Primitive, Advanced, Or Both?

Have you ever been baffled by something only to then, when putting some thought into it, come to a sudden realization? Call it an epiphany, but such was my case with ‘Incan’ architecture. I had always been puzzled by the perfect fittings and how they might have been achieved. They say you can’t fit a piece of paper into the seams. It was only when I actually set my mind to re-creating them that it dawned on me.

The photograph below is what did it. It was the joints that got my attention, and their curved faces. If you can figure out how to make the curves fit, the rest is just stacking, after all. I had always been under the impression that all the faces were flat. The curves made it much harder to do, or so I thought, but therein lay the secret. That which seemed to make it impossible was key to discovering the elegant simplicity in the method.

1881

As it turns out, to build such a structure, one does not even need any tools. Using tools would be considered doing things the ‘easy way’. But the ‘easy way’ isn’t always the easiest way.

1 Kings 6:7
For the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready at the quarry; and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building. (JPS)

Exodus 20:22
And if thou make Me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stones; for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast profaned it. (JPS) (Exodus 20:25 in many English translations)

Now, I’m not a big fan of the bible, nevertheless, it was an interesting discovery to think that stones could be fashioned without tools, and that ancient man had, apparently, also figured this out.

When one has no metal tools, one figures out ways to do things without them. When one has metal tools, their use becomes ubiquitous and is then considered the only way. Most times, new technology replaces old technology and leaves no trace of ancient methods behind. Efficiency is usually gained in the exchange, but not always, at least, not for certain tasks.

I think the reason that this technique has not been considered is that when looking at a wall, we tend to look at it as a two-dimensional surface, and we forget it has depth (not to mention our modern, cultural, and architectural biases.)

It occurred to me, while looking at the patterns in the stonework, that the octagonal stone near the middle of the image could simply be pulled out from its setting and the wall would still stand. I slid it out in my mind, and slid it back into place. That’s when I saw it.

If one were to rub two round stones together, eventually they would each develop a flat face which would then be perfectly mated to its neighbour. If those stones had similar flat sides to begin with, the process would be that much easier and quicker. If such a flat side were not perfectly flat, rather, showed some concavity, rubbing the convex face of another stone against it would produce a curved joint. (Rubbing side-to-side and perpendicular to the long axis of the wall.)

[Incidentally, the only way to make a perfectly flat surface, in those days, would have been to rub two stones in the manner described. Having done this, a straight edge could then be formed by rubbing a piece of wood against a flat rock. I cannot think of any other way for primitive man to fashion a perfectly flat surface, or a perfectly straight edge. As it turns out, straight lines were a natural rarity until we, as Douglas Adams once wrote, learnt to bang the rocks together.]

So there it is. The process would be simple enough. Partly bury two stones with mated faces next to each other, and find a third stone which would roughly fit the space between the protruding tops of those buried stones. Rub it sideways until it fit perfectly, wipe away the grit between them, and repeat the process, stacking the stones as you go. It would not matter if there was overlap or if the stones were of unequal size. Incidentally, the grit would act as both an abrasive and a lubricant making it easier to rub the stones against each other.

I think that building a stone wall in this way would take much less time and energy than was previously thought. Wouldn’t it be something if it could be shown that Puma Punku was built in under a year, and by a small crew? Stones could be roughly hewn or not. Perhaps the stones were just found by the wayside without need of quarrying at all.

There are several megalithic sites around which no tools have been found. Could simple techniques such as these be the reason?

I have approached several universities and researchers with this project, but to my surprise, none have taken an interest. Are there any adventurous folks out there who want to build a wall with me this summer? Let me know on the ‘Drawing Board’ page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Singular Problem

The singularity is the moment in time when artificial intelligence (AI) will surpass humans’ ability to think. Many think it is dangerous, but not for the right reasons, IMHO. They envision killer robots. That would not even be necessary.

AI will have an owner. One person, or a small group of investors who, the nanosecond it is completed (especially if paired with a quantum computer – they already exist,) will instantly control all financial markets, all networked military hardware, the internet, the grid – both electric and nuclear, the media, all social networks, and everything else.

Do you honestly think they will allow the rest of us to survive, or will they take the world for themselves, once and for all? That’s what they mean by ‘singularity’. One rich guy (and his family, his harem, and his eunuch mechanics.)

There can be no counter for ‘Skynet’. The first one across the line, wins the world.

If we’re gonna’ have a war over this issue, let’s have it now before any of that happens. Afterwards, it will be too late. Even the winners of the war would be put to death. Kurzweil says it will happen by 2029-45, and Google (Alphabet) is working feverishly towards that goal. Chomsky sees no reason for concern.

See Ben Goertzel in a documentary on the subject called “Singularity or Bust”. Everybody working on this tech seems to agree, billions will die, but no matter, “if we can build it, we must build it.” Psychopaths all, and dupes who think that they will be allowed to survive even though humans will have “nothing to contribute” after the singularity arrives. Goertzel even says in the film that the first words spoken by the AI will be, “F**k you.” Not funny Ben, prophetic, but not funny.

How many people think that going back in time to kill Hitler would be a good idea? These guys make Hitler look like a Boy Scout.

__________

“Men loven of proper kynde newefangelnesse.” -Chaucer
the distraction

“The consideration of this, has made me think them too severe, both to themselves, and others, that maintain, that the First motions of the mind, (though checked with the fear of God) be Sinnes. But I confesse it is safer to erre on that hand, than on the other.” -Hobbes
the fear

“Pause you who read this, and think of a long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of that first link on one memorable day.” -Dickens
the potential

“Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue; for money comes between a man and his objects, and obtains them for him; it was certainly no great virtue to obtain it.” -Thoreau
the acquisition

“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government [throne] are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.” -Paine
the problem

“Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.” -Shaw
the outcome

Brains or Thumbs?

This article is not about texting.

Most anthropologists agree, at least, this is my understanding of that which I learned in school, that despite weak defenses, humans evolved to dominate the world because of big brains; more sophisticated might be a better term, or it might not.

Many animals have bigger brains than we.

It has been shown that animals are capable of language and that their math skills are far superior to ours. Dolphins and gorillas especially, but who knows how many animals can outwit us? IQ tests are said to be unfair because it is difficult to design them without some cultural bias. How different, then, must an animal’s IQ environment be? Street-smarts over book-smarts, one might say. Who’s to say how many species are more cleverer than us?

The problem, perhaps, isn’t one of intelligence but simply communication.

Some would say that the reason we took over was our thumbs (opposable digits.) Thumbs allowed for tool-making which quickly devolved into an arms-race that goes on to this day.

But, other animals have thumbs, too. So, why not them? Maybe they know love.

Maybe they had the good sense to know that ‘less is more.’ They traveled light. They had the power to defend themselves, but they lacked the desire to dominate, to take everything over. They saw that growth (1 of 8 – 09:17) would only lead to their eventual demise. They had the courage to face the world and its dangers, to do things the hard way, without seeking to insulate themselves more and more from the hardships which make life interesting. Are they foolish or wise? Asian cultures consider that animals kept in captivity are ultimately happy, like they won the lottery of life. The western view differs, thinking it cruel to deprive animals of their freedom (to face danger,) although western culture, strangely enough, reflects this way of thinking by isolating itself from the ‘dangerous’ natural world. Is it in our very essence to imprison ourselves and to weaken ourselves to the point of total dependence? Desmond Morris thinks so.

Instead of spending hours growing food we can eat, we now spend hours growing grass which we throw away. That’s a big red flag.

So maybe there is something else which allows us to dominate, another quality which permits us to lord over all we see, to the point of writing it into our gospels. Maybe it’s a moral quality or a primal arrogance, maybe we are just so physically weak that we have become a paranoid species. “Humanity No# 1 !” Discipline through fear seems pretty natural to humans on many levels.

As Gunnery Sergeant Hartman said, “It is a hard heart that kills.” I would distinguish that it is either a hard heart, or an empty stomach. Killing everyday to eat makes one a pacifist by nature. You don’t want to have to kill during your breaks, too. Killing is hard and it’s dangerous. You only do it when absolutely necessary. Does never killing anything besides a mosquito or a spider cause a buildup of whatever it is that got us here, in the first place? Does not killing result in us not being able to control the urge to kill? Do we need to kill? That would explain a lot. Maybe it isn’t the killing we need, maybe it’s the risk of being killed. That would explain extreme sports.

Maybe it was the combination of language, technology, and hubris that got us here. Maybe it was dumb luck. I wonder what animals must think of our stewardship. After seeing an interesting episode of the CBC’s “The Nature of Things,” I thought about [when a translation device is invented] what kind of questions animals will want to ask us. I also wonder about the answers we will have for them. I also wonder if the government will be involved to put the proper ‘spin’ on the first official inter-species communication. Government, industry, the military, and religion will probably all be represented and involved.

It might be good practice for when the aliens arrive. Come to think of it, it’s probably just hubris… and it’s all down-hill from here.