  Which only hastened their decline.

A protected industry has no incentive to improve.  When protective tariffs raise prices of lower-priced and higher-quality imports consumers buy the inferior domestic goods.  Because the tariffs make the better goods more costly.  So when a business has a captive audience their only focus is in maintaining that protectionism giving them that advantage.  Not improving their quality.  Or improving their productivity to lower their prices.  Why?  Because they don’t have to.  So prices continue to rise to pay for inefficient labor and management.  And quality continues to decline due to the lack of real competition forcing them to continually provide a better product.  By improving designs.  Production methods.  And making capital investments in new machinery and equipment.

This is the cost of protectionism.  Poorer quality and higher prices.  Because of the misguided belief in the zero-sum game of mercantilism.  There was a reason why mercantilism was abandoned for free trade.  Because free trade was better.  For consumers.  Giving them lower prices and higher quality.  Whereas mercantilism benefited only those protected industries which profited handsomely from those higher consumer prices.  And the government officials who granted those favorable protectionist policies.

The Consumer gets Lower Prices AND Higher Quality thanks to the Division of Labor, Specialization and Comparative Advantage

As civilization advanced so did the division of labor.  People began to specialize.  Instead of growing our own food, making our own tools, spinning our own pottery, etc., we did only one thing.  And did it well.  Then we traded the things we made for the things we didn’t make.  This division of labor created a middle class.  And this middle class would take their goods to market to trade with other middle class artisans.  At first bartering with each other.  Trading good for good.  Then they introduced a temporary storage of value into the economy.  Money.  Making those trades easier by reducing search times.  Trading your goods for money.  And your money for goods.  Making life a lot simpler at the market.

Let’s take a closer look at the division of labor.  Let’s consider two artisans.  A toolmaker.   And a potter.  Both are skilled craftspeople.  And can make an assortment of goods.  But each excels at one particular skill.  The toolmaker can make 10 plows a day.  But if he makes 2 pottery bowls he can only make 4 plows in that same day.  The potter can make 12 pottery bowls in a day.  But if he makes 3 plows he can only make 5 pottery bowls in that same day.  Each can make more of their specialty.  But when they try to make other things in addition to their specialty they can’t make as much of their specialty as before.  So there is a cost to the toolmaker to make pottery.  To make 2 bowls cost the toolmaker 6 plows.  And there is a cost to the potter to make tools.  To make 3 plows cost the potter 7 bowls.  So the economy as a whole is better off when the toolmaker and the potter focus all of their energies in their own specialty.  When they do we get 10 plows and 12 bowls in one day.  When they don’t we only get 7 plows and 7 bowls.

We call this economic principle comparative advantage.  Where we look at economic output.  Which is what matters.  The more we bring to market the better it is for consumers.  Because greater quantities mean lower prices.  And when these skilled craftspeople focus on their specialty they improve the overall quality of the goods they bring to market.  So the consumer gets lower prices AND higher quality.  Thanks to the division of labor.  Specialization.  And comparative advantage.

We will always Have Jobs regardless the Size of our Imports for Having a Job is the Only Way to Buy those Imported Goods

If you multiply this over and over again to represent all the individual economic exchanges throughout the world you see why free trade is better than the protectionist policies of mercantilism.  Because it provides consumers with greater economic output at lower prices and higher quality.  This is why nations practicing free trade have the highest standards of living.  Because their people can walk into large department stores and fill their carts with inexpensive, high quality goods on a moderate paycheck.  Which could never happen if the mercantilists had their way.

The old inefficient industries want tariffs to increase the costs of those goods we fill our shopping carts with.  Including the food we eat.  And the cars we drive.  They use lofty arguments about protecting American jobs.  But those protectionist policies destroy jobs by increasing costs for businesses throughout the supply chain.  Raising consumer prices everywhere.  Reducing the amount of things we can buy.  Meaning businesses can’t grow and create new jobs.  Or they have to cut back production and eliminate existing jobs.

There’s also a lot of talk about the balance of payments.  Which actually meant something during the days of the gold standard.  For any trade deficits had to be paid for with gold.  But we don’t have the gold standard anymore.  Governments everywhere abandoned it in favor of irresponsible government spending.  So we don’t have to pay for trade deficits with gold.  Most money today is just electronic entries in a computer.  International capital flows have never been greater.  There are currency markets where people actively trade the world’s currencies.  So trade deficits don’t mean the same thing they once did in the mercantile world.  Then there’s the argument that if all our manufacturing jobs go overseas there will be no jobs for Americans.  If we import everything and export nothing there will be jobs everywhere but here.  Sounds like a problem.  But can that happen?  Not unless we get those imports for free.  So we will always have jobs regardless the size of our imports.  For having a job is the only way to buy the imported goods in those department stores.

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The Horse, Waterwheel, Steam Engine, Electricity, DC and AC Power, Power Transmission and Electric Motors

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 21st, 2011

Technology 101

A Waterwheel, Shaft, Pulleys and Belts made Power Transmission Complex

The history of man is the story of man controlling and shaping our environment.  Prehistoric man did little to change his environment.  But he started the process.  By making tools for the first time.  Over time we made better tools.  Taking us into the Bronze Age.  Where we did greater things.  The Sumerians and the Egyptians led their civilization in mass farming.  Created some of the first food surpluses in history.  In time came the Iron Age.  Better tools.  And better plows.  Fewer people could do more.  Especially when we attached an iron plow to one horsepower.  Or better yet, when horses were teamed together to produce 2 horsepower.  3 horsepower.  Even 4 horsepower.  The more power man harnessed the more work he was able to do.

This was the key to controlling and shaping our environment.  Converting energy into power.  A horse’s physiology can produce energy.  By feeding, watering and resting a horse we can convert that energy into power.  And with that power we can do greater work than we can do with our own physiology.  Working with horse-power has been the standard for millennia.  Especially for motive power.  Moving things.  Like dragging a plow.  But man has harnessed other energy.  Such as moving water.  Using a waterwheel.  Go into an old working cider mill in the fall and you’ll see how man made power from water by turning a wheel and a series of belts and pulleys.  The waterwheel turned a main shaft that ran the length of the work area.  On the shaft were pulleys.  Around these pulleys were belts that could be engaged to transfer power to a work station.  Where it would turn another pulley attached to a shaft.  Depending on the nature of the work task the rotational motion of the main shaft could be increased or decreased with gears.  We could change it from rotational to reciprocating motion.  We could even change the axis of rotation with another type of gearing.

This was a great step forward in advancing civilization.  But the waterwheel, shaft, pulleys and belts made power transmission complex.  And somewhat limited by the energy available in the moving water.  A great step forward was the steam engine.  A large external combustion engine.  Where an external firebox heated water to steam.  And then that steam pushed a piston in a cylinder.  The energy in expanding steam was far greater than in moving water.  It produced far more power.  And could do far more work.  We could do so much work with the steam engine that it kicked off the Industrial Revolution.

Nikola Tesla created an Electrical Revolution using AC Power

The steam engine also gave us more freedom.  We could now build a factory anywhere we wanted to.  And did.  We could do something else with it, too.  We could put it on tracks.  And use it to pull heavy loads across the country.  The steam locomotive interconnected the factories to the raw materials they consumed.  And to the cities that bought their finished goods.  At a rate no amount of teamed horses could equal.  Yes, the iron horse ended man’s special relationship with the horse.  Even on the farm.  Where steam engines powered our first tractors.  Giving man the ability to do more work than ever.  And grow more food than ever.  Creating greater food surpluses than the Sumerians and Egyptians could ever grow.  No matter how much of their fertile river banks they cultivated.  Or how much land they irrigated.

Steam engines were incredibly powerful.  But they were big.  And very complex.  They were ideal for the farm and the factory.  The steam locomotive and the steamship.  But one thing they were not good at was transmitting power over distances.  A limitation the waterwheel shared.  To transmit power from a steam engine required a complicated series of belts and pulleys.  Or multiple steam engines.  A great advance in technology changed all that.  Something Benjamin Franklin experimented with.  Something Thomas Edison did, too.  Even gave us one of the greatest inventions of all time that used this new technology.  The light bulb.  Powered by, of course, electricity.

Electricity.  That thing we can’t see, touch or smell.  And it moves mysteriously through wires and does work.  Edison did much to advance this technology.  Created electrical generators.  And lit our cities with his electric light bulb.  Electrical power lines crisscrossed our early cities.  And there were a lot of them.  Far more than we see today.  Why?  Because Edison’s power was direct current.  DC.  Which had some serious drawbacks when it came to power transmission.  For one it didn’t travel very far before losing much of its power. So electrical loads couldn’t be far from a generator.  And you needed a generator for each voltage you used.  That adds up to a lot of generators.  Great if you’re in the business of selling electrical generators.  Which Edison was.  But it made DC power costly.  And complex.  Which explained that maze of power lines crisscrossing our cities.  A set of wires for each voltage.  Something you didn’t need with alternating current.  AC.  And a young engineer working for George Westinghouse was about to give Thomas Edison a run for his money.  By creating an electrical revolution using that AC power.  And that’s just what Nikola Tesla did.

Transformers Stepped-up Voltages for Power Transmission and Stepped-down Voltages for Electrical Motors

An alternating current went back and forth through a wire.  It did not have to return to the electrical generator after leaving it.  Unlike a direct current ultimately had to.  Think of a reciprocating engine.  Like on a steam locomotive.  This back and forth motion doesn’t do anything but go back and forth.  Not very useful on a train.  But when we convert it to rotational motion, why, that’s a whole other story.  Because rotational motion on a train is very useful.  Just as AC current in transmission lines turned out to be very useful.

There are two electrical formulas that explain a lot of these developments.  First, electrical power (P) is equal to the voltage (V) multiplied by the current (I).  Expressed mathematically, P = V x I.  Second, current (I) is equal to the voltage (V) divided by the electrical resistance (R).  Mathematically, I = V/R.  That’s the math.  Here it is in words.  The greater the voltage and current the greater the power.  And the more work you can do.  However, we transmit current on copper wires.  And copper is expensive.  So to increase current we need to lower the resistance of that expensive copper wire.  But there’s only one way to do that.  By using very thick and expensive wires.  See where we’re going here?  Increasing current is a costly way to increase power.  Because of all that copper.  It’s just not economical.  So what about increasing voltage instead?  Turns out that’s very economical.  Because you can transmit great power with small currents if you step up the voltage.  And Nikola Tesla’s AC power allowed just that.  By using transformers.  Which, unfortunately for Edison, don’t work with DC power.

This is why Nikola Tesla’s AC power put Thomas Edison’s DC power out of business.  By stepping up voltages a power plant could send power long distances.  And then that high voltage could be stepped down to a variety of voltages and connected to factories (and homes).  Electric power could do one more very important thing.  It could power new electric motors.  And convert this AC power into rotational motion.  These electric motors came in all different sizes and voltages to suit the task at hand.  So instead of a waterwheel or a steam engine driving a main shaft through a factory we simply connected factories to the electric grid.  Then they used step-down transformers within the factory where needed for the various work tasks.  Connecting to electric motors on a variety of machines.  Where a worker could turn them on or off with the flick of a switch.  Without endangering him or herself by engaging or disengaging belts from a main drive shaft.  Instead the worker could spend all of his or her time on the task at hand.  Increasing productivity like never before.

Free Market Capitalism gave us Electric Power, the Electric Motor and the Roaring Twenties

What electric power and the electric motor did was reduce the size and complexity of energy conversion to useable power.  Steam engines were massive, complex and dangerous.  Exploding boilers killed many a worker.  And innocent bystander.  Electric power was simpler and safer to use.  And it was more efficient.  Horses were stronger than man.  But increasing horsepower required a lot of big horses that we also had to feed and care for.  Electric motors are smaller and don’t need to be fed.  Or be cleaned up after, for that matter.

Today a 40 pound electric motor can do the work of one 1,500 pound draft horse.  Electric power and the electric motor allow us to do work no amount of teamed horses can do.  And it’s safer and simpler than using a steam engine.  Which is why the Roaring Twenties roared.  It was in the 1920s that this technology began to power American industry.  Giving us the power to control and shape our environment like never before.  Vaulting America to the number one economic power of the world.  Thanks to free market capitalism.  And a few great minds along the way.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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Religion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 14th, 2011

Economics 101

Living Together in Large Cities goes against a Million Years or so of Evolution

Agriculture advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us a division of labor.  The division of labor gave us trade.  Money made that trade more efficient.  By reducing high search costs inherent in the barter system.  And this efficient trade gave us advanced civilizations.  For these developments allowed great gatherings of people to live together in urban settings.  Well, these things, and something else.

For a million years or so man was a hunting and gathering species.  Which meant they traveled in small groups.  And followed food.  Why small groups?  Fewer mouths to feed.  Remember, hunters and gatherers need a lot of land to survive.  Because food wasn’t so plentiful in any one area.  And the last thing they wanted when they found food was to share it.  So when they weren’t killing their food they were killing those trying to take their food.  Which was the key to survival.  For he who eats today shall live to see tomorrow.  When the Europeans settled North America the Native Americans were still hunters and gatherers.  And they were a martial people.  Fierce warriors populated their tribes.  Why?  To protect tribal hunting grounds.  By killing any interlopers.  And they were doing this long before the Europeans set foot onto the continent.

So living together in large cities goes against a million years or so of evolution.  Which is why it didn’t happen overnight.  The transition from hunting and gathering to farming.  Before we could work together we had to learn to live together first.  And it all started with thinking.

Religion allowed People to Live Together like Family who were not Family

As we thought and developed better tools and better ways to farm we started thinking about something else, too.  Why are we here?  Who created ‘here’?  Why did the creator create ‘here’?  And what happens when we leave ‘here’?  After we die?  To answer these questions we developed religion.  And it brought us together as a people.

This is truly what separated us from the animals.  Because animals can use tools.  A bird can hold a stick in its beak to probe a hole for food.  But birds don’t worship.  They don’t have faith.  Only man does.  Because we started thinking about other things.  To see the bigger picture.  To understand this life.  And the next life.  Spiritually.  And this was the key to allowing great gatherings of people to live together in urban settings.  Religion allowed people to live together like family.  Who were not family.  Because we shared a common faith.  A religion.

Man was still cruel, though.  We spent a million years or so being cruel.  And that capacity to be cruel just didn’t go away.  But religion softened us.  It began a process to soothe the savage breast.  It allowed us to see something in people that wasn’t threatening.  And it allowed civilization to flourish.  Despite our cruelties.  Which were now reserved for those outside our own civilization.  Our enemies.  Heretics.  Especially those who attacked us.  And it was on these people, those who did not share our common faith, that we unleashed that repressed cruelty.

Religion Allowed us to Live in Crowded, Urban Cities Creating Commerce and Trade

A lot of atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.  This is true.  But sharing a common faith united us like nothing else could.  For our faith was bigger than us.  We learned to live by moral codes.  We worked together.  Voluntarily.  For the betterment of the cities we lived in.  And to serve our god(s).  In cities that priest-kings typically ruled over.  Guided by our religious beliefs.

Everything we did was for that spiritual journey.  Working hard in this life.  All the while preparing for the afterlife.  Bringing the people of a common faith together.  We became so close to each other that for the first time in history we could live in crowded, urban cities.  Creating commerce and trade.  In an advanced civilization.  None of which would have been possible if religion hadn’t softened up that cruelty within.  Instilled in us for the past million or so years.

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Advanced Civilization takes a Huge Step Forward with the Bronze Age

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 2nd, 2011

Technology 101

Bronze gave the Artisans the Tools to Unleash their Human Capital and Increase the Quality of Life

Two things put man at the top of the food chain.  The ability to think.  And hands that could build the things we thought of.  In particular, tools.  First it was sharpened sticks and antlers.  Stone and flint.  These were steps forward.  But the quality of these tools was poor.  They weren’t ideal.  They were the best we could chip out from what we could find.  And they didn’t hold a sharp edge very long.  But that all changed with metallurgy.

Enter the Bronze Age.  Where man could cast pretty much any tool he thought of.  By pouring molten metal into a mold.  This was a huge step forward.  Because we could make tools to fit the job.  Any job.  They were strong, too.  And could hold a sharp edge for a longer time.  This exploded the growth of cities.  Farms.  And urban life.  Artisans now had the tools to unleash their human capital.  Cities became rich in finished goods.  Things that increased the quality of life.  And attracted the attention of envious neighbors.  And the uncivilized barbarians beyond the civilized frontier.

With bronze they could make better weapons to defend themselves.  And they did.  The Sumerians used bronze to create one of the most formidable defensive units of the time.  The phalanx.  A formation of soldiers armed with bronze-tipped spears.  This spear could reach further than a sword.  So swordsmen attacking a phalanx were at a disadvantage.  The phalanx could stab with the spear before the swordsman could stab with his sword.  The same principle of the defensive mechanism of the porcupine.  The phalanx was such a formidable defensive unit that it saw service for many centuries.  Letting civilizations grow because they could defend themselves from their envious neighbors.

It took Regional and Long Distant Trade to get the Copper and Tin to Smelt into Bronze

The Stone Age lasted a long time.  And the change to the Bronze Age didn’t happen overnight.  Because you don’t mine bronze.  You make it.  When you melt two or more metals together.  And the two most popular metals of the time were copper.  And tin.

The Sumerians used bronze tools and weapons.  But the Fertile Crescent didn’t have any ore deposits.  So the metals necessary to make bronze were not indigenous to the Fertile Crescent.  That land between the Euphrates and the Tigris.  So how did a people with no ore deposits smelt copper and tin into bronze?  Trade.

You have to dig copper out of the ground.  You have to dig tin out of the ground.  And you typically don’t dig copper and tin out of the same mine.  Worse, tin wasn’t as close to the Sumerians as copper was.  So it took regional trade.  And long distant trade.  To get the ore to smelt into bronze.

Trade gave us the Bronze Age and Advanced Civilizations

The Bronze Age created advanced civilizations.  But it took an advanced civilization to make bronze.  So what came first?  The Bronze Age?  Or advanced civilization?  That’s an easy answer.  Trade.

An advanced civilization could create great things.  As long as they had the ingredients to make those things.  Some of these things were indigenous to their civilization.  A lot of them were not.  So you traded.  To get the things you needed but didn’t have.  With the things you had.  And the things you built.  From both.

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Hunters and Gatherers Live at the Mercy of their Environment, Farmers Control their Environment

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 18th, 2011

History 101

We can Ultimately Blame Neanderthal’s Demise on the Hunter and Gatherer System

We’re Homo sapiens.  Neanderthals were here before us.  By a few hundred thousand years.  Give or take.  We have fossil evidence of their existence.  And we’ve been able to put them into the historical timeline.  But we’re not sure what happened to them.  For they were stronger than us.  And they had a similar brain size as ours.  Stronger and just as smart, you’d have to give them the edge when Homo sapiens met Neanderthal.  Yet here we are.  Homo sapiens.  Wondering what happened to Neanderthal man.

There are theories.  Neanderthal was adapted to live in the cold.  And he hunted cold-adapted mammals.  But then an ice age came.  And the temperatures fell.  It became too cold even for the cold-adapted.  The climate change pushed the 4-legged mammals south.  In search of food ahead of the advancing glaciers.  And Neanderthal followed.  Moving into what were at one time warmer climes.  Bumping into warmer-clime Homo sapiens.

The climatic change was rather sudden during this period.  One theory says that this rapid changing changed the environment.  Creating different plant and animal species.  And Neanderthal was unable to adapt.  Another theory says that as the glaciers advanced they just forced more people into a smaller area.  And they fought over a smaller food supply.  When the glaciers retreated, Homo sapiens then followed Neanderthals north.  And expanded into their hunting grounds.  Until they displaced them from the historical timeline.

Whatever happened one thing is sure.  We can ultimately blame their demise on the hunter and gatherer system.  Because this system requires large hunting grounds for survival.  Advancing glaciers reduced those hunting grounds.  Putting more people together in a smaller area.  Competing for limited food resources.  And they ultimately lost that competition.

The Hunter and Gatherer Culture Continued to do things as they had During the Stone Age

We can see a more recent example of the demise of a hunter and gatherer people.  In North America.  During the European colonization of that continent.

The North American continent is huge.  Much of it remains uninhabited to this date.  But it wasn’t big enough for the North American Indians and the Europeans.  Why?  The Indians were hunters and gatherers.  They needed a lot of land.  Each tribe had ‘braves’.  ‘Warriors’.  Soldiers.  Because they were a fighting people.  They had a warring culture.  They followed food.  Taking land from other tribes.  And protecting land from other tribes.  So they needed large numbers of warriors.  Which required large amounts of food.  And great expanses of land to hunt that food.

The Europeans, on the other hand, were farmers.  They could grow a lot of food.  And grow large populations on very small tracts of land.  They had higher population densities on their land.  They were better fed.  And they had a middle class thanks to a healthy food surplus.  Which created new technologies.  And provided tools and equipment to advance their civilization.  While the hunter and gatherer culture continued to do things as they had during the Stone Age.

Food Surpluses Created a Middle Class which allowed Advanced Civilizations

Hunters and gatherers live at the mercy of their environment.  Whereas farmers have taken control of their environment.  Creating food surpluses.  Which led to a middle class.  And to advanced civilizations.  Which is why they became the dominant civilization.  And displaced hunter and gatherer people from the historical timeline.  Simply by being a much more survivable people.  Because they took control of their environment.

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