Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Artificial Ape

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution
Timothy Taylor

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Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Published: July 20, 2010

"By the time I had finished reading the first few pages of The Artificial Ape I was breathless with excitement, by the time I had finished the last pages I was sure that Taylor's understanding of how humans have evolved, and what makes them unique in the material world changes the debate about human evolution forever. And as if that were not enough, the book is beautifully written.”
-- Christopher Potter, author of You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe

"Our lives depend on houses, water pipes, clothes; but Taylor argues that we have been technologically dependent for two million years, from spears and fire onward. Unlike all other creatures, our evolutionary fitness is measured non-biologically: we are an intrinsically artificial species, and have been from the start. A sharp and unsettling argument and a provocative book."
-- Richard Granger, author of Big Brain

“The uniqueness of humankind is obvious everywhere we look, from our unlimited creativeness to our appalling destructiveness. This book lays out the biological basis for our species and takes us on a compelling journey of our rapid cultural development that has far outstripped the glacially slow changes of traditional genetic change. Could our highly flexible adaptation called culture, ultimately be the cause of our demise?”
-— Donald Johanson, Discoverer of Lucy

“Timothy Taylor's The Artificial Ape is a rollercoaster along the technological tracks of mankind's trajectory that reaffirms tool-making as one key to what it is to be human. This book will serve as an invaluable toolbox for artists, architects and curators for many years to come.”

-- Hans-Ulrich Obrist, author of The Interview Project

Praise for The Buried Soul

“Perceptive, radical and elegantly written,”
-- The Times of London

Praise for The Prehistory of Sex
“A stimulating catalog of erotic ancient history.”
-- Entertainment Weekly

A breakthrough theory that tools and technology are the real drivers of human evolution

Although humans are one of the great apes, along with chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, we are remarkably different from them. Unlike our cousins who subsist on raw food, spend their days and nights outdoors, and wear a thick coat of hair, humans are entirely dependent on artificial things, such as clothing, shelter, and the use of tools, and would die in nature without them. Yet, despite our status as the weakest ape, we are the masters of this planet. Given these inherent deficits, how did humans come out on top?

In this fascinating new account of our origins, leading archaeologist Timothy Taylor proposes a new way of thinking about human evolution through our relationship with objects. Drawing on the latest fossil evidence, Taylor argues that at each step of our species’ development, humans made choices that caused us to assume greater control of our evolution. Our appropriation of objects allowed us to walk upright, lose our body hair, and grow significantly larger brains. As we push the frontiers of scientific technology, creating prosthetics, intelligent implants, and artificially modified genes, we continue a process that started in the prehistoric past, when we first began to extend our powers through objects.

Weaving together lively discussions of major discoveries of human skeletons and artifacts with a reexamination of Darwin’s theory of evolution, Taylor takes us on an exciting and challenging journey that begins to answer the fundamental question about our existence: what makes humans unique, and what does that mean for our future?

About the Author

Timothy Taylor, PhD is the author of The Buried Soul and The Prehistory of Sex. He has appeared on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and National Geographic specials. He contributes to such publications as Nature, Scientific American, and World Archaeology, and is editor-in-chief of the Journal of World Prehistory. He teaches archaeology at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom.

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