Winter is the greatest driver in human ingenuity

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As the temperatures plunge and we are faced with cyclone bombs, storms that arise in a way unprecedented for their ferocity and speed of formation, I think back to my piece about intelligence and why white and yellow people may be inherently better problem solvers in areas of technology than dark-skinned people.


One word, winter. Winter creates a unique challenge to inhabitants who have to survive long periods without heat or vegetative growth. Our skin changed to allow us to absorb more vitamin D and be less prone to rickets, but the really great change was in our brains. We had to plan for long periods without resources being abundant. We had to create places where we could remain protected from the elements, have warmth. Planning for the future, using innovative technology, being constantly on the lookout for any advantage, these are the legacy of winter survivors from the past.


Think of space travel as an extended winter. Think of sea living. Think of all vessels that protect us from hostile conditions as having developed from the first caves we ventured into to escape the cold. Think of fire as the first way of harnessing heat to our will. Think of a stone as being the first weapon. The first utensil being a stick to hold a piece of meat over a fire or a way to get termites. Think of winter as God's gift to humanity. Or maybe its greatest curse, depending on how we use our ingenuity.      


mark henry smith Added Jan 5, 2018 - 1:34pm
I have a longer piece here somewhere about whiteness and problem solving that is a complement to this piece.
Tubularsock Added Jan 5, 2018 - 2:40pm
Oh boy, mark henry smith. “Skin-color” is the determiner for  “inherently better problem solvers in areas of technology”?
And Winter is your example?
Come on MHS, Summer desert survival didn’t spring problem solvers?
mark henry smith Added Jan 6, 2018 - 11:51am
Tubular that is not what I said at all. Skin color is just a factor in surviving in northern climates. But the problems of surviving long periods without light, without heat, without being able to harvest, having to plan long term solutions, save for an uncertain future, was the significant development in technological innovation, in my humble opinion.
Desert survival does require some of the same planning, but not to the same extent. Cold has so many more ways to kill you than does heat.
And the Inuit are an example of survival strategies, but they existed in small communities, not large civilizations. The complex organization of modern civilizations are a result of the skills required to survive long winters.
I know you all jes be messin' wid ole Marko, so I's gots betta things ta be doin'. Gots to write da first chapter of the novel and be on my way.
Adios, amigos.    
Dave Volek Added Jan 7, 2018 - 11:45am
I'm a big fan of the Survivorman series. I would say any "natural" location in the world would bring out the necessity of innovation for survival.
And we have remember once a hunter/gatherer society found ways to work in its natural environment, they preferred to stay in their environment rather than move somewhere else. The known ways of the Canadian Arctic would not work well in the Amazon jungles--and vice versa.
Benjamin Goldstein Added Jan 7, 2018 - 5:20pm
Just reminded of some silly Fake News some of you might have read in your paper.
mark henry smith Added Jan 8, 2018 - 12:24pm
Again, oh ye of limited vision, I say unto you, think back. What was the first culture we know of to conquer the frigid north? It's not Inuit, you inuitiots, it's no the san Bushman of the Kalahari, it was the Neanderthal, from what I recollect, in the time between 250,000 to 300,000 years ago. We have very little evidence of exactly how these primitive ancestors lived, but we can imagine that they were light skinned because adaptation requires humanoids to be able to absorb sunlight through their skin to metabolize vitamin D, if my biology is correct, please correct me if you hear different.
What creates intelligence? It's the same process that creates any survival skill, natural selection, and the dramatic processes of the seasons not only create dynamic challenges to inhabitants, but also provide the wonder of death and rebirth on a grand scale. The long periods of people huddling together for warmth, being bored to tears must have made story telling, the ability to imagine and store information, enormously valuable skills.
I could go on and on with my thesis, which would develop slowly over the 50,000-100,000 years that homo-sapiens moved out of Africa and into the northern regions, displacing and interbreeding with Neanderthals as they went, learning from them, teaching them, interchanging cultural skills with them. Civilization doesn't appear in the form we recognize until around 10,000 years ago, well after the skills of winter survival had become part of our cultural heritage.
But let's face it, those who didn't learn and adapt died off, as it appears to have happened to the Neanderthal, except for Andre the Giant, who despite his Ogreish appearance was quite intelligent and artistic.        
mark henry smith Added Jan 9, 2018 - 1:30pm
Do tell, Mr. Crawford, or Mrs., or Miss, since Chris could be either male or female. I have a unique theory about the development of written language. And yes, story-telling, origin theory, the basis of all religious thought, man's connection to the earth and the animals, why things happen, people must have done what we do, marveled at theoretical explanations. Of course in those early times the role of story-teller would have been much more formalized, since it would be clear to the group who had the best skills. In the modern world, people can just steal what they read, but they can't steal a compelling performance on an IPhone.
How do ya' like them Apples? I love them and look forward to reading about your concepts in a coming post. I'm going to do something I've never done before with my first novel to make money fast and build a huge audience. I'll tell writerbeat about it when it's working, or not. Thanks.    
U.S. Voter Added Jan 12, 2018 - 10:23am
I get your idea - having to survive hardships drives primary mental evolution and I believe there is some truth to that.   If you could just live on the beach in perfect weather all the time picking fruit from the trees there isn't much need for you to come up with ingenious methods to ensure your survival.  
Or would you?  Because as your tribe breeds and breeds because of plentiful food and perfect weather, the tribes around you are doing the same.   Eventually you come into contact and then the fun begins. Who are you?  Why are you taking the fruit from our trees or the game from our hunting grounds?  Hey - we planted those trees and they are ours!  Let the fight begin!
The pressure for man to move into less hospitable climes probably arose just like that - population pressure and conflict moving one tribe out of the range of another.  At a certain point being able to live in a hostile environment when others can't is a viable defense against others who want to take what you have.  
mark henry smith Added Jan 12, 2018 - 2:10pm
US voter, there is truth in what you say, but the motivation to fight another group only requires that you be stronger than they are, not more advanced technologically. To survive severe environmental conditions requires advances in technology as we see with sea travel, space travel, whenever we travel for long distances, whenever we put down roots in harsh places.
I can accept that if that guy only has rocks and I have spears, that's a huge advantage for me, then if I have a bow, wait, I wrote an entire piece about the evolution of weaponry. But if I know how to make fire in frigid temperatures, and you don't, know how to burn oil, know how to create a stable living space to ride out winter, know how to store food safely, know one survival tactic after another, making a better weapon becomes child's play. And my offspring will have the mental acumen to go further, dig deeper, kill more efficiently. They will come to dominate the earth and the heavens. But that doesn't mean we'll be nicer, perhaps the opposite.