[ExI] we stand on the shoulders of giants

spike spike66 at att.net
Fri Jul 3 15:36:24 UTC 2009

An earlier comment about 1000 humans on an island caused me to recognize
that we, like the ants, carry most of our knowledge externally.
Thought experiment: Q decides to see if modern humanity can be placed on an
earthlike planet devoid of technology to see if we can bootstrap ourselves
back to modernity, or if we would fall back to the prehistoric mean
existence in which we spent so much of our history.  He takes an unlikely
subset, those who read ExI-chat and poofs them to a pristine earth-like
planet, along with their mates and children, but none of their books or
technology.  He realizes the odds are against us, so he puts them in a
friendly temperate environment, with lush vegetation, optimal rainfall,
tasty beastage and so forth.  Q is a cruel bastard, but he wants to give
them a fighting chance, so he poofs them with the clothing they are wearing
right now, and if you read ExI-chat nude, well your first few days are
likely to be unpleasant.
Assume a few hundred of us proles and our mates and children, with only the
knowledge we currently carry in our heads.  (If you are single, assume the
mate of your choice, not a fantasy woman, but rather someone you already
know, with their knowledge.)  We already have one technological advantage
you perhaps hadn't even considered, for we stand on the shoulders of very
tall giants: we share a common language.  We share a roughly congruous
ethics system, so we don't immediately begin devouring each other.  We share
a common goal: to bootstrap humanity back to where we were before the
bastard Q showed up with his experiments.
OK fine, we can teach each other what we know.  I am a rocket scientists,
specializing in control systems.  But most of my knowledge is in the form of
books in my office.  I can't build a control system from that which is in my
head.  But it doesn't matter because I can't build a satellite anyways, nor
a rocket to lift it.  But I do know how to slay a beast and prepare it to be
devoured.  But can I catch it with no tools?  And if I do, can I dress it?
A lot of us here are code jockeys.  We want to record what we know, but do
you know how to build a computer?  Do you know how an integrated circuit
works?  Could you write down for the next generation the basics?  How would
you write it?  On what, with what?
Assume a lake or sea.  Can you catch a fish without any hooks or string?  If
you catch one, then what?
Do you have any guess how the first humans melted iron?  Don't google on it,
think, how would YOU do it?  
We stand on the shoulders of giants, and most of the time we don't even
realize it.
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