I think when you try and think like a neanderthal, you find that thinking of forest spirits or some shit is totally unnecessary. However, thinking of Giant Robots is mandatory.
Newsweek describes an interesting archeological site which has been interpreted as a “religious site” which predates farming, cities, etc. In an interesting twist, the theory is that religion necessitated farming and cities, because temples were essentially immovable, as opposed to farming and cities naturally forming religion.
There are some aspects of this which I agree with — I believe the monuments came first. What I disagree with is that there is a diety or religion involved. I believe these people weren’t making man in the image of god, rather man in the image of a giant robot.
First, I would like to explain what I mean by Giant Robot, because it is mostly metaphorical (“mostly” in the sense that a physical Giant Robot is a metaphorical Giant Robot, but a metaphorical Giant Robot is not necessarily a physical Giant Robot). I see this as an infra-meme, that is, an idea that pervades the minds of most Engineerey types, even though it may be at a subliminal level. A lot of technical people will express their desire to build a “Giant Robot” or a “Giant Robot Army”. They’re probably not talking about literal Giant Robots here (but sometimes they are, like I said before).
They are talking about... the term that best describes it, at least... is their magnum opus. There is a thing that we are reaching for, and it’s something that we will create, and it will be awesome. Awesome is an overused term, so let me stress that it is a thing that we will make and people will be in Awe. The desire is within us as individuals. We can only stretch so far, and the goal we’re after will never be reached. As far as we’re concerned, it is infinitely far away, way too hard, but something with enough reality that we can try and reach for it. We keep getting better and better, and our work is improved over time, and we see that, but still we reach.
This is not a religious thing, it is us reaching, searching, for our best. Sometimes interesting things happen — this crazy goal we set ourselves, we sometimes actually reach it, or even exceed it. It’s crazy because it’s almost technically impossible to reach this crazy goal, but it also makes sense because the goal is also badly defined and doesn’t really make sense. This can happen individually, but can also happen in teams.
We’re social creatures. It makes perfect sense that I would build my giant robot and you would build your giant robot, and even though they’re different giant robots, we’re inspired by the fact that we’re both doing our best to make giant robots. Because we’re just playing here, we could actually link our projects together. This would happen naturally and organically. Let’s say I just draw on rocks and you keep stacking rocks on top of one another. I could draw on a rock and give it to you and you could stack a rock on top of it.
Then something really cool happens — You both realise that you’ve built something outside of your idea of what “Giant Robot” means. And this real “Giant Robot” is something that is more beautiful than your mind could have imagined on it’s own. This exceeds your dream. Needless to say, you’re going to high five your neanderthal friend and basically hang out at that spot for the rest of your life, telling anyone who will listen that you did that shit. Everyone can appreciate it, at least from a “hey let's meet at the place where those dudes did that thing” perspective.
That necessitates farming and cities. Eventually people start having power struggles and the weak ones invent religion. God is really just a Giant Robot.