Rock 12 - Learn. Play. Create. Read.
Our final rock reflects the unique specialness of our human neural architecture. We have the biggest pre-frontal cortex and neocortex (when compared to body size) of any creature. A big part of our brain’s job is learning, playing, creating and expanding its understanding of the world.
As we've seen our brain is a prediction engine. It spends its days trying to predict what is going to happen next. It bases these predictions on previous experiences and learning. When prediction errors occur, when our brain's expectations of what is going to happen aren’t borne out, our brain learns from the error, improving next time. It has done this from the moment we are born.
Our brains are hungry for new learning about the world. Our large neocortex can store almost infinite amounts of information in long-term memory and once it’s there that info can be brought together across our neural pathways in new and unique ways. This sifting of experience and bringing it together in new ways, it could be argued, is our species most powerful attribute. After all it is this process which has seen us develop technology to improve our lives faster than any other species on the Planet.
A chimp might use a stick to fish ants out of their ground nest, a crow might use a stone to crack open a snail, but humans have been adapting the environment to suit our purposes from our inception.
Let’s look at just 3 examples of this;
(i) Harnessing of fire, to cook food, making meals more nutritious and helping us keep predators away at night;
(ii) Taking of the skins of the animals we’ve hunted and turning them into clothing to keep us warm;
(iii) Using the bones of animals to make fish hooks or jewellery.
This creativity, taking information and experience and smashing them together in new ways is our species signature activity and it has seen us keep moving forward for the last 300,000 years.
Around 10,000 years ago in a number of different places we have independently invented writing, a way of capturing our thoughts and enabling others distant from us to understand them. This process only accelerated the development of our technology and communication.