it’s all those tools!

So. Looking at what appears to be quite a comprehensive graph on Wikipedia of demographic history over the last 12,000 years. Estimates stay stable of 4 up to 7 million until about 4000 BC and then start to move up plateauing somewhere around 170 million by 1000 A.D.

It’s all those tools that are doing it – keeping us at the 4 – 7 as well. Allowing us to embellish a sense of control. And making practically an impossibility of countering the power those tools give. So once they grow there’s no going back.

That’s been one of the historiographical inclusions: that the dark ages in Europe were not a going back or a losing but rather an intense period of reflection. We were returned to perhaps at times more unfettered and local power. But the great tools of classical civilisation continued to be forged. And what emerges out of it is not a period of stasis, not a dark age but one of massive intellectual light. Great feasting and drinking.

So there’s no going back except that with population there is a limit. It does require extraordinary organisation. The manipulation of all tools at our disposal.

I asked Kaius what he considered not to be human about himself. What of his actions could he identify that did not involve the use of tools. I’m afraid I remember my answer more than his but we agreed. Laughter. Tears. Eventually we moved towards the idea that levels of cognition which we associate with animals find their parity in the human animal behaviour by things that did not involve or apparently involve words. And if you strip away all the things that involve words and understanding them – at least to comply with an instruction or to do something you have conceptually required of yourself?

You look for balance in things while assuming there is always a constant balance in everything.

A balance that puts you entirely out of control but no more so than anybody else.

Thought like this doesn’t emerge just from luxury. It also emerges from its opposite.

By Waldir – Own work, based on the data of File:Population curve.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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