Civilization Is Built on Code

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Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

How did we humans manage to build a global civilization on the cusp of colonizing other planets?

Maybe it’s our unique capacity for complex language and story-telling, which allow us to learn in groups; or our ability to extend our capabilities through technology; or political and religious institutions we have created. However, perhaps the most significant answer is something else entirely: code. Humanity has survived, and thrived, by developing productive activities that evolve into regular routines and standardized platforms—which is to say we have survived, and thrived, by creating and advancing code.

As a technologist, this article was written to attract my attention. In a nutshell, code, aka the instructions for describing a process is in everything humanity creates. From RNA in the cell interpreting DNA to make the proteins that are the building blocks of life to the 0s and 1s in binary data telling computers how to draw the text in this blog, code is everywhere. Our technology going back to making stone tools and fire is built on creating and refining processes.

The concept of the unit of knowledge passed along through culture is the meme. The idea was based on the concept of the gene passing along hereditary behavior. The meme has been co-opted to mean a funny picture spread over the Internet.

Grandmother Hypothesis

Researchers looked at preindustrial mortality records in Quebec and Finland and found that families with a grandmother in the household had more kids and kids who lived longer, aka the “grandmother hypothesis.” Up to a couple points:

  1. Just 1.75 more kids.
  2. Younger grandmothers increased survival between 2 to 5 by 30%. Grandmothers over 75 reduced survival probability to age 2 by 37%.

Also, this is fairly indirect data looking at old records. It would be more valuable with more direct evidence. Though, how one could do an experiment where some kids get to have a grandma where others don’t would likely be deemed unethical.

I wonder how much that means for today’s society. My cousins with the largest number of kids live closer to their mothers.

When I moved here for a job, it was when I was single and a pretty decently easy drive to get home to help out when needed. It doesn’t seem so easy anymore with a family.