- May 2022
It’s time for us to upgrade our Paleolithic memory
I'm not a fan of digs at the idea of our "Paleolithic memory", particularly as there is some reasonable evidence that oral memory methods in the Paleolithic are probably vastly superior to those "modern" humans are using now.
Cross reference: Kelly, Lynne. Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107444973.
- Apr 2022
the brain stores social information differently thanit stores information that is non-social. Social memories are encoded in a distinctregion of the brain. What’s more, we remember social information moreaccurately, a phenomenon that psychologists call the “social encodingadvantage.” If findings like this feel unexpected, that’s because our culturelargely excludes social interaction from the realm of the intellect. Socialexchanges with others might be enjoyable or entertaining, this attitude holds, butthey’re no more than a diversion, what we do around the edges of school orwork. Serious thinking, real thinking, is done on one’s own, sequestered fromothers.
"Social encoding advantage" is what psychologists refer to as the phenomenon of people remembering social information more accurately than other types.
Reference to read: “social encoding advantage”: Matthew D. Lieberman, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect (New York: Crown, 2013), 284.
It's likely that the social acts of learning and information exchange in oral societies had an additional stickiness over and beyond the additional mnemonic methods they would have used as a base.
The Western cultural tradition doesn't value the social coding advantage because it "excludes social interaction from the realm of the intellect" (Paul, 2021). Instead it provides advantage and status to the individual thinking on their own. We greatly prefer the idea of the "lone genius" toiling on their own, when this is hardly ever the case. Our availability bias often leads us to believe it is the case because we can pull out so many famous examples, though in almost all cases these geniuses were riding on the shoulders of giants.
Reference to read: remember social information more accurately: Jason P. Mitchell, C. Neil Macrae, and Mahzarin R. Banaji, “Encoding-Specific Effects of Social Cognition on the Neural Correlates of Subsequent Memory,” Journal of Neuroscience 24 (May 2004): 4912–17
Reference to read: the brain stores social information: Jason P. Mitchell et al., “Thinking About Others: The Neural Substrates of Social Cognition,” in Social Neuroscience: People Thinking About Thinking People, ed. Karen T. Litfin (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 63–82.
In these sessions, students didn’t listen to a description ofcomputer science concepts, or engage in a discussion about the work performedby computer scientists; they actually did the work themselves, under the tutors’close supervision.
The process seen in cognitive apprenticeships seems more akin to the sorts of knowledge transfer done in primary oral indigenous cultures by passing down stories and performing (song, dance, art, etc.) knowledge.
It shouldn't be surprising that cognitive apprenticeships work well given their general use by oral cultures over millennia.
link to: Writing out answers will show gaps in knowledge Performing actions will show gaps in knowledge
it is valuable to turnto the work of Bernard Stiegler, and specifically to his idea of‘tertiary memory’. Stiegler develops this concept of tertiary memorythrough a reading of Husserl, and proposes it as a supplement (andcorrective) to Husserl’s understanding of primary and secondaryretention.
These two should be interesting to read on memory and how they delineate its various layers.
See: Stiegler, B. (2009) Technics and Time, 2: Disorientation. Trans. S. Barker. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
same with our with the with the dendrites we will always tell you the story tell the story to the juvenile who's coming through the novices who's coming through the ceremony will tell them so as they 00:47:47 get to a certain age or a certain time or a certain experience in the ceremony we will then pass that knowledge onto him and we'll take it to him so these hieroglyphs and 00:47:58 petroglyphs and the etchings on the rocks and the paintings on there on the cave walls that's our library that is our library
The dendroglyphs (markings on trees) or the petroglyphs (markings on stone in the stony territories) are the libraries of the indigenous peoples who always relate their stories from the markings back up to the sky.
via Uncle Ghillar Michael Anderson
Can this be linked to the practices of the Druids who may have had similar methods? How about linking the petroglyphs in the Celtic (English) countryside?
and of course the white fellas learned very quickly because they learned from the romans the british learned from iran and the first thing you attack other people from religious beliefs 00:46:28 that's the first thing you've done back in those days we didn't have towers communication so you didn't target your communication towers but you communicate you you attacked the way people transmitted 00:46:41 their knowledge
The white fellas learned very quickly from the Romans that the first thing you attack is other people's religious beliefs, which are the modern day equivalent of communication towers. That's how oral societies communicate their knowledge and culture.
via Uncle Ghillar Michael Anderson
- Mar 2022
The idea that ‘everything onEarth is reflected in the sky’ and of ‘reading the stars’ to understandyour environment are two of the most common and widespreadthemes in Indigenous astronomy.
Hidden in the phrase that "everything on Earth is reflected in the sky" or the idea of "reading the stars to understand one's environment" is the idea of associative memory. If you know one thing, you necessarily know another. Don't let this subtle idea of the words 'reflect' or 'read' hide what is going on.
The stars also give meaning to our existence. The sky is a canvasof sparkling dots that we connect to form familiar patterns, to whichwe assign narratives about their formation and meaning. Across thesky, ancestors, heroic figures, animals, landscapes and fantasticbeasts tell stories of the human experience. They speak of braveryand deceit, war and peace, sex and violence, punishment andreward. It is fascinating to find striking similarities in stories about thestars across vastly different cultures, with even more similarities in theways they are utilised.
Are these graphic and memorable stories strikingly similar because of the underlying packages of orality and memory used in these cultures?
This is one of my primary motivations for reading this text.
Indigenous sciences are highly interconnected, while Westernscience tends to be divided into different categories by discipline, witheach diverging into ever smaller focus areas.
Indigenous sciences are highly interconnected while Western sciences tend to be highly sub-divided into ever smaller specializations.
Are Indigenous sciences naturally interconnected or do they form that way because of the associative memory underlying the cultural orality by which they are formed and transmitted? (I would suspect so, but don't yet have the experience to say definitively. Evidence for this should be collected.)
Topic A topic was once a spot not a subjecttopic. to ̆p’ı ̆k. n. 1. The subject of a speech, essay, thesis, or discourse. 2. A subject of discussion or con-versation. 3. A subdivision of a theme, thesis, or outline.*With no teleprompter, index cards, or even sheets of paper at their disposal, ancient Greek and Roman orators often had to rely on their memories for holding a great deal of information. Given the limi-tations of memory, the points they chose to make had to be clustered in some meaningful way. A popular and quite reliable method for remembering information was known as loci (see Chapter 9), where loci was Latin for “place.” It involved picking a house you knew well, imagining it in your mind’s eye, and then associating the facts you wanted to recall with specifi c places inside of that house. Using this method, a skillful orator could mentally fi ll up numerous houses with the ideas he needed to recall and then simply “visit” them whenever he spoke about a particular subject. The clusters of informa-tion that speakers used routinely came to be known as commonplaces, loci communes in Latin and koinos topos in Greek. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle referred to them simply as topos, meaning “places.” And that’s how we came to use topic to refer to subject or grouping of information.**
Even in the western tradition, the earliest methods of mnemonics tied ideas to locations, from whence we get the ideas of loci communes (in Latin) and thence commonplaces and commonplace books. The idea of loci communes was koinos topos in Greek from whence we have derived the word 'topic'.
Was this a carryover from other local oral traditions or a new innovation? Given the prevalence of very similar Indigenous methods around the world, it was assuredly not an innovation. Perhaps it was a rediscovery after the loss of some of these traditions locally in societies that were less reliant on orality and moving towards more reliance on literacy for their memories.
Some timber circle sites to look into: - Secotan in North Carolina circa 1585 - Poverty Point - Hopewell timber circles (Moorehead Circle and Stubbs Earthworks) in Ohio - Cahokia
An early example of a timber circle witnessed by Europeans was recorded by watercolor artist John White in July 1585 when he visited the Algonquian village of Secotan in North Carolina. White was the artist-illustrator and mapmaker for the Roanoke Colony expedition sent by Sir Walter Raleigh to begin the first attempts at British colonization of the Americas. White's works represent the sole-surviving visual record of the native inhabitants of the Americas as encountered by England's first colonizers on the Atlantic seaboard. White's watercolor and the writings of the chronicler who accompanied him, Thomas Harriot, describes a great religious festival, possibly the Green Corn ceremony, with participants holding a ceremonial dance at a timber circle. The posts of the circle were carved with faces. Harriot noted that many of the participants had come from surrounding villages and that "every man attyred in the most strange fashion they can devise havinge certayne marks on the backs to declare of what place they bee." and that "Three of the fayrest Virgins" danced around a central post at the center of the timber circle.
Artist, illustrator and mapmaker John White painted a watercolor in July 1585 of a group of Native Americans in the Secotan village in North America. Both he and chronicler Thomas Harriot described a gathering of Indigenous peoples gathered in the Algonquian village as part of Sir Walter Raleigh's Roanoke Colony expedition. They describe a festival with participants holding a dance at a timber circle, the posts of which were carved with with faces.
Harriot wrote that participants had come from surrounding villages and that "every man attyred in the most strange fashion they can devise havinge certayne marks on the backs to declare of what place they bee."
This evidence would generally support some of Lynne Kelly's thesis in Knowledge and Power. A group of neighboring peoples gathering, possibly for the Green Corn Ceremony, ostensibly to strengthen social ties and potentially to strengthen and trade knowledge.
Would we also see others of her list of markers in the area?
Read references: - Daniels, Dennis F. "John White". NCpedia. Retrieved 2017-12-19. - Tucker, Abigal (December 2008). "Sketching the Earliest Views of the New World". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2017-12-19. - "A Selection of John White's Watercolors : A festive dance". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
- Jarrod Burks
- Hopewell culture
- John White
- Diana Greenlee
- timber circles
- Frank Cowan
- Warren Wittry
- Poverty Point
- Robert Riordan
- Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies
- Marvin Fowler
- orality and memory
- Thomas Harriot
- indigenous knowledge
But crucially, he believes the pool at the center of the complex may have also served as a surface to observe and map the stars. The water surface would have mirrored the sky, as water does – none other than Leonardo da Vinci pointed out the attributes of inert standing water when studying the night sky. For one thing, the stars were adored by the Phoenicians, whether as gods or deceased ancestors; and the position of the constellations was of keen interest to the sailors among them for navigation purposes, Nigro points out.
Lorenzo Nigro indicates that the "kothon" of Motya in southern Sicily was a pool of Baal whose surface may have been used to observe and map the stars. He also indicates that the Phoenicians adored the stars potentially as gods or deceased ancestors. This is an example of a potentially false assumption often seen in archaeology of Western practitioners misconstruing Indigenous practices based on modern ideas of religion and culture.
I might posit that this sort of practice is more akin to that of the science of Indigenous peoples who used oral and mnemonic methods in combination with remembering their histories and ancestors.
Cross reference this with coming reading in The First Astronomers (to come) which may treat this in more depth.
Leonardo da Vinci documented the attributes of standing water for studying the night sky.
Where was this and what did it actually entail?
- pool of Baal
- orality and memory
- Indigenous science
- Lorenzo Nigro
- kothon of Motya
- Leonardo da Vinci
- standing water
- Feb 2022
We need a reliable and simple external structure tothink in that compensates for the limitations of our brains
Let's be honest that there are certainly methods for doing all of this within our brains and not needing to rely on external structures. This being said, using writing, literacy, and external structures does allow us to process things faster than before.
Can we calculate what the level of greater efficiency allows for doing this? What is the overall throughput difference in being able to forget and write? Not rely on communication with others? What does a back of the envelope calculation for this look like?
- Dec 2021