Seven Wonders + 2 + 1 Add Up to a Culture of Knolwedge
Great list showing
seven wonders of the world
to touch, hear, see, feel... and love, as shown
in the attachment to your letter today. Thanks to you and Jen for passing along
this reminder, provided by Marti McCaslin in a letter on January 3rd,
greatest gifts, which we all take for granted because they are free.
There may be two more "wonders of the world" that deserve honorable mention,
and perhaps one more coming along that folks might want to consider, which
leads to the subject of this letter. Indeed....
7 wonders of the world + 2 + 1
.. ...may add up to a powerful advance from information to culture of
.. About 100,000 years ago, humans developed a unique and very powerful
"wonder" that is not shared by other species, yet still is relatively free,
under the criteria established in Marti's list on January 3rd. The ability to
make complex sounds by talking that can be interpreted by listening
is commonly described as communication, and also, called
Communication gives humans a big advantage to leverage
individual strengths by planning coordinated action for defeating much larger
prey, who surely must have wondered how those slow, weak humans could keep
winning all the battles, and in some respects become masters of the world.
.. How this happened, might have gone something like this, way back in the
beginning of time for humanity....
Let's see Fred; when the lion comes through the trees, you jump up and yell
'Hey Leo, you
lazy loaf, bet you can't catch me!' and when the lion gives chase,
I'll jump out from the bushes and
whack him a good one. Hopefully, that'll do it, and we can
have dinner. If not, well your first place in the 100 yard dash last week
will come in handy. What do you think?
.. While, one can easily imagine refinements that Fred might have suggested
to the initial plan, none-the-less it seems evident that the powerful advantage
for survival created over thousands of years an
overwhelming biological urge and cultural imperative for people to talk and to
hear people talk, leading to oratory, embelishment, entertainment,
poetry, music, whispering
sweet nothings, and so forth.
.. Thus, for many, the 8th wonder of the world is communication that enabled
humans to survive and dominate other species.
.. About 95,000 years later, or about 5,000 years ago, people felt another
innovation was needed to deal with the environment. Folks were very conscious
of the environment in those days because they were often sitting on it.
Sitting around the camp fire at night, they could make big plans for getting
things done the next day, using their seven wonders + 1, i.e., communication,
but discovered that prosperity led to more people and this complicated the task
of everyone remembering their part of the plan. They also noticed that when
they talked out a new plan, it invariably had a lot of similarities to prior
plans, which led to heated arguments about which parts of what plans and who
said what at the last meeting. People got frustrated and angry because they
couldn't remember what worked, and what had gone awry. They found that
little, inconsequential details,
which eveyone said was overkill to even think about, later caused
major problems; but, nobody could remember which were the important details. So
talking and listening was great, because it seemed fast and easy, but some
people began to wonder about how to improve personal and organizational memory
in order to make better use of hard won experience.
.. Someone said...
Hey, why don't we make a list of the steps in our plan, and
then write up the results in a report, so we get a history of the plans that
work best under different conditions, then we can use that for guidance in
these meetings around the camp fire to plan our next project? How does that
.. Someone asked "What's a 'list'?"
Someone else asked "What's 'writing'?"
The person who made the suggestion hesitated, then added...
It's the ninth wonder of the world that makes people
superhuman! .. Of course today we laugh about the idea that alphabet technology using
the ABCs, which we learn in the first grade, is the little engine that makes
superman by enabling an explosive change in lifestyle. For example,
instead of walking or riding a horse, we drive around in cars or fly to New
Orleans for the Superbowl, or to New York to see a theatrical production,
visit aunt Minnie, etc. So, yes, as Marti points out, we take our blessings
from the 9th wonder of the world for granted, because over many centuries
literacy has become so endemic to our culture that it seems free.
.. But, when new ideas are first proposed they often sound funny and
foreign; they come dressed in coveralls and look like work, so returning to our
imaginary journey through anthropology and the group huddled around the
campfire contemplating making a list of things to do....
Someone else said...
Boy, reading and writing a big-o-list,
that sounds like a lot of extra work. It seems faster and easier to just
talk things out using our 8th wonder that makes
humans unique. Why do we need to improve and become superhuman,
when we are already masters of the world?.
.. So, everybody forgot about it, because they wanted to expedite getting
things done, and they worried about accountability.
It didn't make common sense at first that a list of the wonders of the
world should include making the "list," because in those days lists were not
common; in fact the prospect was shocking and sounded like overkill.
For one thing, in the beginning making a list was hard to do. You needed a
sharp stick, and a lot of ground, a big sandy beach, or cave wall, and you had
to figure out a system of small pictures, later called letters and numbers,
that symbolized human sounds in order to convey meaning like speech and
counting, plus you needed some rules for interpretation to read and calculate.
.. These details of literacy took another 3,000 years to develop into
alphabet technology, along with tools like paper and pencils. So, by about 700
BC people could make a list in order to accurately remember what was said in
communication sitting around the camp fire. It took another 300 years, until
about 400 BC, to begin using the alphabet to list not only what people say, but
also what people actually do, called a "report," and then to analyse
correlations between what has worked and what doesn't work in order to
formulate "lessons learned" from "history," that provide guidance, like the
10 Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Constitution,
company policy, what to buy at the store, etc.
.. Looking at television, riding in the car, mowing the lawn, turning on the
faucet for a drink of water, sending an email, talking on the phone, enjoying
dinner at a restaurant, getting a tooth fixed, or a heart transplant, all
pretty much come from the ability to make a list that everybody thought was
funny, foreign and would take too much time 5,000 years ago. Today, we
say "Boy did they make a big mistake back then. Glad we're not that ignorant."
Clearly, many would agree upon reflection that the ability to make a list using
alphabet technology for literacy that augments human intelligence should be
added to the list as the ninth "wonder of the world," which we all take for
.. So, can wondering end about the wonders of the world?
It turns out that "wondering" about how things work and how things might be
better is another capacity that is wondrously unique to humans.
For example, recently, people have wondered how
could collapse by allowing
folks to get flying lessons for big sophisticated, commercial airplanes,
who didn't want to know how to take off nor how to land? Why didn't that
sound funny and foreign? As well, how could so many people have so many
problems using all of our wonderful technology that caused the economy to
falter, as seen by falling earnings and stock prices at
at Ford Motor Company, who reports losses today of over $5B for the past 3
months, that are greater than the total annual income of many countries.
.. How, too, can
productivity become paralyzed
when everybody is using the most
sophisticated information technology for expediting communication,
as reported recently on October 3, 2001?
A few days later, on October 6, 2001
someone wondered how things get so mixed up at
on creating software for NASA's Space Station program, which leads to
NASA's exploratory space probe
crashed on Mars
in October of 1999.
.. Of course we could go on listing difficulties that paint a troubling
picture showing that our 7 wonders + 2 don't work as well today under modern
conditions of a more complex, faster paced world; but, this quickly gets
boring. The prospect that the human mind has created a world for which it is
not well suited seems funny and foreign. We yearn, instead, for a little common
sense and demand the bottom line so that we can understand the big picture.
Like our ancient brethren, we prefer to think and
talk about things we already know, like
touching, hearing, seeing, loving, communicating and literacy. Patience wanes
when it comes time to create and use the 10th wonder of the
world (recall 7 + 2 + 1) that requires another
of faith into the 21st century by transitioning from information to a culture
.. Clearly the
of sensory perception provide the bedrock for a
wondrous life that all living creatures share in common.
Having struggled long and hard over many centuries to add
communication and literacy, the prospect of building a culture of knowledge
might well be another wonder of the world. Like our ancestors of old,
for many, adding another
wonder to augment intelligence sounds like overkill and more
pretty funny, and
because it doesn't make common sense.
.. Since advancing from orality to literacy made people superhuman, so too,
uncommon sense may be the secret of turning information
into knowledge that turns water into wine and straw into gold.