The long arc of squiggles and lines as early man learned how to communicate

by DRM

stone age writing.png

You are reading this on a device powered by a micro-processor, rendered by photo-electric diodes, built from bits and bytes. You are processing the signifier of each letter in its encoded meaning through each word, and cumulatively, through the combination of words that appear on the screen.

The contract between you and I is that I will try to say something in a way that you will be able to understand, and that in return for your committing time and energy to process what I have rendered on this screen, I will try to create a beneficial experience for you.

That’s the way that our mode of communications has evolved over the past 5,000 years or so, in a fairly linear fashion prompted by technological innovation.

We don’t comment on the remarkable fact that we’ve been able to agree on a set of codes and conventions to achieve that communication.

But at some point in our history — for maybe 25,000 years — man experimented with a set of signs in order to piece together common understanding.

The ultimate goal? To transfer knowledge. For the human species the ability to abstract and transfer knowledge over time and space became a critical aspect of survival.

The graphic above from New Scientist shows the incidence of certain signs in human artifacts from as much as 20,000 years ago.

The most frequently used signs were the dot, the circle and the crosshatch. These are seminal images that resonated with the human mind and that conformed to the abilities of their body and the tools that they had designed.

The implication of this conclusion is that impulse for communications, through language and sign, is core to the human experience, and that its direction and shape is influenced significantly by our physical design.