There’s no stopping… The Swarm
There’s no stopping… The Swarm by Robert Gore – Straight Line Logic
Thag and his tribesmen had taken down a mammoth that morning. The feast was still underway, but Thag was bored with the men grunt-bragging about their exploit and the women grunt-complaining about the tribulations of raising cave-kids. He retreated to his cave and sat outside it, absently rubbing two sticks together. His hand brushed against one of the sticks where he had rubbed it—hot. After rubbing some more he stuck a dried leaf on the hot spot, just to see what would happen. Smoke, a flame, fire! He dropped the burning leaf to the ground. How could this be? Fire came from the sky gods. The flame died out. He gathered leaves, put them in a pile, rubbed the sticks, ignited a leaf, and dropped it on the pile. Big fire! Warm—good on cold nights.
When Thag showed the tribe how he had tamed fire, they may have grunt-hailed him as a “genius,” although he had only stumbled on to something because he was bored. While cave living may appeal to certain sensibilities—Nature! No technology! Extended families living together! A sense of community! etc.!—it had to have been excruciatingly boring for any mentally active cave-person. Boredom is one of the most under-appreciated forces in human history, for both good and evil. Much of the change wrought through the centuries resulted from somebody trying, in either a beneficial or destructive way, to make life more interesting.
Couple boredom with a problem to be solved and sometimes the outcome is progress. It was a good thing Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, because paradise had to have been tedious. With no problems to constructively occupy their time, Adam and Eve were bound to get into trouble. It is no accident that the majority of human progress comes not from idyllic environments but from those in which the basics of survival—sustenance, shelter, warmth—are not readily available and must be obtained by the application of brain power to ostensibly unforgiving surroundings.
While the solitary genius figure exercises an attraction in both history and lore, the acquisition of most knowledge is more prosaic. It’s usually a numbers, trial-and-error, and networking game. With tribes dispersed around the globe, chances are that other Thags made the same discovery at around the same time. Given fire’s useful properties—heat, light, cooking, weaponry—once tamed the knowledge probably spread like, well, wildfire. It also prompted further discoveries. Heat up certain rocks and metal ores drip out that can be forged into arrowheads, blades, ornaments, ploughs, and so on. These new innovations allowed hunter-gatherers to become farmers, who generated surpluses that led to communications, trade, and eventually, writing and numbers.