Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Two on numbers

an anthropogist on the invention of numbers "I think the most likely scenario is one of coevolution. You develop numbers that allow you to trade in more precise ways. As that facilitates things like trade and agriculture, that puts pressure to invent more numbers. In turn those refined number systems are going to enable new kinds of trade and more precise maps, so it all feeds back on each other. It seems like a chicken and egg situation, maybe the numbers came first but they didn’t have to be there in a very robust form to enable certain kinds of behaviors. It seems like in a lot of cultures once people get the number five, it kickstarts them. Once they realize they can build on things, like five, they can ratchet up their numerical awareness over time. This pivotal awareness of “a hand is five things,” in many cultures is a cognitive accelerant. "
I am suspicious of this argument. Some natural number sense on logarithmic scale seems embedded according to this discussion a few years ago What number is Halfway between 1 and 9? Is it 5 - or 3?
Along the way, there is a discussion of Piranha's sense of numbers, that accounting started before writing etc.

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