I wonder if that's analogous to the barrier that was crossed 70k years ago according to the theory in the article.
However, we routinely visualize high dimensional information spaces without even realizing it (though probably through some heavy dimensionality reduction). It's almost like we have the hardware for high dimensional reasoning, and some software to apply it to physical dimensions (the language of math), but no drivers to accelerate the latter with the former.
Smooth vs rough vs rippled vs grainy, fuzzy vs hairy vs spiky, striped vs mottled, etc. We get a lot of understanding of a material’s properties by looking at it, coupled with prior experience with similar-looking ones.
There’s even more richness involved when you take human cultures and other senses into account. I’d be surprised if I tried to turn what looks like a doorknob and it didn’t wiggle even a little; every locked one I’ve met does. I’d be shocked if my hand passed right through it instead. And when applied to other people, my God! It’s usually easy to tell when someone is angry or bored, often even if it’s aimed at us vs some third party—how many dimensions does that encapsulate?
Many animals are clearly capable of this too. The language appears to be the leap. It makes me wonder even more about crows talking to each other about which humans feed them, and what a shotgun looks like and can do.
I am not sure what would constitute recursion in tools - maybe something like an atlatl, sling or bow, where a tool is applied to another tool? These particular examples do not seem to challenge the timing of the hypothesis.
As an analytical concept and normative ideal, modernity is closely linked to the ethos of philosophical and aesthetic modernism; political and intellectual currents that intersect with the Enlightenment; and subsequent developments such as existentialism, modern art, the formal establishment of social science, and contemporaneous antithetical developments such as Marxism. It also encompasses the social relations associated with the rise of capitalism, and shifts in attitudes associated with secularisation and post-industrial life (Berman 2010, 15–36).
The Khoi San diverged from the rest of humanity roughly 200k years ago. Yet they are basically compatibly with modern humans. As far as I am aware, they have recursive language and normal imaginations. My point was that this theory would have to deal with the fact that human populations who split much, much longer ago than 70k years ago appear to have the same basic brain functionality as the rest of humanity.
I guess, based on what someone else said, the theory is positing that people with the mutation could bootstrap the process in people who don't have it. I dunno, in light of the Khoi San, things start to diverge pretty far from what I would describe as a parsimonious explanation. Plus we're talking hypothetically about what was going on in the minds of people who lived 70k years ago. There are a lot of theories that could be correct, since we have literally no direct evidence of the presence of recursive language (or the lack thereof).
But anyway, my point doesn't depend on how you define 'modern human', since not only do the Khoi San co-exist with the rest of humanity in the current moment, but they are not really significantly different from the rest of humanity in a behavioral sense. So by both definitions they are 'modern humans'. Which gets to my actual point: a theory which posits that behaviorally modern humans have their genesis only 70k years ago has some explaining to do in light of the fact that the Khoi San split from the rest of humanity about 200k years ago, yet are more or less the same as the rest of humanity.
Yes, I know - that was my point. You seem to be assuming that we in the West are at the apex of development while the Khoi San are to be evaluated by the degree to which their society resembles Western societies. Who knows - perhaps the Khoi San think that they are more modern than us and are waiting for us to catch up.
We all have ancestors going back to the first humans. No present human society is more "archaic" than any other, unless you think that human societies are somehow predestined to develop along a certain course.
So I do object to calling the Khoi San "pretty modern", as if they are somehow being stick-in-the-muds by not developing along exactly the same path as the West.
No, I am not. I have no idea how you came to that conclusion. On the contrary, my whole argument depends on the Khoi San not being significantly different, behaviorally, from the rest of humanity.
Here are quotes of what I said. The only reason I didn't use even stronger language is that there are, in fact, significant genetic differences between the Khoi San and the rest of humanity (that's how we know they diverged so long ago). But anyway, the quotes:
> (Khoi san and African pygmies) [...] who seem pretty modern.
Edit in reply to your edit: "pretty" in a colloquial sense means "very". As in, "it's pretty hot out today" = "it's very hot out today". Even the dictionary definition is "to a moderately high degree".
> Yet they are basically compatibly with modern humans. As far as I am aware, they have recursive language and normal imaginations.
> Appear to have the same basic brain functionality as the rest of humanity.
> they are not really significantly different from the rest of humanity in a behavioral sense
> are more or less the same as the rest of humanity
We have no evidence that the differences are particularly significant to everyday life. But in any case, your statement here makes no sense. The fact that the Khoi San are (to whatever minuscule extent) genetically different from “us” does not make them any less modern than us. Divergence is symmetrical: as we diverged from the Khoi San, they diverged from us, and there’s no sense in which they’re “older” than we are. So I still don’t understand why you are only willing to credit them with being modern “to a moderately high degree”. There’s nothing to qualify. They’re humans just like we are.
1. You are not interpreting the use of the modifier 'pretty' correctly. It is used for emphasis or to add or increase some property; to imply that something is more than usual. To say that 'it is pretty hot today' means that it hotter than if you merely said 'it is hot today'. Thus, when I say 'pretty modern', I am indicating a degree of modernity that is more modern than simply 'modern'. As far as I can tell, you are interpreting 'pretty' to mean that something is lacking in a quality or falls slightly short of possessing a quality. But that is the opposite meaning of the word. If I were trying to detract from their modernity, I would have said that they are 'kind of modern' or 'somewhat modern'.
2. The bigger picture, though, is that you're focusing on a single word choice instead of literally everything else I've written, including the crucial point that I have to agree with you for the point that I was actually making to hold true.
I'm glad we agree on the rest.
Once they themselves had kids they would be able to teach them their imperfect version of recursive language. This probably continued and amplified over generations.
It's a pretty interesting case of nature and nurture combining. The mutation is a prerequisite, but largely useless unless there's enough "nurture" happening during the critical period.
The point here is that the archaeological record seems to indicate that it's like one day we simply 'woke up.' Whomever was fortunate enough to experience such a mutation first would have had a tremendous competitive advantage. The degree in intellectual advancement is such that they would have probably been significantly better at just about everything -- most importantly in surviving and spreading their genes. Now take this person and what would likely have been their vast number of offspring. They could effectively take over the world. And I suppose, in a manner of speaking, they did.
Either that or the kinds of artifacts we look for simply don’t last longer than 70k years on a planet like this.
Or, it’s just rare enough that, when combined with the cost of excavation and the fact that scholarship builds on scholarship, it’s just not the kind of evidence scholars are going to dig far past we’ll established boundaries to find.
Lots of possible explanations for the data.
Non recursive language does not allow you to give commands more complicated than "you do this", for instance saying "tell X to do this thing at this time in this location" is impossible without recursion. You might be able to get as far as "tell x to do this" since you are essentially just saying "repeat these words to X" but you have no way of providing context such as the time or circumstances when X should be told or when X should be told to perform the action. All organization and command would have to be done spur of the moment. There would be no possibility of planning in advance or communicating abstract concepts and thoughts to others.
Even a small group of people with this ability facing another group without it would have an overwhelming advantage, they could deceive, plot revenge, strategize, distract, and confound their opponents with their seemingly magical ability to know what members of their own group were to do and say before they did it. They could conceptualize solutions to problems that the others could not even begin to imagine. They could invent new objects in their mind and then execute those plans or tell others about them. They could create new words and concepts in language through combination and juxtaposition. They would quite literally be super-human, every one of them a Napoleon and an Einstein and a Da Vinci and a Shakespeare at once.
There is in fact a theory that language is a tool for thought first, and for communication only secondarily.
Take for instance Google's translation AI. It developed its own intermediary language which facilitated translation between languages and enabled it to even translate languages it had not specifically been trained on.
e.g. It had a "word" for dog that wasn't part of any existing language.
e.g. it could translate Spanish -> French even though it was only trained on Spanish -> English and English -> French
Am I missing something here? Those two sentences are absolutely distinguishable grammatically - in one of the them the subject is "a dog" and the object is "my friend" and in the other the subject is "my friend" and the object is "a dog".
I realize this is kind of nitpick, but at the very least this is a very bad example to use to demonstrate the importance of this PFS concept.
"(A dog) bit (my friend)." "(My friend) bit (a dog)." Both parse as "(compound subject) verb (compound object)." Both "my" and "a" function as adjectives modifying the single noun after them.
The sentences have identical parse trees, even when considering the types of the nodes. They are grammatically identical.
They are not identical. They are similar at this production step:
S -> subj verb obj
verb -> ... -> bit
Other than that, the derivation diverges:
subj -> ... -> a dog
subj -> ... -> my friend
Of course, any two things are the same, if you choose to ignore anything that is different and define "sameness" that way.
This isn't conveniently bending definitions to make myself sound correct. This is the specific technical definition that was worked out by linguists in their empirical examination of language (and later adopted by computer scientists because it happens to work nicely with programming languages too). It might not match with some colloquial uses, but it's a reasonable assumption that an article discussing linguistics would be using the precise linguistic definition.
I get the point of the example, but it seems different at the grammatical level too.
Subject/object should be at a different level above grammar.
There are animals that have demonstrated some "semantics". There are parrots that do better than Koko with spoken language, but still do not produce anything like the grammatical constructs humans do. Everything I've seen out of parrots could be covered by memorizing a handful of grammar constructs in a very brute-force manner, and they have no deliberate ability to combine them.
The core point is that to distinguish '"A dog bit my friend" and "My friend bit a dog."' requires grammar, which so far as I know as one who tends to pay attention to these things, is not a thing that animals have ever demonstrated a deep understanding of (if there are animals that could distinguish that, that is probably their maximum limit) and certainly never demonstrated production of. (Or, at the very least, we've never decoded and proved is speech, if you're thinking of whales and dolphins and such.) If you produce and understand speech as the Koko sentence above, you can't distinguish those two sentences. It's not about whether changing subject and object makes a "different sentence" by some metric, it's about whether the animal in question has a well-defined usage of subject and object as distinct grammatical categories at all.
For example, in my sentence "The cup wants Koko" I used earlier, it is invalid, yet everyone here reading it has at the very least the same understanding of why it is invalid, because what it says and the grammar of why it says that is completely clear to us.
† An operation mapping a set X onto another X' by relating every member of X with some member of X', so that X' has the same number of members as X, but the identity of the members may be different.
In other languages, differentiating between subject/object is done differently.
example: "A doggo bit my friendee" or "My friendo bit a dogee" and you can see the difference. Word order is still somewhat relevant here because I didn't add endings to the verb too, which is commonplace in such languages. When you do that you are able to be far more free with word position:
My Friendee doggo bitto. Bitto My friendee doggo.
In this way it's easier to tell the subject/object difference. To some degree this can be done in English and is exactly what Yoda does: "My friend a dog bit" but that sentence can be either of the ones you gave. Adding a comma may help "My friend, a dog bit" = "A dog bit my friend"
 This is exactly what Latin does and as rjf72 mentioned it gives more freedom. Many Latin authors put the verb at the end which gives you a sort of suspense as to just what is happening. In my second example I put the verb up front and the subject at the end which allows me to keep you in suspense as to who did the biting.
Grammars make sense of sequences of symbols, i.e. order matters.
Only if you claim there is no difference between "dog" and "friend" can you claim that the two sentences are indistinguishable. But that's why they are different words -- so you can tell them apart :)
"Isabelle (1938) was almost seven years old when she was discovered. She had spent the first years of her life isolated in a dark room with her deaf-mute mother as her only contact. Only seven months later, she had learned a vocabulary of around 1,500 to 2,000 words. She is reported to have acquired normal linguistic abilities."
https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/06/20/noam-chomsky-the-sc... (not too much info here, but the best I can find at the moment)
I guess the ability to make plans, communicate and execute them and reflect on what worked and what didn't to improve the plan making endows us with significant predictive power compared to the rest of the planet. Perhaps in similar ways AI will endow some people (or itself) with predictive power beyond our own, allowing those who yield it to dominate the rest
Hasn't that already happened?
Are you intelligent?
I know, it talks about early humans development. I just wanted to extend it (semi-jockingly) to programming.
>I can't think of a common programming language that doesn't have at least some recursive elements
Sure, but recursion is more idiomatic/powerful in some languages than others. In nested arithmetic operations it is barely apparent.