According to the ancient Greeks, humans can only acquire higher knowledge and insights,
when we have Self Knowledge. And, in order to know oneself, one must understand things like:
Human behavior, morals and thoughts. But is is also important to know where we came from!

And that is what Stringers book, Origin of our Species, is all about! And what a brilliant book it is.
See: Origin of our Species.

Sure, our Human Lineage might be somewhat older than we once thought.
See: The Human Lineage.

So, ok, we might have been around longer than we once thought.
Still, what a wild and crazy ride we have been on in the last 100.000 years....
Everything has changed, even the color of our skin ...
We started out black and then turned white ..... (See: Our Pale Skin) ....

Surely, if the future is going to be anything like the past,
we better start learning some mindtricks in order to be able to cope (See: Mind Tricks).

For more (about) happiness in the future, see: Know Thyself and Startup Economy.


Simon Laub

Know Thyself - The Origin of our Species.

Amazon review (5 stars out of 5)
of Chris Stringers book ''The Orgin of our Species''.

October 14th, 2012 by Simon Laub.

According to the ancient Greeks, humans can only acquire higher knowledge and insights, when we have Self Knowledge
(See: Know Thyself).

In order to know oneself one must understand things like human behavior, morals and thoughts. But is is also important to know where we came from!
And that is what Stringers book all about!

Sure, the story about our origins is still a story with a lot of uncertainties. Humanity's past is in no way a simple story. As we go back in time, we find a bush of human-like species, sub-species and variants, some advanced-looking ones coming in rather early and some primitive ones staying late.
But Stringer steers the reader through the mess and tries to maintain a consistent picture of what might have happened. Eventually, giving us the best answer science can give today to questions like: Do all humans originate from Africa? How did we spread across the globe? Are we separate from Neanderthals? etc.

''Mitochondrial Eve'':

According to Allan Wilson, Rebecca Cann and Mark Stonekings so-called ''Mitochondrial Eve'' hypothesis, differences in human mtDNA makes it possible to estimate the time, and the place, where modern humans first evolved.
I.e. human mtDNA is genetically much less diverse than chimpanzee mtDNA, which lead Wilson to conclude that modern human races had diverged recently from a single population. Further analysis, of mtDNA from people with different racial backgrounds, lead Wilsons team to conclude that all modern humans had evolved from one ''lucky mother'' (''Mitochondrial Eve'') in Africa about 150,000 years ago.
Results that seemed to provide strong evidence for a recent African Origin for modern humans. An expansion out of Africa that had replaced populations living elsewhere, along with their mtDNA lineages.

What makes us human? Cave art and Flutes?

Some believe: ''that genetic changes unique to modern humans rewired our brains 50.000 years ago, making us behavioural modern at a stroke'' [p. 114]. But, for Stringer there is no single ''right answer'' to the question of our behavioural origins:
What we have seen sofar is that there are many interconnected strands to modern human behaviour, ranging from our enhanced mind reading talents, symbolism, artistic and musical expression, to rituals and religion [p. 137].
According to Stringer, many different changes play together to make us human.
Even music is an important part of what makes us human!

Indeed, music is probably closely linked to the evolution of language, and complex modern human societies (where it cements social relationships). In group rituals, music can be used as symbolic communication.
And, music and art has been with us for a long time. The oldest flute ever discovered may be the so-called Divje Babe flute (43,000 years old). A bone flute form the Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany is at least 35,000 years old: ''Finds that demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe'' (See: Prehistoric Music).
Indeed, it has been suggested that the discovery of flutes this old may help to explain why early humans survived, while Neanderthals became extinct [1]. Simply put, humans had advanced cooperating societies (better and bigger social networks, where we could copy good tricks from one another). Something the Neanderthals might not have had to the same degree.

Social life around campfires.

Indeed, humans might have been sitting around campfires, being social for a very long time indeed. Certainly, fire has been a vital aid in human survival for at least 800.000 years. According to Darwin (in Descent of Man, 1871):
The art of making probably the greatest (discovery), excepting language, ever made by man.
Campfires provided warmth and protection. And a social focus as people sat to talk, sing and dance, around the flames.
Eventually, campfires would also gives us cooking, a broader diet and more fuel for our energy-hungry brains.

Indeed, from 50.000 years ago and onwards archaeology finds demonstrate that humans had specialization in tools, art, symbolism and ritual, diversification of food resources and higher population densities (than in earlier epochs).
According to Stringer, these modern human attributes (E.g. complex tools, long-distance transport, evidence for ceremonies and rituals) have been with us for more than 60.000 years ago.

Other things are even more recent. E.g. amazingly, our pale skin (in Europe) might only have been with us for the last 11.000 years (See: Pale Skin).
More importantly, farming is also quite new (app. 10.000 years old, introduced first in Iraq and Turkey). Indeed, farming is surely the greatest event in the evolution of Homo sapiens since its emergence.
As, from farming flowed, in an incredibly short time, population growth, craft, art, religion and technology.

But, it is worth remembering that before farming there were singing, flutes and dancing around campfires.
More socializing than any other species could come up with .....

Rapid social change.

According to Stringer:
Research suggests that the optimal conditions for rapid cultural changes are those where there are large groups of interacting ''social learners''...
Applying that conclusion to early humans, such as Neanderthals and modern humans, would imply that the populations who progressed the most culturally were not necessarily the most intelligent or skilful, but those who were best able to network and pass on learning in large groups.
Having minds that can be guided by inner speech (Guiding thinking patterns and decision making), and minds that are capable of mental time travel (integrating working memory with prospective memory, dealing with near future tasks) would obviously also be better at mind reading and social cooperation than minds without these features [p. 208].
Archaic humans, like Neanderthals, might have had some of these brain mechanism, but might have lacked the full brain integration that modern humans had developed. Mechanism that were essential for the much larger social networks of modern humans.
Population sizes are also quite important.
According to Stringer:
Population sizes in Africa could have reached a critical threshold about 100.000 years ago, when population density and enhanced contact between groups could have allowed the rate of innovations to overtake their loss, something probably rare in humans up to that time.
Competition (for resources and mates) within groups would also be necessary to drive things forward. Stringer notes that ''the development of religion may have provided an important means of maintaing a balance (in the group)'' [p. 221].

In the end Stringer concludes:
We are predominantly of recent African origin.
The pre-eminence of Africa in the story of modern humans was a question of its larger geographical and human population size, which gave greater opportunities for morphological and behavioural variations, and for innovations to develop and be conserved, rather than the result of a special evolutionary pathway.
What a book, what a story!

Amazon: [2], [3].
For more about our Origins see: Born in Africa.


Simon Laub

How old is the Human Lineage?

According to NewScientist's environment and life sciences news editor, Catherine Brahic, ''The human lineage is significantly older, and our closest living relatives more distant, than we once thought''.

In NewScientist, November 24th 2012, one reads:
In september, Augustine Kong of Decode Genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland, and colleagues published a ground breaking study:
After scanning the genomes of 78 children and their parents to count the number of new mutations in each childs genome, they found that every child carries and average of 36 new mutations (Nature, vol 488, p. 471).
Crucially, that is half what was previously assumed, meaning that the molecular clock ticks more slowly than we thought. Pushing e.g. the human - chimp split further back in time.
Where, most geneticists and palaeoantropologists now seem comfortable with a revised figure of 7 to 8 million years (?) Some, however, go as as far back as 13 million years for the split between us and our closest living relatives.

There are other consequences for human prehistory:
The molecular clock has been used to to date a number of key events, not least when our ancestors left Africa.
Which has been estimated by looking at genetic differences between the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Europeans and Asians...
Earlier genetic estimates of the Out of Africa Exodus suggested this happened 50.000 years ago. So, when fossil remains in Israel and archaeological sites in India were found to be 100.000 old, there was some explaining to do.
The new molecular clock resolves the discrepancy, pushing the departure back to between 90.000 and 130.000 years ago.
Well, well - I simply refuse to change the dates in my Steps video once again :-)
See: Steps Video.


Simon Laub

Out of Africa and into Europe...

According to a rather astonishing study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution:
Modern humans in Europe did not get their pallid complexion from the Neanderthals, but only lost the darker skins of their African ancestors perhaps just 11000 years ago, long after Neanderthals had died out.
According to Sandra Beleza from the University of Porto in Portugal:
There is a clear correlation between latitude and skin pigmentation - people who have spent an extended period of time at higher latitudes have adapted to those conditions by losing the skin pigmentation that is common at lower latitudes.
Beleza and her colleagues studied three genes associated with lighter skin pigmentation (genes that are found in all human populations, but are far more common in Europe than in Africa, and explains a significant portion of the skin-colour differences between Africans and Europeans).

And here comes the astonishingly result:
By analysing the genomes of 50 people with European ancestry and 70 people with sub-Saharan African ancestry, Beleza's team could estimate when the three genes and pale skin first became prevalent in European populations.
The result suggested that the three genes associated with paler skin swept through the European population only 11,000 to 19,000 years ago.
So, modern humans did not lose their dark skins immediately on reaching Europe [4] ...
Indeed, homo sapiens appears to have reached Europe some 40.000 years ago
(I.e. the oldest known skeletal remains of anatomically modern humans in the whole of Europe are believed to be some 41,500 to 44,200 years old [5]. Which fits well with the earliest known rock art in Europe, the Aurignacian period, approximately 40,000 years ago [6]), but only became white skinned some 11.000 years ago or so.
I.e. Europeans were dark skinned for a long time indeed...


Simon Laub


Great story by mind coach Joergen Svenstrup in his new book:
In 2010 a young man is brought to a danish hospital. His symptoms are quite bad.
Apparently, he suffers from abdominal pain, shortness of breath and has a very severe condition of high blood pressure. It turns out that he has attempted suicide, by emptying a glass of pills, he had standing in his bathroom.

The doctors try to help him, but nothing works and his condition worsen. The doctors then examine the bottle of pills from his home. It turns out that he has been participating in a drug trial, so the doctors contact the company behind the trial. The company informs the doctors that the patient had been part of a control group that had received calcium tablets ... placebo.

When the patient is informed of this, he immediately feels better. And his condition goes from being critical to normal within a quater of an hour.
Which, certainly, makes you wonder: Could this actually be true or is it just an urban legend.
But, surely, it is a wonderful story!

Joergen Svenstrup also speaks about the noncebo effect, which is the opposite of the placebo effect:
I.e. a doctor tells a patient that he has now less than half year left to live in.
The message in itself increases the likelihood significantly that the patient will die soon.
Reading Joergen Svenstrups book makes it quite obvious that ignorant people says such noncebo things all the time...
To counter it, most people try to focus on:
- Thoughts about good experiences.
- Thoughts about things that we are looking forward to.
- Thoughts about good things in our own personalities.
- Thoughts about things we are good at.
- Thoughts about people, animals, situations or things that we like.
- Thoughts about things that are important to us.
- Thoughts about beautiful places or things we meet in our everyday life.
Apparently, our coping mechanisms are not all that unique.
And, if everything else fails, we can always try to hypnotize ourselves, or visualize some better environments. Joergen Svenstrup has some rather intriguing comments about clients that visualize themselves as children. And all of a sudden has the skills and the IQ of that particular age.


Simon Laub

Know Thyself.

All of the ''mind tricks'' in Joergen Svenstrups book ''You become what you think'' kind of reminds me of what Stephen Bruyant-Langer writes about in his latest book: Your next career, - A headhunters guide to lifelong happiness.

Sure, you can measure candidates learning agility (mental agility, people agility, change agility and result agility), which can tell you a lot about a leaders future success. But surely the candidate can still do a lot with the right mindset.

According to Stephen Bruyant-Langer: We are now all in the people business, where it is all about attracting, developing and keeping the right people. For all of us, it is a good thing to know ourselves, warts and all, and then use the right mind tricks to get ahead.

Like many others, Stephen Bruyant-Langer, quotes from Theory U: How we transform observations into intuitions and judgements about the present state (of the organisation) and decisions about the future.
In this framework the individual tries to become more authentic, the group becomes a closer social network, the organisation a more binding network and where society is held together by emotions rather than rationality.
A leader (the individual) should: Hold the Space: Listen to what life calls you to do (listen to oneself, to others and make sure that there is space where people can talk ...). Become authentic.

Becoming authentic has consequences obviously. If you don't like your current job and has been thinking about changing, Stephen Bruyant-Langer is quite adamant: You need to change now. There needs to be a connection between your vision and your operation: Vision without action is a daydream, action without a vision is a nightmare.

Then the individual needs to be placed in a situation where it is obvious - That individual happiness is both in the interest of the person, as well as in the interest of the company.

After that it is all about aligning tasks, skills and values. In order to create a good match.
And, btw, when there is a match, people can work very much without getting tired or bored...
Candidates are asked to rate previous jobs on level of trust, learning, recognition etc. to see how the ideal circumstances can be recreated. Visualized.

A lot follows from the STAR model (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Where candidates are asked to describe situations and tasks, where they took some action that gave a (good) result.
Listing the results gives an idea of what the candidate is good at, obviously.
And makes it possible for a candidate to list some SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic within a Timehorizon).

Happiness along the way is:

Happiness = Experience / Expectation.

I.e. What you actual experience compared to what you anticipated. Or, stated in the mindtrick department:
A selection of what you focus on, together with your interpretation (of this).

It is all about knowing thyself in the future.


Simon Laub


Great article in the latest issue of wired magazine about startups. Surely, a lot of them are going to be awesome!
I especially enjoyed:

Memrise (making learning fun):
Learning is a game, you grow a garden of memory. Memories begin life as seeds, you nurture them in your greenhouse, and then harvest them to your garden.
PeoplePerHour (Getting anything done), simply, sounds like a very obvious way to recruit people (in the future).
And Badoo (Meet new people) will be the next big social (Facebook-like) site, according to its founders.... Even though, apparently, they think life starts with dating...well.
Tinkercad (Free 3D design web app):
Tinkercad is the easiest way to do and learn 3D design on the web. Join the buzzing community and discover 3D printing.
also sounds quite awesome....

Posted on Posterous Sept. 2nd 2012.


Simon Laub


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