Midterm Paper

Strong Language Skill

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright January 2017

Power Point presenation


Strong language skill is the technology that put humans on the path to being the distinctive species we are today. This essay is about why this is so, and the ripple effects it has had on our lifestyles.

How a world shaking technology evolves

A world shaking technology doesn't start out as world shaking -- that is step two. The first step is getting invented and developed in the first place and getting used by at least a few people. The first use is a much humbler but useful niche in first-adopters' lifestyles. When there are a group of people using the technology, then the surprise use, the world shaking use, can get discovered. When that surprise use is discovered, then the technology spreads and starts shaking the world.

The First Use of strong language skill

Most animals have ways of communicating with other members of their species. Many plants do as well. These basic uses of language are the First Use of language.

What makes human language skill distinctive is how versatile it is. What this versatility does first is allow humans to communicate in the First Use ways common to all animals, but faster, better and cheaper -- the "better" is the part of human language skill that became distinctive.

Compare human language skill to a bird chirping. A bird can chirp "Danger!" to its fellow birds, but not much more. The others have to look around for themselves to discover what the danger is. By comparison, a human can say, "Watch out! Tomorrow, at sunset, behind that tree over there, there will be a big guy with a club." -- lots of who, what, when, where, why and how can be communicated in addition to the basic danger signal.

This is the First Use of strong language skill -- doing "commodity" communication, but faster, better and cheaper.

The Surprise Use of strong language skill

The Surprise Use of strong language skill is teaching -- passing information and skills from one individual to another, and from one generation to the next.

Wow! What a difference this makes in how people live. This is the world shaking use, and the "ripple effects" of this are even more world-shaking.

The big difference this makes is that if someone comes up with a bright idea it can get passed around. The alternative, what happens without strong language skill, is that the bright idea dies with the person who thinks of it. This means that bright ideas are much more valuable when mixed with strong language skill.

There are dozens of ripple effects that spring from this combination. Here are a few:

o Tool use becomes more valuable because the skills learned can be passed around.

o The bigger brain becomes more valuable because the bright ideas it can come up with can be passed around.

o Socializing becomes more valuable because it helps spread information and skills.

Some secondary ripple effects are:

o Intensive child raising becomes more valuable to support the big brain and to make idea passing get more intensive.

o As idea passing becomes a taken for granted part of the lifestyle, memory aids such as songs and writing become recognizably valuable.

o Communicating and trading with distant neighbors allows good ideas to be spread along with good genes and good tools.


All-in-all, strong language skill becomes the root cause of huge changes in how the human species lives.


Tool use, intensive child raising, big brains and strong language skills are all parts of the repertoire that makes homo sapiens a distinctive species. They are all important, but the skill that makes this ensemble work well together and produces this species that has so shaken up life on Earth is the strong language skill. It leads this pack of skills and made them all synergize.

Strong language skill is the hot-item technology that made humanity distinctively human.



Project –
A. Select a technology that has made a significant contribution to our modern life. This technology can be current or from the past, but it must be something that significantly improved the human condition.

Try to address as much of the following as possible:
1. Try to answer who-what-where-when and why rather than trying to focus on the details of the invention itself.
2. Apply Visioning techniques we have discussed in class and determine what is acceptable about the technology and what aspects need improvement.
3. Why is this technology important to us?
4. What impact has this technology made on your life, and the lives of others?
5. Describe what “RIPPLE EFFECTS” have been associated with your selection.
6. Since technology is always developed in answer to a problem, what did people do before your technology was widely available? How did people of the past accomplish this task without the aid of your technology? Why was a change necessary?
7. Did people have to adapt in order to use this new technology? If so, how?
8. What changes would make it better?

References –
1. 5 SEPARATE, solid reference sources must be used in this work. Multiple items may be used from each source, but 5 separate sources must be adhered to.
2. Include at least 2 diagrams, drawings, photos etc. into your text. Facts, figures, artwork, quotes and other material from reference sources should be clearly identified in the text using the APA accepted format, an attached reference page must be included at end of work.
3. Wikipedia can be used, but you must back up what you use with another reference.



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