Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Tribe Who Can't Count

Anthropologists claim to have discovered a tribe of native Brazilians who can't count above two or three.:

The tribe’s counting system consists of three words — one that means “roughly one,” one that means “a small quantity” and one that means “many.”

The really interesting reaction is in a comment to that post by vernaculo:
As Ray Davis points out, it’s contact and taking the “test” that are problematic for the Pirahã. These natives will make soft meat for the merchants they encounter but it needs emphasizing, they were living successfully, without numbers, for countless thousands of years.
The assumption is that “our” way of living is more adaptable - even through incipient, and catastrophic, ecological disruption - and likely to be still more successful in future.
That assumption is baseless and void of proof. A teenager driving his father’s car at 100mph knows he’s immortal just as certainly, and just as validly.
They haven't been living successfully, without numbers, for countless thousands of years, they have been living successfully, without numbers, for countless manies of years. (I suspect that if thay don't “make soft meat for the merchants they encounter,” that will be counted as part of the evils of capitalism.)

In any case, even if you ignore Julian Simon's work (similar to pointing out that a supposedly-dangerous driver is going at four mph), the poster has no grounds for thinking our society is unstable. After all, by multicultural standards, there are many years of oil left, etc.


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