Evolution continued..

Posted August 16, 2006 by jomodo
Categories: General

We certainly live in precarious times. We are creating our own calamities at a furious rate and it is obvious things gotta change – we have to keep on evolving! I believe that just as we have all the resources to have a massively negative impact on the world so we have the resources to create a massively positive effect.


Some of the best efforts in extending our life here on earth is the Long Now Foundation. One of their projects is to build a monumental 10,000 year clock – serving as a symbol to making a long future for ourselves and encourage long term thinking.


Visionary symbols can certainly provide a reminder to humanity that we must start thinking in the same long terms as the old Pharoes who’s message of a long future is still legible after nearly 5 millenia.


BBC ‘interviews’ Kanzi and Sue Savage Rumbaugh

Posted August 3, 2006 by jomodo
Categories: Great Apes

Just a very sweet interview with our cousins the bonobos!

 Listen here… 

Strandlopers and river apes

Posted July 18, 2006 by jomodo
Categories: Paleoanthropology


It is interesting that so many of the oldest sites of modern human remains is coastal, for instance; Klaasies River Mouth (Tsitsikamma Coast – South Africa), Border Cave (Indian Ocean Coast – South Africa), Omo I & II (ancient Omo River delta where it once entered Lake Turkana – Ethiopia).

The idea that humans evolved in close proximity to water has been dubbed the ‘Aquatic Ape Theory’. Even though this theory might be over-stating the case I believe it should not be ignored out of hand. The evidence of early shell middens (Klaasies River & Hoedjiespunt – 40 000-120 000 bp) associated with the earliest of humans proves that (at least some) humans lived from the bounty of the oceans and lakes. Interesting also is that the oldest evidence of human beautification is that of sea-shell beads.

One can imagine a scenario of bands of people living very much like the ‘strandlopers’ (trans. ‘beachwalkers’ – a people that have been living along the Cape coast when the first european explorers arrived in the 17th century) that getting the best of both worlds – terrestrial and aquatic.

Unfortunately coastal areas does not get preserved well through the ages. Still there is quite a bit if evidence that human had a maritime lifestyle going back for at least 10,000 years according to Professor Jon Erlandson. According to him the maritime capabilities of ancient humans have been greatly underestimated. See this article on BBC on coastal humans.

There is some interesting correlations between adaptations for an amphibious lifestyle and speaking in languages:

  • Fine control over our breathing – It might be possible that our fine breathing control could initially have evolved to allow us to dive under water rather than for vocalisation. There is indication that this fine control evolved with later homo Erectus. The practice of Pranayama whereby higher states of consciousness is achieved through breathing exercises might very well have an evolutionary dimension in the origin of religious experience.

  • The easy life – The richness of marine food sources could have implied an easing up of the ‘struggle’ for survival. Living in superabundance would free up a lot of time for making music, dancing, singing AND telling stories. Having free time to experiment with life must have been a very powerful impetus for cultural evolution. Of course marine diet is not the only explanation for a state of superabundance.

BUT there is another explanation for most of the features attributed to us being amphibious; and that is that our immature form took evolutionary precedence – neotony. The classic example of neotony is that of the Axolotl: a salamander who’s aquatic larval form became the evolutionary successfull form without the individuals ever metamorphosising into a into a terrestrial adult form. In my mind one should consider both these explanations. This kind of neotony also occurs with domesticated animals where a domestic dog is none other than a neotony of a wolf. In this sense we humans are nothing but domesticated apes. (I say this tongue-in-cheek as we probably selected for cuteness in breeding our domestic animals). 



Applications for communicating robots!

Posted July 17, 2006 by jomodo
Categories: Agents and Robots

Research on bots evolving their own languages seems to be coming of age as applications are being found!

“Learning to communicate and adapting our behaviour to the information we receive has been fundamental to human evolution. If machines could do the same the intelligent talking robots of science fiction could become the stuff of science reality, as researchers aim to prove.” Read more here… and here…

The project’s homepage: ECAgents: Embodied and Communicating Agents

The project’s coordinator – Stefano Nolfi – provides a wealth of information on his homepage..

Research in language evolution amongst robots has been going on for quite a while at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories in Paris. One of their projects ‘AIBO’s First Words’ is described as follows:

“We investigate the mechanism that enables an autonomous robot to learn how to use words in appropriate situations based on its social and perceptual history. In the current experiments, an enhanced version of AIBO — Sony’s four-legged robot — tries to construct from scratch the meaning of simple words uttered by humans. These words concern the presence of objects (ball, red, etc), the behavior of the robot (walk, sit) and the robot’s body part (leg, head). These experiments show the importance of grounding each word in its social and perceptual context.”

A great resource for anything on Evolutionary Robotics can be found here!

Evidence for Meerkat active teaching

Posted July 14, 2006 by jomodo
Categories: News and Discoveries

Research as reported in Science claims to have proven that meerkat actively teaches their young. BBC provides a good overview of this research here. Active teaching can be viewed as evidence of a theory of mind. So do meerkat have a teory of mind – can they imagine the mental states of others?! Even amongst primates evidence of active teaching is rare and contentious but there certainly is some good indication of it happening to some degree – see this article from the journal Primates.

Human beautification dated to 100,000 ago

Posted July 10, 2006 by jomodo
Categories: General

New evidence of human beautification found in the form of 3 shells that seems to have been manually perforated. But evidence seems limited with only three beads. Previous finds in Blombos cave in southern Africa from around 75,000 years ago provide some more substancial evidence in the form of 39 perforated beads and engraved ochre plaques.

“The three shell beads are between 90,000 and 100,000 years old, according to an international research team.”

BBC News

Three ancient shells that were forgotten for decades, hidden among rocks and bones in dusty museum archives, may be the world’s oldest known beads, according to a new study.




Blombos Cave Project

from NFS

from National Geographic

Proceedings of the 6th evolution of language conference

Posted July 9, 2006 by jomodo
Categories: Conferences

The Sixth International Conference on the Evolution of Language (Evolang6) was held in
Rome on 12-15 April 2006. Proceedings is available here…