Untapped Worlds – Entries

I continue this series from the last post, Untapped Worlds — Departure

cell-systemThere is a popular saying in professional sports that “you [your team] are only as strong as your weakest player.” Another similar analogy is a wheel is only as strong as its weakest cog or spoke, or a chain its link. There are many other similar analogies that infer engineering or architectural laws:  the two strongest geometric shapes are the arch (or dome or sphere), and the other is the triangle. The reason this law is true is because of how weight or gravity are shared and displaced. Therefore, it stands to reason that other shapes and designs are insufficient for high levels of weight and gravity. Does this hold true for human social constructs? Are all human constructs impervious to and inerrant over time?

* * * * * * * * * *

Human_bodyWhen I was a high school senior I entered an engineering contest of wooden toothpick-bridges of some 13 physics class contestants around the Dallas area earning extra credit. The contest determined who could build the strongest toothpick bridge. The finished bridges of every possible design were placed onto a compression testing machine to decide how much weight each contestant’s toothpick-bridge could withstand before snapping and collapsing. The contest rules allowed for 2-weeks of preparation and construction before the day of reckoning. Fortunately for me they allowed parents to guide and assist. Being a mechanical engineer, my father was more than happy to partner up. He thrived in these sorts of engineering feats.

human-habitats_1The first order of building our bridge, as mentioned, was RT&D — research, testing and development. I had to go buy five different brands of toothpicks, preferably different shapes. Next, I had to purchase four different brands of epoxy-glue, preferably with different ingredients. Next, I had to get a bucket, C-clamps, our carpenter’s/mechanic’s multifunctional workbench, a measuring cup, and the water hose. Dad made me create a table on a sheet of paper with columns and rows showing the 5 different toothpicks and 4 different epoxy-glues and one column labelled “Break Weight.” From the closed table-clamp of the workbench holding one rigging, which held one end of the toothpicks, to the other c-clamp holding the other end of the toothpick, which held the bucket underneath, all hanging under the workbench… I slowly poured 1-cup of water into the bucket. Marked down 1-cup. Slowly poured another cup and human-habitats_2repeated this process until the toothpick snapped or sheared off. After hours of testing 3-4 times the twenty various combinations of toothpicks and epoxides, we had our strongest combination for the building of our bridge. Next came the design of our bridge given the structure of the contest’s compression testing machine and how it would apply measured force. Based on those specs, my “lead engineer” deduced that the best design was a complex version of the Howe Truss design with many more trusses forming an A-shape (see slide show below). Precise methodical construction began following the blueprints Dad and I had meticulously drawn. Each set of joints had to dry overnight.

Two weeks later and at the end of the official contest, the winning bridge held just over 300 lbs before breaking. It was our bridge. The closest runner-up held up to about 97 lbs.

Your “bridge” is only as strong as your weakest truss/joint.

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Becoming and Being Human

What is it that makes us human? What factors and influences make us who we are as a person? Some answers would be versions of the mental, emotional, physical, and intangible/spiritual aspects that make up our person. Though this is not an entirely wrong four-dimensional answer, I feel it falls short. It’s too vague.

I think what makes us human, what makes us who we are and who we are becoming has four primary influences:  1) resources and food, 2) our physical body, 3) our brain, and 4) social life, pretty much in that order with fluctuations. What do these four influences involve?

Resources/Food — How we are conceived and raised, from embryonic to young adult, depends largely on our parents’ available resources:  food, shelter, and protection all relative to our parents’ learned wisdom, and to an extent their parents before them and so on. But it’s more too. Those resources are relative to what Earth and/or others provide or take away.

Body — How we develop as a person is directly influenced first by the available resources for our parents/family, then eventually what resources are available to ourself and how much mobility is required (or in modern time, “chosen” mobility as opposed to several million years ago) to achieve and adapt our physical body. This is also closely connected with the next influence…

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Brain — How our modern brain develops not only helps decide what type body and personality are most productive and healthy for survival, but it also determines what resources can be found, created, or modified to improve its self, the body, and to different extents our environment. From 800,000 to 200,000 years ago paleoanthropologists and climatologists determined that brain size increased rapidly during dramatic climate changes effecting resources, then bodies. Larger more complex brains helped the earliest humans to interact with each other and survive in new adapted ways as their environment became unpredictable. And this leads me to the next influence…

space-habitat_1Social life — Over hundreds of thousands of years our ancestors learned the impact of group survival. I often call it “strength in numbers” because not only is it very hard (impossible?) to do solo all tasks to live and survive, but it’s also easier to come up with ingenious solutions or improvements when you have a large think-tank to access! And no surprise, the more diverse the think-tank, the more ingenious the solutions created. And it may be no further surprise, language and its articulation or expression between think-tank members are critical and proportional to the group’s or social network’s complexity.

The dynamics of these four flexing and fluid components — or in bridge design, tension and compression limits — make up the strength, health, and adaptability of the whole, the human. It would follow that a most dynamic human would be one where all four components, influences, and subcomponents, are continuously being monitored, tested, mixed-racemodified, strengthened, balanced, and rebalanced. A most dynamic human would have an above average or higher access to the best Resources, an above average or higher Body performance, an above average or higher Brain complexity-performance, and an above average or higher managed Social life. And with the fact that human existence is always relative to many fluid forces and influences inside as well as outside of self — i.e. from parents, to Earth and others — why would anyone desire and choose, as a whole, to be solo, weaker, and less than average? And given that our brain works on a mere lean 12.6 watts and is prone to degrees of ambiguity, superstition, memory-errors, and deception as shown in the previous two posts of this series, shouldn’t we at least thoroughly dissect and reëxamine who we are more than once or twice in our adult life, asking what more could we be…for ourself, those we love, and others?

A Complete 4-D Checkup

In order to make all four dimensions/influences improved, stronger, wiser, more dynamic and thus better support, manage, and invigorate family, people, and life’s compressions and tensions, I feel we must identify and understand more deeply these subcomponents of each dimension; learn how they function and interact with the other three and beyond our own brain and bodies.

In the next post of this series, Untapped Worlds — Reside, I want to breakdown the subcomponents of all four influences that make us human and offer suggestions of how to expand them, strengthen them, and thus making them more dynamic. One of these four influences/components is on the brink of rapid historic expansion and/or change!

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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42 thoughts on “Untapped Worlds – Entries

  1. This is a very enjoyable post and serves to solidify some deep thoughts I’ve had of late.

    My sister and I both experienced and were raised in the same horribly abusive home – long and ugly story that I will not go into – but my point is that she and I are as opposite as night and day. It proves what you state above: desire and choice. I decided to break that vicious circle and, yet, learn from it. I took from it that I was going to be an “above average person”, was not going to stay in that environment and certainly not give birth and raise children in the same manner. I was not going to be a victim of my upbringing, neither would my progeny.

    I am happy to see that you put, in print, what I try to practice: monitoring and adjusting “influences, and subcomponents”. Do I always succeed? Hell no! But the point, as I think you are trying to relay here, is even though we may have setbacks, “fluid” external components, we should still continue to strive for improvement in ourselves and it will only serve to improve our relationship with those around us.

    Thank you for another excellent blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lonestar for another endorsement, feedback, and more importantly to me… as one of my ‘travel-companions‘. 😉

      …even though we may have setbacks, “fluid” external components, we should still continue to strive for improvement in ourselves and it will only serve to improve our relationship with those around us.

      Yes! And I applaud you for turning adversity into valuable opportunity. I’ve learned in myself and others that we, as modern humans, tend to search for and go routes of least resistance, especially in human social communication and interactions. I think that is true — perhaps to a different extent — also in our “intimate” social interactions. We don’t like being (too?) vulnerable to others or another, even spouses and immediate family. All this has at various times in my past been true for me. I see it as also true with MANY of my peers because they divulge it to me sooner or later, mostly sooner. LOL

      I now find it utterly fascinating and perplexing, and I ask why. As an exceptional (former) athlete, from a physical standpoint, the Path of Least Resistance is career-ending! Done! Game-over! And I don’t think or feel like easy-roads are ideal only for the “physical”; I feel facing & managing insecurities have to be done for all the Four-Dimensions as well! One of my former incredible female-partners used to always respond to me this way when I asked her & challenged her “to go further”; she’d respond with that ready-look in her eyes: “How far down the rabbit-holes do you want to go!?” Many times she had more courage and daring than I! LOL 🙂

      Stay tuned if you’re able. I think you’ll enjoy the “avenues” I’ll be exploring in the remaining posts of this series. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminded me of Maslow’s triangle, although you didn’t actually mention it. Basic physiological/safety needs, then our need to relate to others, and for some, self actualisation. Whatever that may be. I related body and resources to the lower layer, social to the middle, and brain to the apex. I *guess* we all view things through different lenses.

    Over the past two years as I’ve aged and fallen over, ‘no person is an island’ has never been more true. And yet if one is independent and doesn’t like asking for help, or doesn’t want to spend all the time aimlessly chattering, what to do? We are not all the same, so your hypothesis may work for you, but I’m not sure it works for everyone.

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    • Good points Roughseas. I especially like:

      Over the past two years as I’ve aged and fallen over, ‘no person is an island’ has never been more true.

      That is never more truer than when we are conceived, born, and “raised” through at least 10-12 years old, then it all returns as we age…for some beginning in their forties/fifties and older until death. Prime example, you have and have had Partner for some 30 years and hopefully much longer. So so much influences our lives, our quality of life.

      Ah, lenses. Yes. 😛 There seems to me to be many paradoxes in our individual and group perceptions. As I continue this series, I will dive deeper into those paradoxes as well as into some widely accepted Laws of Nature and our Universe. For instance, Universal Law of Gravitation, Newton’s Law of Motion, Laws of Thermodynamics, Archimedes’ Buoyancy Principle, of COURSE Evolution and Natural Selection 😉 , General Relativity, and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle…all forces that govern our existence no matter what lenses we choose individually to gaze through, including Professor Taboo’s lenses. And by the way, my delightful consistently challenging-friend, there are of course theories involved too. Time — as much as can be thoroughly perceived & understood — changes what we widely accept as Laws, hence the paradoxes. Perhaps one of the best examples of this was Einstein apologizing to Newton for proving him [Newton] wrong, or at minimum greatly improving Newton’s theory of gravity.

      My point here? These forces do indeed influence our Solar System, our planet, our resources, our bodies and brains, and as you further illuminated, our social-life through others. I hope you will continue to return to share your thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post professor. I guess the only thought that came to me was in relation to roughseas comment and also what you said “why would anyone desire and choose, as a whole, to be solo, weaker, and less than average?” I would say that choices not to socialize or to allow yourself to be weaker in some physical aspect or intellectual aspect or affordable in a cooperative society in which we are all playing different roles. We could not afford to choose to be solo, in a small group where the actions of all of us were necessary for survival, or I cannot afford to be dumb if I didn’t at least align myself with somebody smart and at the very least could contribute let’s say to physical tasks. If we look at deviant behaviors like hoarding, lying, or murder, etc, such qualities can only exist when a majority of the people are generous, honest, or compassionate. So these 4 parts you describe may not be desirable in one particular person if one lives in a society in which we all can play are part. In essence sharing a larger consciousness (although not literally). I’m not certain that this is necessarily a good thing as we would probably do well to develop all parts of the things you mentioned, as a group oriented species environmental pressure to develop all 4 of those things are not necessary. I mean take a look at many of the southern states where education is quite low and there is little economic productivity, they take more money from the federal government than they give, and because they are part of a larger entity that affords them to do that. I am not saying I am unhappy that my taxes blah blah blah…I’m simply saying…throw Alabama into the wind and make them survive on their own and you might see a different Alabama…but not after a great deal of suffering. And it’s the suffering that is the reason why I would not be for throwing Alabama to the wind! lol Since we evolved successfully largely due to reciprocal altruism, I might put the social aspect as the first one instead of the last one. Because the resources your parents have are likely a result of the success of the society they live in. They very likely didn’t just live in the forest by themselves, and if they did, they probably aren’t swimming in resources. The development of body and brain depend on a lot of things, but it is the collective knowledge and skill set of your society that gives you a chance to develop those things as well.

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    • Thank you Swarn for the kind words and your very thoughtful comment and input! I really enjoy engaging with such insightful challenging minds! (Professor tips his hat)

      Before I really dive in and swim in your comment, I want to first clarify something. You state…

      So these 4 parts you describe may not be desirable in one particular person if one lives in a society in which we all can play are part. In essence sharing a larger consciousness (although not literally). I’m not certain that this is necessarily a good thing as we would probably do well to develop all parts of the things you mentioned, as a group oriented species environmental pressure to develop all 4 of those things are not necessary.

      I’m not sure if I fully understand. Can you help me? 🙂

      Later you mentioned…

      Since we evolved successfully largely due to reciprocal altruism, I might put the social aspect as the first one instead of the last one.

      You’ve actually revealed a dilemma I had drafting this post (with images) visually and cognitively expressing the “Four Circles within One Circle.” In other words, the chicken or egg debate. I honestly got so bogged down in it with graphic-applications, I threw my hands up and said “If anyone catches it, or brings it up, then big kudos to them!” Otherwise, I’m on a schedule! LOL

      So Swarn, no surprise, big props to you Sir. I think overall your point fits well in the scheme and mechanics of what I’m progressing to. Now, about that clarification above? 🙂

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      • I was merely saying that we can specialize. Roughseas preference to be alone and not socialize is only really allowable because we live in a society that allows her to do so. Teamwork isn’t always about everybody being really good at the same thing, but we often work in a complimentary fashion to each other. Let’s say there is a puzzle behind a heavy door that needs solving. Well I need someone who has developed their body to open the door, but I as a smart guy could solve the puzzle. In that way we make a good team. So when you live, especially in large populations, being rich in resources isn’t really necessary if other people are willing to work to provide you with basic sustenance. Being really strong isn’t really necessary if I can just hire a person to do heavy work for me. Does that clarify my position better in regards to the question you asked about why somebody wouldn’t want to be successful in all 4 of those areas?

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        • Swarn, that’s a great explanation. And amplifies my comment very well. When I was young and earning good money, I could buy whatever I needed. In my personal relationship, my partner has practical skills regarding construction and mechanics. I am the paperwork person. Or, I read the manuals and tell him what to do. I do have the odd practical skill in that we’ve never paid for curtains. As a team, we are a perfect mix, on our own? Fucking useless. So that also endorses the professor’s original premise that we need to live together. Because, at some point, ie old age, our money to hire people runs out, our strength, health and ability to do our own work runs out, and maybe our mental ability decreases too. But I don’t see society as a whole caring for older vulnerable people, let alone younger ones 😦

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        • I agree with you completely. I have started doing volunteer work representing neglected and abused children in court. The fact that we must depend on volunteers to do this tells you that we are doing little to help children as a society who need it the most. On the other side many Asian countries adult children do take care of their aging parents, but in the west it seems like we are happy to put them into homes and just forget about them for the most part.

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        • English speaking western society. My Spanish neighbours are in their late 80s. One daughter lives literally on the back, the other lives next door but one. They also have good neighbours 😉

          However, while I would hate to live the life of their children and grandchildren, I do believe the immediate family contact has helped with their longevity. Mental interaction, physical and domestic care.

          The question there is, should we sacrifice our own lives for the benefit of our parents? Very, very difficult.

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        • Ah thank you for correcting me, I shouldn’t assume! 🙂

          They say that one of the reasons we’ve been so successful as a species is that we have long lives and that we have been able to pass down knowledge through several generations. This of course was extremely useful during a time when that was the only way to pass down knowledge and experience, but in some way you could argue that old people are no longer necessary in that way. But in poorer countries, in villages, old people are still revered it seems and I assume this is partly because if you aren’t getting much formal education and don’t have access to books, the internet, etc then the knowledge of your parents and grandparents still has more value. But your question is a good one and you are correct it is very very difficult. Perhaps in other cultures it seems less difficult and simply just the way things are.

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        • My 85-year-old neighbour can’t read. Her 88-year-old husband can, although hearing him read out loud to her is like listening to staggering through treacle. She can tell the time and pay money, but can’t read prices at the super. People still make a thumbprint at the local banks. Spain was a third world country until recently. My grandparents and great grandparents were reading and writing in the C19.

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        • What is the C19? I’m not familiar with that.

          I mean clearly modern medicine and a sedentary lifestyle hasn’t been overly good for people staying more alert into their old age. I imagine being more nomadic and getting regular exercise was helpful in maintaining better alertness and skills into old age. On average I would say “civilization” took away a lot of the value of the old.

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        • Nineteenth century. An abbreviation that isn’t used much these days, I guess. Old age huh?
          My Spanish neighbour, and others, endlessly walk around the village. It’s a good thing. As José once said, if you don’t use your legs, they won’t work. So true.

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        • Definitely! I imagine older people in hunter-gatherer tribes also continued to do things they were good at. Even if it was at a slower rate, I imagine they did more things to keep their mind sharp as well. That’s one of the things they say would help a lot of people from developing lot of old age brain disorders is by continuing to do activities that keep your mind sharp as well. Crafts, puzzles, games, playing with children, etc.

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        • But I don’t see society as a whole caring for older vulnerable people, let alone younger ones 😦

          Roughseas, I wish I could honestly say you are wrong there, but I can’t can I? And your painful, very true point leads into an area of Human Nature traceable all the way back 2.5 – 3 million years. Our ancient “fight-or-flight” mode and unpredictable(?)… paranoia(?) is deeply embedded in our human psyche. Is it possible to minimize, even help eliminate that psychological egoism? Many species on the planet have done so; can humans? That’s what I’ll attempt to explore later in this series. Stay tuned? 🙂

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        • Does that clarify my position better in regards to the question you asked about why somebody wouldn’t want to be successful in all 4 of those areas?

          It does. Thank you. 🙂

          Teamwork isn’t always about everybody being really good at the same thing, but we often work in a complimentary fashion to each other.

          …So when you live, especially in large populations, being rich in resources isn’t really necessary if other people are willing to work to provide you with basic sustenance. Being really strong isn’t really necessary if I can just hire a person to do heavy work for me.

          All of that I do agree with and find that “Specialization” does indeed have its specific personal & social benefits. However, it isn’t foolproof. Perhaps the question becomes how complex, how much is the individual brain and body really capable of learning, performing, and remembering? I think I’ll hold off in saying more because I think revisiting questions like this will be more intriguing later, maybe at the end of the series. 🙂

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        • It’s true, and I think in hunter gatherer tribes people had a more jack of all trades mentality. Women could hunt, men would help in gathering, and while I am sure there were some people who were more talented than others at certain things, an accident that eliminated that person, meant that the tribe would suffer if that skill set was completely lost and the knowledge could not be passed down. When you have books and written language you can also afford to have less “back up” because a skill set wasn’t necessarily lost. I imagine early in our evolution, being a jack of all trades had benefits simply because you needed to make sure that knowledge wasn’t lost.

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        • Women could hunt, men would help in gathering, and while I am sure there were some people who were more talented than others at certain things, an accident that eliminated that person, meant that the tribe would suffer if that skill set was completely lost and the knowledge could not be passed down.

          Oh my Swarn! You raise an excellent sidenote! Actually two sidenotes! First, can you imagine how much further evolved humanity would be — since perhaps the European Dark Ages — had women been given their rightful equal position in society like today!? 😮 And Roughseas, I do realize even today it isn’t fully there and we MUST change that. But Swarn, it’s reminiscent of your recent post about women’s silencing. :/

          Second, you stated…

          When you have books and written language you can also afford to have less “back up” because a skill set wasn’t necessarily lost.

          Being a liberal arts student, teacher, and advocate, I’ve seen just in my lifetime a gradual DECREASE in America’s general population, particularly my daughter’s generation, of a BROAD education including all the arts and humanities, for a more highly technical, better wage-earning, and economy-driven, consumer-driven lifestyle than one of “Neo-Jack-of-all-Trades.” It alarms me and I find it weakening our species for future possible/probable adversities, particularly in dealing with each other’s diversities. :/

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        • True, but the point is that we have all those books, recorded performances of plays, musicals, and I think there will always be people driven to do art, even if it means living as a pauper. It’s not like those things were ever lavish lifestyles. Most artists died in poverty. I don’t think the humanities are dead by any means. Technical work has probably paid more since the dawn of civilization. Anti-intellectualism in this country is impact all fields. Scientists can’t be trust, grant money is dwindling for scientific research, and obviously the humanities are suffering even more. Right or wrong I think that such things have for the most part always seemed like a bit of a luxury. With civilization came farming, and those who grew the food (the resources) had little time for such luxuries. Hunter-gatherers certainly made art, but those things would definitely fall by the way side if survival was at stake. I think what’s sad is that given how much value we see that the humanities brings to our lives, and that we live in a society where we could celebrate that more, we don’t.

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  4. @ both of you. Jack of all trades? Really? I know you both claim to be enlightened but surely you have heard of Jill?
    Ironically, my first job as a newspaper reporter was often described as that. We knew lots of things about everything but nothing much about anything.
    @ Professor, I see nothing but an endless drive to push costs ie employee wages to the minimum. Sad times, I’ll be honest.

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    • Oh really? Thank you so much for your kind words P&B. ❤ My blog isn't everyone's cup-o-tea and bold spices, 😉 but there's usually a little something — unless of course you are a fellow Bohemian — one can find to savor or devour.

      Please do stop by anytime and feel free to share whatever is on your heart or mind! 🙂

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  7. For sure, I will. You are full of humor and we need more of that. I think I am pretty informal…never followed anyone before, may be looked up to my family members, but at times, especially with age that dissipates, LOL. Thus, that makes me a Bohemian…See. you made me dig deeper :))

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