The Urge to Explore

Scientists nearly all agree that human life started in mid-Africa thousands of years ago and migrated to all points on the globe. Even though various indigenous groups try to deny it, the trail of humanoids out of Africa is clear in the fossils, historical digs and technology. One question that comes up frequently in tracing humans out of Africa is why did one society thrive and another fail when near identical conditions existed for progress.

Necessity: The Mother of Invention

Necessity drove much innovation and thought as human beings moved into colder climates and generated new needs. Christopher Columbus was not the first man to set foot in the new world. There were others including Vikings and Africans, but what drove them to go where no record that any land existed. Some were motivated by tales of treasures and others just by a sense of adventure. Whatever drove these early explorers, science is still trying to unravel today.

Innovative Thought

Innovative thought or creative thinking receive constant attention in those who seem to possess it. Most often it is studied as a mental capability that people either possess or do not. Some scientist believe they have narrowed it to specific genes, but more than likely it is the interaction of the brain with our extremities the works in a circular ring of feedback.

Still, a gene known as DRD4 which helps controls chemical messages for reward and learning has a variant DRD4-7R. Many scientists believe the 7R variant is carried by 20% of all human beings and is an underlying cause of restlessness, curiosity and exploration. However, other scientists believe the to test limits, search and seek answers is a combination of many things, but the key portion focus on the brain and extremities

The brain is the body's most sensitive organ and responds to feedback provided by a neural network that covers the entire body. Dexterity of extremities allows the brain to create new applications which in turn are sent back to the extremities where the process is repeated until intelligence and dexterity can go no further.

Is that the end? Fortunately, the answer to that question is no. This continual circle of development extends both ways and becomes a symbiotic relation that extends capabilities both mentally and physically through the development of tools. Some of the earliest tools probably included sticks to extend reach and stones to crack nuts.

Making the Connection

Those simple tools more than likely expanded into bows and arrowhead. Again the common element is the connection between the brain's ability to conceptualize and the appendages ability to deliver on the concept. Even simple things such as bows are arrows were life altering technology increasing hunting proficiency and even the ability to make war.

There are times when no matter the mind's ability to conceive or the dexterity to deliver, technology or knowledge often is unavailable to follow through on the thoughts. For instance, the ingredients for making gun powder existed for centuries before anyone came up with the idea of explosives. In many ways the connection between mentality and dexterity is dependent on time frames.

This is an obvious condensation time driven activities that can takes a few seconds or cover thousands of years and even though anyone may discover elements or activities that may have potential for motivating change, there is absolutely no guarantee they will understand the utility of even a single element much less a combination of multiples.

Looking Ahead and Looking Back

Looking into the history of man and discovery and the exploitation of that discovery often has no effect on the societies responsible for uncovering the information. Africa is a virtual warehouse of resources, yet, for centuries other cultures exploited those resources. Does that mean the Sub-Saharan African were less resourceful? No. There was little need for additional resources as food was in abundance.

Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Guns, Germs and Steel” does a stellar job of explaining, not only why some societies flourished and other did not, but also shows the role of dexterity and brains in the urge to explore, take chances and go beyond established boundaries. On the other hand, there is an overwhelming number of people content to let others do the work for them.

Today, there is a wealth of technology and information readily available to anyone with the desire, making quantum leaps in thought and even artificial dexterity possible. Perhaps scientists will narrow the desire to explore, challenge the unknown or take risks to further the collection of knowledge to a single gene, which some believe is the case, it is clear that as long as there are questions mankind will seek answers.

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Tags: Brains, Evolution, Explore, Explorers, Inquisitive, Searchers


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Comment by Donald R Barbera on March 7, 2013 at 11:31am
There are some really interesting and insightful questions being asked and than paraphrase the various sources where I gather information, I will list just one that does the best job of assimilating a multitude of discoveries from variety scientific disciplines to explain how humanity expanded and more importantly, how they did it and why others failed. Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societiety is a Pulitzer Prize winning book that explores all of that and more. I found it to be one of the most influential books I've read.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on March 7, 2013 at 11:13am
Sadly, most people when speaking of the "Americas" are thinking of North America, in particular the Bering Strait connection and Newfoundland settlement, but the Americas extend nearly to Antartica. Below Panama recent science shows trade and commercial activities between prehistoric and ancient Africa and the Americas may have occurred from West Africa and may have included shipping and travel across the Atlantic. Some scholars claim there is ample evidence to show that West Africa of 1500 B.C. was at a level of civilization approaching that of ancient Egypt and Nubia-Kush.
Comment by Napoleon Bonaparte on March 6, 2013 at 8:13pm

Thanks again for your well researched and reasoned blog.

The Americas were first peopled by asians about 10,000 years ago and the first Europeans to visit were the Vikings at around the time Greenland was colonised. How do you put people from Africa in the picture and in what time period?

I would have thought it very unlikely.


Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on March 6, 2013 at 6:47pm

Tropical areas also have greater disease burdens, Luara. Though I haven't read Guns, Germs and Steel so I can't comment on his ideas.

Comment by Luara on March 6, 2013 at 6:47pm

I am unfamiliar with the science on either.

I'm not either - just that AC is a lot more technologically advanced than wearing furs or sitting next to a fire :)

If it's hot and humid, one doesn't want to move much because sweating doesn't work well to dissipate the extra heat that's generated.  Even dry heat is relaxing, might make people less active even if they're used to it?

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 6, 2013 at 6:32pm

This is such a great question, "why did one society thrive and another fail when near identical conditions existed for progress." I asked that question for as long as I can remember. I don't have any answer. I have made observations however, For example, if my father needed something, he invented it; his brother was great at following directions. Lots of sibling rivalry there. 

Going into other cultures, especially those who did not have effective leadership, many social problems became clearly obvious. It didn't take much searching to discover that native tribal leaders were destroyed as Europeans crossed the N. American continent. We have a lovely creek in Spokane named Hangman Creek where Native leaders were hung. The same was true when I worked at Valley Green Housing Project, Washington DC., a housing project for single-mothers-heads-of-house-holds, African American descent. Just a little questioning revealed their leaders were eliminated as trouble makers, leaving the rest afraid and timid. I merely offer my observations. 

I am not claiming that is the only reason of social dysfunction. Diamond gives many more elements as to why, and his books are well worth the read. 

Comment by Donald R Barbera on March 6, 2013 at 6:05pm
I am unfamiliar with the science on either. It would seem both would have a need a need for movement and moments of lethargy as cold climates can bring hypothermia. Beyond that, I am not sure. Diamond's book explains far better than I am doing here.
Comment by Luara on March 6, 2013 at 5:43pm

what about the effects of climate - if it's hot, people seem to get less energetic physically and likely mentally as well.  Temperate climates being favorable for people because it's easy to dress warm enough to adapt, and people aren't overheated - and in very cold climates, it's a lot of work just to survive. 

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