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The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution (MacSci) Hardcover – July 20, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0230617636 ISBN-10: 0230617638 Edition: 1st

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The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution (MacSci) + Fire: The Spark That Ignited Human Evolution
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This beautifully written and magnificently eclectic book asks questions, encourages discussion, and ardently takes us away from the familiar byways of biological and cultural evolution. The Artificial Ape deserves a wide audience…This is Taylor at his best – and his best is very good indeed.”—Brian Fagan, author of The Little Ice Age, for Current Archaeology
 

"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

“Taylor’s hypothesis has the value of focusing attention on a critical point in early human evolution and, more generally, of emphasizing the centrality of technology from the very beginning of human existence. It is an intriguing contribution.”—World Socialist Web Site

"Taylor has a lively writing style...Recommended."--Choice

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

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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Product Details

  • Series: MacSci
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; 1 edition (July 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230617638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230617636
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #745,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Well written and eye opening.
Former Captain
It seems to me that chimpanzees have probably been using tools as long as humans but this has not led to increased brain size.
Stephen Pletko
First of all, the book does not present any reasonable conjectures on the processes producing the results he describes.
Yehezkel Dror

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tina McMahon on August 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Wow. This is a fascinating, lively and beautifully written book, and it's utterly persuasive. I could not stop reading it, and now that I have finished it I can't stop recommending it. The interweaving of anecdote, theory and scientific evidence is masterful, and he has something quite extraordinary to offer to the conversation about human evolution.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yehezkel Dror on July 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book presents the hypothesis that tools had and have critical impacts on the evolution of humanity: "instead of our becoming intelligent enough to invent things, the things actually allowed us to evolve into intelligent human beings (page 57)," going even further to claim that "Technology is at least as critical to our identity as out soft tissues" (page 189). Going beyond accepted theories of genetic and cultural coevolution, the author proposed revisions of Darwin's theories so as to recognize tools into a main shaper of the human species, with technology having a dynamics of its own, up to claiming that "Things rule us" (page 160).
He makes a strong case about the crucial importance of tools in shaping human evolution. Indeed, we might do well to stop using the term genetic-cultural coevolution and think instead in terms of genetic-cultural synergetic interaction. But there are two main missing links in his argumentation. First of all, the book does not present any reasonable conjectures on the processes producing the results he describes. Thus, on the critical example of infant-carrying slings he says that they were "an essential tool" (page 122) because of the need to carry infants for long distances "So the pressure to make this discovery....is huge...It becomes conceivable that the first bestoke and standardized stone tools...were made in order to obtain the materials for... the simple fabrication process for basic slings" (page 123). Maybe this is conceivable, but "being conceivable" is a far cry from "being likely" even if we accept abduction as a reasonable logic of discovery.
The second missing link concerns the mental bases of advanced technologies, which are not a continuation of stone-age technologies but depend on science and its philosophical underpinnings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Small on June 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The headline in this book arrives six pages before the end: it is the theory that the invention of the baby-carrying sling allowed humans to evolve from woodland apes two million years ago. The sling would have solved the problem of how a bipedal species with a narrow pelvis and constricted birth canal could dramatically increase its brain size. The solution was to allow the infants to be born prematurely when the head was just small enough to pass but too big to support itself unaided. For the parent to remain productive while raising an infant, technology was needed to carry it - an artificial marsupial pouch. Ever since then, says the author, humans have been completely dependent on technology to the point where it "has taken a leading role in evolution" (p 194) by separating us from our environment.

The author sees Tasmania as a test case for his theory. According to previous accounts, the aboriginal inhabitants lost their technology after they were cut off from mainland Australia by rising sea levels. The explanation for this has been that skills were forgotten because the Tasmanians did not have enough neighbours to refresh them. The author sees this as a challenge because if our minds evolved to invent technology, why could we not reinvent it? He argues very persuasively that the Tasmanians remained totally dependent on technology, that reports of their backsliding were exaggerated, and that a reduced toolkit was sensible and comparable to that of other groups in analogous situations. His evidence does not seem to me to undermine the theory that larger populations are more technologically innovative, in fact it enriches it. The Tasmanians had ideas that might have helped some mainlanders too.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Quaternarygeology on August 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is an fascinating book which is well argued and beautifully written. The idea that the early adoption of technology enabled us to dominate the planet although we have become the weakest ape is highly though-provoking. This book is a must for anyone interested in human evolution.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Former Captain on December 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well written and eye opening. Any of the Darwinian Realists out there will enjoy this book. Makes one think till it hurts...and that's a great place to be.
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By Mortimer Wheeler on November 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think this iconoclastic book should receive way more attention. Very persuasive arguments and evidence. Deep scholarship yet very well written for a popular audience.
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