Ten Thousand Years from Now

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Sun, 2013-01-06 19:43 -- John Batchelor
Sunday, January 6, 2013


Fundamental Adam Smith.  

Am spending time on the PERC site in order to explore the energy boom of the Bakken and its profound transformation of the American West, and came across this recommendation on the PERC twitter site, from the Zeitgeist confabs, a presentation by polymath and columnist Matt Ridley in the UK, posted mid December 2012.  It is brief and to the point that self-sufficiency is poverty (subsistence) and that cooperation and trade are wealth-creating.  The additional wry observation is that the Macbookpro I am writing on, with the help of a wireless keyboard and trackpad, are the products of a myriad trade network of natural resources and manufacturing and rule-making that produce a tool that no one person, or even several persons, could actually explain.  This is fundamental Adam Smith: trade is good, the invisible hand is always busy, and wealth produces specialization that produces more wealth.  It occurs to me that this is all a YouTube demonstration of Matt Ridley's signature summary that rational optimism about our children's children's future is well advised.  

Ten Thousand Years From Now.

I am reading Michael Balter's mesmerizing study of the archeological excavation of a Neolithic site in Turkey starting in 1961, Catalhoyuk (CHAT-tel- whooook), and am continually trying to imagine life ninety-five hundred to fifty-seven hundred years ago (eighteen levels).  The first strange fact is that the houses were built in a honeycomb fashion so that the entrance was through a hole in the roof that also served as a chimney.  Also surprisingly, bones of the dead were buried in the floors of the houses, likely after the corpses were cleaned by carrion birds in outdoor mortuary rituals.  There is much more to learn about a day in the life of a male or female three hundred generations before now, however what I right away conclude is that we homo sapiens have come a very long way in a short time.  Ten thousand years ago, where I sit with a machine no one person can build or understand how to build (extracting minerals to writing code), the ice was about a mile thick and retreating back up what is now the drainage groove of the Hudson River Valley.  The correct temperament in anyone of the previous three hundred generations up until now was cheerfulness and great expectations.  From Catalhoyuk until the present is a demonstration of how beehive cooperation and community dwelling turn into the wealth of my IPad3 where I am reading of Catalhoyuk.  In another ten thousand years, there may be a manmade planet or several in orbit of Venus or Earth or Mars, creating wealth through specialization and trade.  Our descendants may puzzle why we lived so narrowly in our drafty wood-built homes among the dying and the dead like the ambitious but superstitious farmers of Catalhoyuk.