[ExI] we stand on the shoulders of giants

spike spike66 at att.net
Fri Jul 3 18:54:48 UTC 2009


> ...On Behalf Of Damien Broderick
> Subject: Re: [ExI] we stand on the shoulders of giants
> At 09:41 AM 7/3/2009 -0700, Spike wrote:
> >All of us here can drive a car, most of us can buy one with 
> a few weeks 
> >of our wages, some of us can fix one.  But not one here 
> could build a 
> >car.  All of us together could not build a car from raw 
> materials, not 
> >even one that sucks.
> Versions of this thought experiment are not unknown in 
> science fiction. Perhaps the most famous is Phil Farmer's 
> RIVERWORLD series...

Ja, and Golding's excellent Lord of the Flies is a little like that, with
the gift remnant technology being Piggy's glasses.  Many of us here use some
kind of corrective lens, but how in the hell would we go about making a
lens?  Any ideas?  We know glass is made from melting really pure sand, but
that leads to a still more fundamental question, how do we start a fire?
Golding cheated a bit by having the boys use with Piggy's glasses, but
eyeglasses cannot focus sunlight sufficiently to start a fire, regardless of
the prescription.  So how would you do it?  If you said rub two sticks
together, have you ever tried that?  So did I.  What happened?  Same here,
nothing.  Did you say clack two pieces of flint?  Did you ever try it?  What
happened?  Same here.

Recently a Silicon Valley computer tech writer went to Oregon on a family
vacation, became lost on some back roads, eventually died of exposure
because he didn't know how to start a signal fire.  His wife and two
children were rescued because they stayed with the car.  This is not to
criticize, for I know how hard it is to start a fire.  In my misspent youth
I was a member of the Boy Scouts.  One of our campout games was to divide
into patrols (four guys each), then lose our lighters, matches, magnifying
glasses, etc, and start a fire using only what we could find.  Of the five
patrols, only one managed to actually start a fire, and it was damn hard,
and the technique we used required a pocket knife, which we don't have in
the given thought experiment.  It happened to be a dry period, and it took
all four of us to do it, and we all ended up with blisters on our hands.
Had I been lost in the back country as was the tech writer, even with my
current knowledge, I probably would have failed to start a fire.

Given fire, some of our most immediate food problems are at least partially
solved.  Many plant foods can be softened enough to digest, if heated long
enough.  The most likely game would be rodents, and these are filled with
internal parasites, which would be eventually fatal if raw meat is assumed,
but manageable given fire.  After long enough in the coals, any kind of
flesh is sterile and pretty much equivalent to any other.  Would it not be
shameful if Q's experiment with modern humans came to a quick and
ignominious end because we died of exposure and disease, because couldn't
manage to start a goddam fire?
> ...IIRC they get their iron from a large meteorite... Damien Broderick

OK then, I'll play along.  Assume we start the fire somehow.  Here's your
meteorite, a large one.  Now what?


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