For those of you interested in Design Reference Echo India One, I have decided to keep it private for now. You’ll hear more later. Meanwhile, I’d like to share this STRANGE article from a friend of mine. I asked him to do a write-up on how we would be able to study an extraterrestrial civilization if we ever found one. Then he dropped this gem. So, if you see references to the Search for Extraterrestrial life, that is why. Anyway, here it is:

Hominid X

by Eri Kruger

When a primate’s hand is not well adapted to a particular behavior, such as using a sharpened rock to cut meat, something peculiar happens. Selection pressure presents not as a single selection pressure, but as a class of general selection pressures that favor biochemical changes related to intelligence mediated by abstract, real-time behavior. In other words, rather than one selection pressure favoring a trait not requiring an abstract behavior, multiple selection pressures can drive abstract behavior (such as cutting meat with an edged tool) that in turn can work a selection advantage for the cognitive capacity to engage that behavior. The key distinction here is that natural selection can occur via the mediation of abstract behavior rather than more directly through a trait whose effect on survival does not rely on abstract behavior. The simplicity and elegance of this mechanism for driving the evolution of technological agency is astounding. If the predecessors of modern humans were compelled by abstract behavior to cut meat with their hands, the effect may have been to strengthen the thumb structure. Thus, in this case, a selection pressure favored a particular set of characteristics of thumbs; but only where it was mediated by the abstract, willful behavior of the organism, in real-time, to use the thumb in that manner. Provided a minimally sufficient brain complexity existed beforehand (which we would regard as pre-agency vis-à-vis technology and something modern non-human primates possess), these abstract behaviors are possible. In the first iteration, we see the first step occurring; which is the generalization of selection pressures (a class of selection pressures vice a single selection pressure) which does not necessarily confer advantage through more advanced cognition, but merely by a difference in thumb characteristics.

In the second step, we see this generalization becoming causally entrained with an advantage conferred not just by a change in thumb characteristics, but generally by a change in brain function which enables a broader set of abstract behaviors that can exploit generalized selection pressure. Thus, what we are really seeing is the evolution of generality, or abstraction, in biological systems. This is an incredibly elegant and simple explanation for how and why greater technological agency (high intelligence in this case) could be strongly favored. It is more strongly favored because it forces numerous selection pressures to “fall” into an abstracted, general bucket, mediated by abstract behavior, to directly favor technological agency (greater intelligence in this case). It channels large chunks of selection pressures uniquely upon advantages conferred by more sophisticated brains. One often wonders why “intelligence” didn’t develop in hundreds of species just as it did in the h.s.s. on account of the fact that in terms of conferred advantage, surely “intelligence” outstrips anything claws, teeth and all the other, usually presumed advantages could possibly confer alone. And this understanding of general selection provides an answer. And this is as opposed to special selection, which encompasses all forms of natural and artificial selection pressure hitherto explicitly considered by biologists and anthropologists involving singular selection pressures causally entrained with a non-abstract behavior. When we use the term “abstract” in this context, we are referring to a feature or trait whose expression involves a CNS dependency of a certain kind or class (higher cognition). Thus, the more creatively (or abstractly) an organism can utilize a tool, the more strongly that individual’s brain features are favored since it responds more effectively to the collective selective pressures driving it.

And we can now see why the h.s.s. alone developed a technological agency far surpassing that of any other species: by sheer, blind, dumb luck early hominids developed a physical form that included limbs for climbing plants that later become “useless” on an open savanna, and were then co-opted for use in tool-making. What logically followed then, was the use of human hands to work those same tools, leading to the first known instance of abstracted behavior causally entrained to multiple selection pressures and a single, physical feature; the more robust thumb. A minimal cognitive advancement was also required along with this new bodily frame, but it didn’t need to be especially pronounced. As we just noted, the intellect required was likely nothing more remarkable than what we see today in the Pan Troglodyte. In the case of evolution on Earth, the dependency on higher CNS function is likely to be proximately found in large pyramidal, or Betz, cells, which tend to cluster in layer 5 of the human cerebral cortex. But any analogous system would suffice. For identifying technological agency of an extraterrestrial kind we might ask what kinds of general selection can we identify in the h.s.s. past? Apparently, human hands, with opposable and more robust thumbs were likely the entry point to higher cognition for human ancestors. But others could have followed that. We list probable examples below:

  1. Features of manual industry (e.g. Hands)
    1. Probably in Africa
  2. Chemical processing of matter and energy (for consumption; cooking of food)
    1. Probably in Africa
  3. Information transfer; audio on Earth, vocalization and hearing
    1. Possibly in South America during early or middle Pleistocene (or beginning about 900 kbp and becoming exponentially more sophisticated up to about 200 kbp).
  4. Climate mitigation (such as with clothing, about 42,000 to 72,000ybp for h.s.s. – fur was lost about 1.2 millionybp)
    1. African savannah opened up around 1.2 million ybp, possibly causing a sharp population decrease, constituting a selection pressure favoring lack of fur with sweat glands and exceptional, high endurance ambulation to hunt game in the hottest part of day in a hot climate. This was also the time of day when king predators retreated from the savannah. The most extreme heat conditions on the savannah thus became a new niche – an Ace in the deck – for the hominids of Africa when the protection of forests was lost.
    2. Severe Antarctic incursions of cold and wet climatological conditions into the Amazon may have caused another sharp population drop beginning around 75,000 ybp[1], a selection pressure favoring greater abstraction in tool industry (to make clothing) and possibly, sometime later, open sea transit (no overland route would provide escape from this environment). By that time, language would already be well developed in the Americas. The possibility exists that if sea transit was developed well enough by 100,000 ybp, the Wallace line to the west could have been breached, resulting in another admixture south of that line as well as in locales along the way (Polynesia). The Wallace line could also have been breached more than once, from the west of the line and from the east as well.
    3. Distributed coalescence points in the human genome may not indicate a gradual bottleneck if an X hominid interbred with another hominid that was not bottlenecked. If the cause was climatological, this suggests at least two species on two different continents.
    4. Hybrid product from the two feedback loops (America-Europe and America-Africa) could have met at the Levant around 200,000 ybp, where they mixed and produced anatomically modern humans; or where one displaced and partially absorbed the other[2]. Afterward, the dramatic cognitive superiority of the AMH quickly and easily displaced the remaining hominids about the globe, leaving only one remaining as a result of this cognitive gap.

All of which would be extremely strong drivers of technological agency. But for those drivers that followed the change in hands, increasing levels of CNS complexity would be required. Thus, as we can see, human hands may be the reason why we are so “different” from all other species. This also provides a constraining function on the frequency of technological agency in our galaxy and suggests it is exceedingly rare[3]. Chronologically, sound and chemistry likely followed the development in hands, which we now know most likely occurred on the African continent about 1.8 million years ago. A good candidate for chemistry, based on what is known about fire production, can likely be found on the African continent, with cooking emerging sometime after tool use first began. A good candidate for sound would be sometime after this, likely less than 900,000 bp, in the Amazon jungle[4]. By knowing these things, it provides us with a powerful tool to infer where genetic traits most likely emerged, and their chronological order, when studying possible technological agency beyond Earth.

Curiously, as we observe the progression of fossil evidence over time we see that the bodily frame below the neck appeared to race ahead of the brain case size. While this might be contested by experts in this field, it is this author’s first impression that h.s.s. skulls appear discontinuous with other hominid skulls[5]. This does not suggest that they are unrelated, only that the cognitive progression at this point, as this model suggests, was exponential. In this model presented here, this makes good sense because each tool usage (each industry) represents a bigger step up the cognitive rung and brain development accelerates accordingly. Therefore, the most rapid advance in brain case size should be expected after the full development of language in the Amazon, about 300,000 ybp[6]. There were likely numerous Hominid species roaming the Earth concurrently, and once this final development occurred, the cognitive capacity to colonize and absorb the other similar species, through interbreeding, hybridization or displacement, likely resulted in a consolidation of all those species into the recognizable form of h.s.s. This admixture most likely occurred predominately in Africa. This explains why no other hominid survived to the present and why this X hominid hypothesized here has never been found (the Amazon is notoriously sparse in human fossil remains of this age range due to the geology of the area). But whether or not the Amazon has anything to do with this, the point is that we can better assess intelligent agency in extraterrestrial life, including cases in which that life is extinct, by examining how they used tools; that is, how they expressed industry using those tools. And we should focus less on the tools themselves. Thus, the foregoing is presented as a thought experiment only – in light of the lack of evidence involving the Americas – and in order to demonstrate how this might be used to study extraterrestrial, intelligent life.

Finding Hominid X

Because of the geology of South America, providing direct fossil evidence for Hominid X may be a challenge. Indeed, even the climate of the Amazon is not well understood. One solution would be to advance the clock forward and seek fossil remains of more recent vintage, such as 50,000 ybp. Researchers should look in the area of northeastern Brazil which is the area of the probable greatest concentration of Hominid X (where the Atlantic currents serve central Africa). It should be evident if and when found because the anatomical features will likely be considerably different than those of any fossils found so far anywhere in the world. Its haplotype can likely be found by looking for traces of a locally rare haplotype in central, West Africa where admixture was most intense. Likewise, that same haplotype will likely be found with greater frequency in the eastern regions of North America and Western Europe where trade currents drop free-floating debris; generally in the area of northern Spain and Ireland. If such a haplotype can be found, it likely originated with Hominid X. It would be interesting to know if this can ever be found. Given that this is a thought experiment, this author would not recommend institutional resources be spent on such an endeavor until such time that more indirect evidence compels further inquiry (and my own facts are vetted as I am not an expert in this field).

[1] Fossil records indicate that other hominids in other parts of the world during the bottleneck period about 70,000 ybp existed in “normal” population sizes, thus suggesting another Hominid of much lower population size was driving human evolution and existed on another continent where such fossils were not found. By elimination, the only candidates are North and South America.

[2] The feedback loop between America and Africa was more intense over time and more recent, suggesting that absorption or displacement at the Levant was likely the African admixture displacing the European mix. For this reason, the most intense hybridization would likely be found in East Africa and/or Brazil, the locus of gene transfer vis-à-vis modern human traits, and researchers should find a complex interaction there between Hominid X and archaic species, especially just before 200,000 ybp.

[3] And, taken together, this suggests that tracing the evolution of technological agency will best be served not as much by understanding what tools were made, but rather, how they were used (industry).

[4] There is no direct evidence of an Amazonian connection. We merely make this inference on the basis of the evolution of technological agency, the known diversity of biological life in the Amazon, and the known homoplasies that exist there regarding hearing, the processing of sound and the development of language. From this, we can infer that Homo Erectus was likely widely dispersed all over the globe, and that natural hominid transport across the Atlantic was a probable, episodic feature driving human evolution via a feedback loop with Africa. A feedback loop with Europe from North America could also have existed in the earliest phases of Hominid X evolution between 800 kbp and 500 kbp, cut short in time by an increasingly extreme northern climate. As for homoplasies of language, the most intelligent non-human primate with an equally strong social development and language ability, as well as tool use (not just tool-making), is the South American bearded Capuchin Monkey. The Amazon is recognized as the world’s richest source of homoplasy for language development. Interestingly, New World primates are now known to have arrived in South America from Africa by natural sea transport. Once there, their superior language ability and social skills developed in the bearded Capuchin Monkey. Natural sea transport occurs during foul weather, such as hurricanes, in which large land masses are pulled from shore and drift across the sea. This phenomenon has been directly witnessed in the past and several animals have been observed to successfully transit large ocean passages in this manner. Given sufficiently large time intervals (1 million years) it is unlikely African and subsequent American Hominids were not transported in this manner, a fact that could by itself explain the human ancestry bottlenecks implied by studies of the human genome. Australia and the Wallace Line also provide a similar potential for bottlenecks, and the question of Hominid evolution there remains unclear but is probably less likely since fossils are more easily preserved there and no evidence for it has been found; unless THAT is the true origin of the “first peoples” of Australia, but it seems unlikely. Direct genetic evidence for migration from Africa along the Asian coast to the Wallace Line has been established.

[5] Despite appearances, the Neanderthal skull, for example, presents a cranial case of about the same volume as that of h.s.s.

[6] In this thought experiment, language likely began to develop at least 1 million ybp, but likely accelerated exponentially about 300,000 ybp.

History is being made.Quick Bio: My name is Kir, pronounced like “car”. Read the “about” page for more trivia. Komnenos + Rurik = Komrik; Above is Mary Komrik, 1353 CE Normandy France. Family lore says her husband was the sixth great grandson of Andronikos Komnenos, last Emperor of the Byzantine Empire. She was supposedly 6’4″, liked to fight for GOD! and was a direct paternal-maternal ancestor and direct descendent of the Komnenos and Rurik dynasties. One bad chic. My fifteen minutes of “fame”. And it would figure: my entire family is matriarchal. The Rurik surname showed up later in Russia as “Roerich” and some in our family spell their name Komrich or Comrich. But they are all pronounced like Komrik. I took my mother’s surname when I was 14.

illuminatio ubique

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