The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution

Overview

A breakthrough theory that tools and technology are the real drivers of human evolution

Although humans are one of the great apes, along with chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, we are remarkably different from them. Unlike our cousins who subsist on raw food, spend their days and nights outdoors, and wear a thick coat of hair, humans are entirely dependent on artificial things, such as clothing, shelter, and the use of tools, and would die in nature without them. Yet, ...

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The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution

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Overview

A breakthrough theory that tools and technology are the real drivers of human evolution

Although humans are one of the great apes, along with chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, we are remarkably different from them. Unlike our cousins who subsist on raw food, spend their days and nights outdoors, and wear a thick coat of hair, humans are entirely dependent on artificial things, such as clothing, shelter, and the use of tools, and would die in nature without them. Yet, despite our status as the weakest ape, we are the masters of this planet. Given these inherent deficits, how did humans come out on top?

In this fascinating new account of our origins, leading archaeologist Timothy Taylor proposes a new way of thinking about human evolution through our relationship with objects. Drawing on the latest fossil evidence, Taylor argues that at each step of our species’ development, humans made choices that caused us to assume greater control of our evolution. Our appropriation of objects allowed us to walk upright, lose our body hair, and grow significantly larger brains. As we push the frontiers of scientific technology, creating prosthetics, intelligent implants, and artificially modified genes, we continue a process that started in the prehistoric past, when we first began to extend our powers through objects.

Weaving together lively discussions of major discoveries of human skeletons and artifacts with a reexamination of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Taylor takes us on an exciting and challenging journey that begins to answer the fundamental question about our existence: what makes humans unique, and what does that mean for our future?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This beautifully written and magnificently eclectic book asks questions, encourages discussion, and ardently takes us away from the familiar byways of biological and cultural evolution. The Artificial Ape deserves a wide audience…This is Taylor at his best – and his best is very good indeed.”—Brian Fagan, author of The Little Ice Age, for Current Archaeology

 

"By the time I had finished reading the first few pages of The Artificial Ape I was breathless with excitement, by the time I had finished the last pages I was sure that Taylor's understanding of how humans have evolved, and what makes them unique in the material world changes the debate about human evolution forever. And as if that were not enough, the book is beautifully written.”—Christopher Potter, author of You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe

"Our lives depend on houses, water pipes, clothes; but Taylor argues that we have been technologically dependent for two million years, from spears and fire onward.  Unlike all other creatures, our evolutionary fitness is measured non-biologically: we are an intrinsically artificial species, and have been from the start. A sharp and unsettling argument and a provocative book."—Richard Granger, author of Big Brain

“The uniqueness of humankind is obvious everywhere we look, from our unlimited creativeness to our appalling destructiveness.  This book lays out the biological basis for our species and takes us on a compelling journey of our rapid cultural development that has far outstripped the glacially slow changes of traditional genetic change.  Could our highly flexible adaptation called culture, ultimately be the cause of our demise?”—Donald Johanson, Discoverer of Lucy

“Timothy Taylor's The Artificial Ape is a rollercoaster along the technological tracks of mankind's trajectory that reaffirms tool-making as one key to what it is to be human. This book will serve as an invaluable toolbox for artists, architects and curators for many years to come.”—Hans-Ulrich Obrist, author of The Interview Project

“Taylor’s hypothesis has the value of focusing attention on a critical point in early human evolution and, more generally, of emphasizing the centrality of technology from the very beginning of human existence. It is an intriguing contribution.”—World Socialist Web Site

"Taylor has a lively writing style...Recommended."—Choice

Praise for The Buried Soul

“Perceptive, radical and elegantly written,”—The Times of London

Praise for The Prehistory of Sex

“A stimulating catalog of erotic ancient history.”—Entertainment Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230617636
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/20/2010
  • Series: MacSci
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 560,322
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy Taylor, PhD is the author of The Buried Soul and The Prehistory of Sex. He has appeared on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and National Geographic specials. He contributes to such publications as Nature, Scientific American, and World Archaeology, and is editor-in-chief of the Journal of World Prehistory. He teaches archaeology at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Just Three Systems 1

1 Survival of the Weakest 13

2 Naked Cunning 33

3 Unintelligent Design 55

4 The 7,000-Calorie Lunch 83

5 The Smart Biped Paradox 103

6 Inward Machinery 131

7 Skeuomorphs 151

8 Screen Culture 171

Conclusion: One World, Again 191

Acknowledgments 205

Notes 207

Bibliography 221

Index 241

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