Monday, September 14, 2009

Our job as parents is to make life safe and secure

for our children so they can... Well, here:
If you have a strategy of having these very finely shaped innate modules just designed for a particular evolutionary niche, it makes sense to have those in place from the time you're born. But you might have a more powerful strategy. You might not be very well-designed for any particular niche, but instead be able to learn about all the different environments in which you can find yourself, including being able to imagine new environments and create them. That's the human strategy.

But that strategy has one big disadvantage, which is that while you're doing all that learning, you are going to be helpless. You're better off being able to consider, for example, should I attack this mastodon with this kind of tool or that kind of tool? But you don't want to be sitting and considering those possibilities when the mastodon is coming at you.

The way that evolution seems to have solved that problem is to have this kind of cognitive division of labor, so the babies and kids are really the R&D department of the human species. They're the ones that get to do the blue-sky learning, imagining thinking. And the adults are production and marketing. We can not only function effectively but we can continue to function in all these amazing new environments, totally unlike the environment in which we evolved. And we can do so just because we have this protected period when we're children and babies in which we can do all of the learning and imagining. There's really a kind of metamorphosis. It's like the difference between a caterpillar and a butterfly except it's more like the babies are the butterflies that get to flitter around and explore, and we're the caterpillars who are just humping along on our narrow adult path.

Link. Watch the video, too.


T. F. Stern said...

As long as we get to keep on humping I've no complaint.

The probligo said...

I have had a lot of enjoyment from reading some of the articles the Edge presents.

I think it is an interesting balance when raising kids between limiting the " learning, imagining thinking..." while at the same time controlling and directing the same processes into socially acceptable behaviours and thinking processes.

Al said...

TF: Hey, now! This is a family show! ;)

Prob: ...Ah, the hell with arguing. I want to know what a broadsword costs these days.

The probligo said...

Guess it depends upon authenticity. The first one my daughter "purchased" was cheap - I didn't enquire.

Her primary fighting sword I think she paid about NZD800 for. From a reputable maker here in NZ (was involved in some of the armoury work for LOTR). The genuine article? Who knows!

But, if you want to blade someone (with the flat instead of the edge) just use a 3' metal rule or similar. Effective! ;)

My comment came out of a recent court case (involving a rather gruesome murder) and a very "brilliant" economist (second-grade accountant?). The perp is a very cogent and scholarly man, but he has the personality of a sociopath. I would say that he has no personal boundaries; that he acts only from self-interest; and that others are "either with him or against him". His father spoke at the sentencing hearing yesterday and essentially admitted that (as a parent) he did not know where or how his son's up-bringing went so wrong.

Starsplash said...

I'm thinkin that the only thing you can do is teach your kids to "look before you leap", be careful of fire, ele., and calculate the risks before you do. Even then you could get out of bed stumble and fall killing yourself.

If you try and over protect your kids.......well....many of them are probably neurotic, freaking bullies, or both.