timothy_taylor's picture
Jan Eisner Professor of Archaeology, Comenius University in Bratislava; Author, The Artificial Ape
Technology Came Before Humanity And, Evolutionarily, Paved The Way For It

The very idea of a "cognitive toolkit" is one of the most important items in our cognitive toolkit. It is far more than just a metaphor, for the relationship between actual physical tools and the way we think is profound and of immense antiquity.

Ideas such as evolution and a deep prehistory for humanity are as factually well-established as the idea of a round earth, or gravity as a force pulling apples from trees. Only bigots and the misled can doubt them. But the idea that the first chipped stone tool pre-dates, by at least half a million years, the expansion of mind that is so characteristic of humans, should also be knowable by all.

The idea that technology came before humanity and, evolutionarily, paved the way for it, is the scientific concept that I believe should be part of everybody's cognitive toolkit. We could then see that thinking through things and with things, and manipulating virtual things in our minds, is an essential part of critical self-consciousness. The ability to internalize our own creations, by abstracting them, and converting "out-there" tools into mental mechanisms, is what allows the entire scientific project.