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(io9)   Scientists mystified by findings indicating Inca Empire existed with money-free economy. In related news: Ferengi excluded as potential "ancient aliens" race   (io9.com) divider line 37
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1587 clicks; posted to Geek » on 26 Aug 2013 at 2:10 PM (48 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-08-26 01:16:39 PM
Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?

Technologically speaking, the pre-Columbian Americas were back-asswards
 
2013-08-26 01:47:32 PM

cman: Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?

Technologically speaking, the pre-Columbian Americas were back-asswards


Guns, Germs, and Steel
 
2013-08-26 02:01:01 PM
Primitive doesn't mean stupid. I guess we still have a lot to learn from ancient cultures.
 
2013-08-26 02:13:57 PM
So, the incas were the first communists.

Surprise surprise.
 
2013-08-26 02:18:03 PM
God IO9 needs to be obliterated from orbit.
 
2013-08-26 02:18:03 PM

Weaver95: Primitive doesn't mean stupid. I guess we still have a lot to learn from ancient cultures.


Exactly.

Few things infuriate me as much as those that want to discount ancient humans being able to figure out how to fit some stones together because "Well, they didn't have cranes and computers, so how did they do this?  Must have been aliens".
 
2013-08-26 02:19:06 PM

cman: Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?


The actual answer to that question is that culture history really should not be considered a series of inevitable stages.  That essentialist notion is one of the fundamental flaws of Marxist conceptions of history, among others.  The assumption that all societies pass through the same defined series of "stages," as though history was a single path that everyone was traveling, or a single ladder that everyone was climbing, just doesn't stand up to close scrutiny.

The Inca empire was perfectly well adapted to their environment, just as much as the various European empires were adaptations to their own environments.  The different environments required different adaptations.

One would not ask, for instance, why an Inuit man becomes a hunter rather than opening a 7-11.  Opening a 7-11 works just fine in many places in the USA, but it would be a poor choice of career in the high arctic because (A) there's no electricity to run the Slurpee machine, (B) there are no roads for trucks to bring those microwave burritos, and (C) nobody has any cash to spend there.

That doesn't mean that being a hunter is "superior" to running a 7-11 in any absolute sense.  Only that it works better in that particular environment.

To ask why the indigenous societies of the Americas did not become similar to European societies is to ask the wrong question.  Why would we assume that they should?  There's no point in becoming well-adapted to London if you live in Lima.
 
2013-08-26 02:23:24 PM
 gets shiat done.
 
2013-08-26 02:27:46 PM
So a group of people working at the behest of a ruling class of monachs and religous caste.  All the while the workers only earn the food in their bellies and the ruling class stockpile the riches. Yep that is the end game for most socialist societies.
 
2013-08-26 02:29:52 PM
Why would you need money when there are cities made from gold with working nuclear fusion generators everywhere?
 
2013-08-26 02:29:53 PM
Don't tell me they don't use money in the 23rd15th century.
 
2013-08-26 02:30:28 PM
Well, if the entirety of the land and all its produce essentially belong to a monarchy and/or priesthood (who own it on behalf of the gods) and it's administered by an aristocracy who owe their exemptions from labor to that monarchy/priesthood; and if everyone else is essentially property of the state, in other words, serfs who owe their labor to the rulers, then I can fully understand how you might not need money.

By all means, let's do that, huh?
 
2013-08-26 02:30:50 PM
It's a fallacy to say that a civilization (or organism for that matter) is perfectly well adapted to its environment, or even in equilbrium.
 
2013-08-26 02:30:54 PM

Saiga410: So a group of people working at the behest of a ruling class of monachs and religous caste.  All the while the workers only earn the food in their bellies and the ruling class stockpile the riches. Yep that is the end game for most socialist societies.


Also capitalist ones. Hooray!
 
2013-08-26 02:32:26 PM

Saiga410: So a group of people working at the behest of a ruling class of monachs and religous caste.  All the while the workers only earn the food in their bellies and the ruling class stockpile the riches. Yep that is the end game for most socialist societies.


So far that's captainsm...well except that the workers don't seem to get much food. Was there a point to this comment or did you just want to crap on the discussion and run?
 
2013-08-26 02:34:40 PM

gshepnyc: Well, if the entirety of the land and all its produce essentially belong to a monarchy and/or priesthood (who own it on behalf of the gods) and it's administered by an aristocracy who owe their exemptions from labor to that monarchy/priesthood; and if everyone else is essentially property of the state, in other words, serfs who owe their labor to the rulers, then I can fully understand how you might not need money.

By all means, let's do that, huh?


You prefer our current system of corporate feudalism then?
 
2013-08-26 02:35:30 PM

Weaver95: Primitive doesn't mean stupid. I guess we still have a lot to learn from ancient cultures.




Yes, the main one is...don't be primitive when everyone else is civilized.
 
2013-08-26 02:40:15 PM

Darth_Lukecash: Weaver95: Primitive doesn't mean stupid. I guess we still have a lot to learn from ancient cultures.

Yes, the main one is...don't be primitive when everyone else is civilized.


I thought it was "Superior training and superior weaponry have, when taken together, a geometric effect on overall military strength. Well-trained, well-equipped troops can stand up to many more times their lesser brethren than linear arithmetic would seem to indicate."
 
2013-08-26 02:41:33 PM

Darth_Lukecash: Weaver95: Primitive doesn't mean stupid. I guess we still have a lot to learn from ancient cultures.



Yes, the main one is...don't be primitive when everyone else is civilized.


Oh there is always someone better than you. Someone always has more troops, better tech, smarter scientists, stronger gods, more stable economies...someone is always better than you are.
 
2013-08-26 02:44:51 PM

cman: Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?

Technologically speaking, the pre-Columbian Americas were back-asswards


Eh, the Andean farming methods yielded higher tonnage per acre than ours (even with our better bred crops) - almost 4:1 if memory serves (same with Mexican floating gardens). In North America the concept of complimentary crops was introduced *to* the Europeans yielding better crops/less soil depletion (the famous *three sisters* of corns, beans, and squash).

Militarily Conquistadores in the Mississippi Valley had to exchange their steel armor for local fabric armor, since local flint arrows and bows could punch through it (also keep in mind Cortes and the Pizarro Bros armies consisted of tens of thousands of locals - the "guns and steel" argument didn't really factor into early colonial successes as much as we like to think).

As far as metals one of the reasons in North America was the purity in copper here. In Europe the impurities in copper melt first - creating a flux for the copper to dissolve into (at a temperature low enough to achieve w/o kiln technologies). The deposits in the Great Lakes are up to 99% pure, w/o those impurities it requires kiln technology to melt the copper. So despite using copper extensively, it was always cold hammered, and the great "gateway metal" was not a factor. In South America metal working did come about - largely with gold and silver ornamentation, though copper was used as well. Stone was a more useful material than those for tools (flint and obsidian are sharper, granites are harder, etc.) - as well as appearing on the scene several thousand years after it did in Europe.

Various pyramids and mounds across both continents stood taller than any European buildings (only the Pyramids at Giza rivaled pyramids like Cholula in height, though by volume Cholula was larger) - assuming engineering counts as technology. Some of the irrigation networks dug ~1000 years ago in the American SW are still in use incidentally.

The problem is in thinking culture exists in a linear fashion and after "x" comes "y" which is problematic for 2 reasons. 1) you're assuming the biological model applies to culture (with an "end result" which is naturally "us" (USA! USA!) and 2) that's really a poor understanding of the biological model anyhow, there's no such thing as a "pathway" for evolution in the terms you're implying - clinging mammals doesn't necessitate humans 50 million years later.

The word you are looking for is "different."
 
2013-08-26 02:46:09 PM

gshepnyc: Well, if the entirety of the land and all its produce essentially belong to a monarchy and/or priesthood (who own it on behalf of the gods) and it's administered by an aristocracy who owe their exemptions from labor to that monarchy/priesthood; and if everyone else is essentially property of the state, in other words, serfs who owe their labor to the rulers, then I can fully understand how you might not need money.

By all means, let's do that, huh?




Except the European model, the serfs were not well taken care of, and everyone needed money. The Aztecs apparently had well fed workers.

And apparently under this climate- food for the civilization had to managed greatly. So people were working for each other survival.

It could be argued that the Aztecs didn't have an political enemies to had to fight for resources... Thus leading to advances in weapondry.
 
2013-08-26 02:50:50 PM
With only a few exceptions found in coastal polities incorporated into the empire, there was no trading class in Inca society, and the development of individual wealth acquired through commerce was not possible . . . A few products deemed essential by the Incas could not be produced locally and had to be imported. In these cases several strategies were employed, such as establishing colonies in specific production zones for particular commodities and permitting long-distance trade. The production, distribution, and use of commodities were centrally controlled by the Inca government. Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing.

So, a command economy with no incentive to entrepreneurship or progress, and eventual conquering by hyper religious invaders from across the ocean.  This is what socialist Fart Bongo and the Reverse Saucer People have in store for America, people.  Lock and load!

Instead of paying taxes in money, every Incan was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life.

Egypt, is that you?  OK, for serious, this seems to be the best way for a low-tech society to afford the building of pyramids, AND avoid starvation of the working classes.  Because, pyramids!
 
2013-08-26 02:55:10 PM

Ambivalence: So, the incas were the first communists.


Maybe you mean socialists, but what you are actually talking about is a highly centrally planned and controlled economy which was fairly common in large ancient societies.

The much earlier Akkadians operated along these lines and most of their surviving clay tablets are records of food (and other resources) collection and distribution. I don't think they had a trading class either.

The Incan accounting records were kept with knotted strings which don't last the way clay tablets do so there is little primary sources to reconstruct the Incan economy.
 
2013-08-26 02:58:57 PM
All I know is the growth bonus for those stepped farms is REALLY great for scoring an early culture victory. More growth means more experts. More experts means more Important People.

Though, they compete strongly with the Aztecs, that early culture bonus for hunting barbarians. Though, the farming with floating gardens isn't as good as the step-farms (more hills than rivers)

TBH, it all gets blown out of the water when The Netherlands reaches the Medieval Era and starts building Polders on all that useless swamp land and suddenly has massive growth spikes.
 
2013-08-26 02:59:42 PM

Weaver95:

Oh there is always someone better than you. Someone always has more troops, better tech, smarter scientists, stronger gods, more stable economies...someone is always better than you are.




The actual lesson is, kill the outsiders the second they land and while you outnumber them.

One theory I heard was that when the Spanish explorers went up the Mississippi, they'd knowingly infected the Native population that destroyed up to 90% of the population. And whatever advances they had made, got busted down to Stone Age. The natives had already ran off the Vikings Europe toughest fighters. Had natives been at full strength when the other Europeans came, those colonies would have never survived.
 
2013-08-26 03:05:38 PM

Darth_Lukecash: One theory I heard was that when the Spanish explorers went up the Mississippi, they'd unknowingly infected the Native population ....





FIFMS... Stupid ham fingers...
 
2013-08-26 03:16:48 PM

gshepnyc: Well, if the entirety of the land and all its produce essentially belong to a monarchy and/or priesthood (who own it on behalf of the gods) and it's administered by an aristocracy who owe their exemptions from labor to that monarchy/priesthood; and if everyone else is essentially property of the state, in other words, serfs who owe their labor to the rulers, then I can fully understand how you might not need money.

By all means, let's do that, huh?


better than what we have now which is excatly what they had but we have to pay for shiat with cash as well... we don't get anything for free.
 
2013-08-26 03:20:52 PM

HairBolus: Ambivalence: So, the incas were the first communists.

Maybe you mean socialists, but what you are actually talking about is a highly centrally planned and controlled economy which was fairly common in large ancient societies.

The much earlier Akkadians operated along these lines and most of their surviving clay tablets are records of food (and other resources) collection and distribution. I don't think they had a trading class either.

The Incan accounting records were kept with knotted strings which don't last the way clay tablets do so there is little primary sources to reconstruct the Incan economy.


Forgot to add

Writing is known to have developed out of accounting systems. "Capitalists" often credit accounting to plucky entrepreneurial traders however the historical records tend to show that accounting was a bureaucratic necessity of any large society whether it had a trader class or not.
 
2013-08-26 05:16:55 PM
www.startrek.com

The hell you say!
 
2013-08-26 05:53:05 PM

cman: Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?

Technologically speaking, the pre-Columbian Americas were back-asswards


Why didn't Europeans develop agriculture on their own? They had any number of plants that could have made good food crops, and much of Europe is really better suited to agriculture than Mesopotamia or Anatolia, but they didn't start farming until the technology spread from the Middle East. They didn't invent bronze, either, even though Britain had significant tin deposits and the Mesopotamians had to import the stuff all the way from Afghanistan. They didn't invent ironworking, or writing, or gunpowder, either. Why were the Europeans so back-asswards?
 
2013-08-26 06:04:32 PM

No Such Agency: With only a few exceptions found in coastal polities incorporated into the empire, there was no trading class in Inca society, and the development of individual wealth acquired through commerce was not possible . . . A few products deemed essential by the Incas could not be produced locally and had to be imported. In these cases several strategies were employed, such as establishing colonies in specific production zones for particular commodities and permitting long-distance trade. The production, distribution, and use of commodities were centrally controlled by the Inca government. Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing.

So, a command economy with no incentive to entrepreneurship or progress, and eventual conquering by hyper religious invaders from across the ocean.  This is what socialist Fart Bongo and the Reverse Saucer People have in store for America, people.  Lock and load!

Instead of paying taxes in money, every Incan was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life.

Egypt, is that you?  OK, for serious, this seems to be the best way for a low-tech society to afford the building of pyramids, AND avoid starvation of the working classes.  Because, pyramids!




Death cults. What are ya gonna do.
 
2013-08-26 07:56:10 PM

malaktaus: cman: Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?

Technologically speaking, the pre-Columbian Americas were back-asswards

Why didn't Europeans develop agriculture on their own? They had any number of plants that could have made good food crops, and much of Europe is really better suited to agriculture than Mesopotamia or Anatolia, but they didn't start farming until the technology spread from the Middle East. They didn't invent bronze, either, even though Britain had significant tin deposits and the Mesopotamians had to import the stuff all the way from Afghanistan. They didn't invent ironworking, or writing, or gunpowder, either. Why were the Europeans so back-asswards?


What native European plants were domesticated? As far as I know agriculture in Europe used imported plants.
 
2013-08-27 01:29:03 PM

HairBolus: malaktaus: cman: Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?

Technologically speaking, the pre-Columbian Americas were back-asswards

Why didn't Europeans develop agriculture on their own? They had any number of plants that could have made good food crops, and much of Europe is really better suited to agriculture than Mesopotamia or Anatolia, but they didn't start farming until the technology spread from the Middle East. They didn't invent bronze, either, even though Britain had significant tin deposits and the Mesopotamians had to import the stuff all the way from Afghanistan. They didn't invent ironworking, or writing, or gunpowder, either. Why were the Europeans so back-asswards?

What native European plants were domesticated? As far as I know agriculture in Europe used imported plants.


For the most part you're right, although oats and a variety of brassicae are native to Europe.  (And they were only domesticated after agricultural economies had already been introduced to Europe.)
 
2013-08-27 04:45:50 PM

impaler: cman: Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?

Technologically speaking, the pre-Columbian Americas were back-asswards

Guns, Germs, and Steel


I tried reading that book because everyone kept going on about it. I got to the part where the author claimed that some child from Australia was superior to white people because the child could remember which way was north, regardless of which way you pointed him/her, and western people couldn't really learn that. The Australian Aborigines could, however, learn to use a computer.

So yeah, some skill possessed possessed only because you grow in a culture with strong influences by that skill is clearly superior to a skill designed to be as accessible as possible. Might as well claim that most western marriages are worthless because Westerners can't jump 4 cows. In other words, I didn't get past the first chapter before I did an IRL "And this is where I stopped reading."
 
2013-08-27 05:31:48 PM

DerAppie: impaler: cman: Why didn't the Americas graduate past the iron age before we came to this land?

Technologically speaking, the pre-Columbian Americas were back-asswards

Guns, Germs, and Steel

I tried reading that book because everyone kept going on about it. I got to the part where the author claimed that some child from Australia was superior to white people because the child could remember which way was north, regardless of which way you pointed him/her, and western people couldn't really learn that. The Australian Aborigines could, however, learn to use a computer.

So yeah, some skill possessed possessed only because you grow in a culture with strong influences by that skill is clearly superior to a skill designed to be as accessible as possible. Might as well claim that most western marriages are worthless because Westerners can't jump 4 cows. In other words, I didn't get past the first chapter before I did an IRL "And this is where I stopped reading."



You misunderstood Diamond's point.   It's far from a perfect book, but you're dismissing it on the basis of something that it doesn't actually say.
 
2013-08-27 08:00:03 PM

FloydA: You misunderstood Diamond's point. It's far from a perfect book, but you're dismissing it on the basis of something that it doesn't actually say.


Except that it pretty much does. I propose you re-read the prologue. It quite literally says that children from indigenous tribes living in the jungle are probably more intelligent because they pay more attention to their environment. If they don't they'll step on a snake/from a cliff and die, this would have weeded out the retards. Western children in contrast are more passive in their youth and in the past would have played the genetic lottery to see if they got a smallpox immunity and intelligence played no role in survival at all (because no one could have learned to stay away from dead bodies or to wash hands before it got popular. Or invent something, get rich and then get more procreation opportunities). Indigenous people needed to find food, people to stupid to do that got selected against, while westerners simply walk to the store. Therefore the indigenous people are smarter.

Causes of death in New Guinea include: chronic war, trouble procuring food and disease. Somehow intelligence, as opposed to knowledge, helps evade fevers or marauding warriors. Problems in Europe, apart from the diseases which are totally only genetically related to the immune system and not related to intelligence at all because we simply get a lesser class of deadly illnesses, included pretty much nothing according to the list. All that is mentioned is that "natural selection promoting genes for intelligence has probably been far more ruthless in New Guinea than in densely populated, politically complex societies, where natural selection for body chemistry was far more potent. Europe was peacefulThis list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it. for most of its history and starvation has never been an issue in Europe, ever in the history of anywhen." Literal quote (emphasised text added by me). So we had no selection for intelligence there. Even the lethal accidents that would have boosted intelligence in New Guinea didn't happen in Europe. The powers of perception of European children is legendary. That combined with the lightning reflexes that were gained by years of not yet having gaming consoles or televisions (a skill which would be rapidly bred away in just 6 or 7 generations until people could finally buy an Atari) meant that machines didn't even need to be shut down in order for the children to unstuck/clean/repair them. And densely populated and politically complex? You could train a monkey to manoeuvre those situations without pissing of the wrong people. But getting a group of monkeys to collect food, survive an outbreak of a disease and evade predators? And all of that while in a jungle? They simply can't do that because they lack the required human intelligence. That is the real reason they are slowly dying out in the wild.

He also mentions something about New Guinea children being more interested in other people and spending more time talking. Sure, that works if your entire world for the first 12 years exists of your tribe (in which you know everyone), the jungle and maybe a few people passing through. Try engaging strangers in a city of even just 200,000 people. You'd never reach the other side of the street if you stopped for a 2 minute chat with everyone you met. It is well proven that people tend to politely ignore others in settings where full attention would cause full on attention overload.

If I disagree with a lot of his points before I even reach the first chapter I'm not going to bother with the rest of the book. It isn't even for some strange drive to only read things that I agree with (I often read entire fark threads without looking at names and I haven't gotten anyone on ban or favourite), but it just seems incomplete and simplistic. And that is not something you want to seem in the part that is supposed to make people interested in the rest of the book.
 
2013-08-28 12:07:27 AM

DerAppie: FloydA: You misunderstood Diamond's point. It's far from a perfect book, but you're dismissing it on the basis of something that it doesn't actually say.

Except that it pretty much does. I propose you re-read the prologue. It quite literally says that children from indigenous tribes living in the jungle are probably more intelligent because they pay more attention to their environment. If they don't they'll step on a snake/from a cliff and die, this would have weeded out the retards.



And that is actually correct.  They are not "superior" in any absolute sense, but they are very well adapted to a dangerous environment.

I am very well adapted to a rather safe environment, to which a Dieri, Alyawara, Yanomamo, or Mbuti person of equal intelligence would not be adapted.  Don't mistake "well adapted to one's immediate environment" for "better."

A young man who grew up playing football is probably going to be better at football than a young man who grew up playing chess.  That fact does not suggest that one of those two is a "superior" person than the other.

The English language is not really very good at discussing this subject, but don't conflate "superior ability at a specific task" with "superior value as a human being."

Diamond was very clear that people who live in hunter-gatherer societies often have perfected abilities that are latent in people who have grown up in industrial economies.  That does not mean that one or the other is a "better kind of person." only that one may be more proficient at a specific task.

Michael Jordan is "better" at basketball than I will ever be.  This fact does not make me less human than he is.  When we use terms like "better" or "worse," we need to be specific about the parameters within which we are speaking.

If I decided to fight a boxing match or run a foot race against Yali's children, I would lose.  They really are better  at those specific tasks than I am.  That does not make me less human than them or less worthwhile as a person.  It is simply a recognition that, because of their experiences, they have mastered skills that I have not.

Don't conflate superior ability  at a specific task with "superior value" in an absolute sense.  They are very different concepts.

There are many problems with Diamond's writing (most of which, he is aware of).  Your critique is not one of them.  You're criticizing his book for something that it does not say.

If you really want to critique Diamond, let me know and I'll gladly explain some of the legitimate criticisms of his work, but criticizing him for something he didn't say is not an effective strategy.
 
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