The Domestication of Fire, Plants, Animals, and…Us
Presidents Hall, Franklin Hall
If we want to know where we are headed as a species, it helps to know how we got here in the first place. Our current situation is entirely novel in a long historical view. For 95% of our existence on earth we were foragers and hunters; now 60% of our calories come in the form of three grains: wheat, rice, and maize. For 99% of our presence we lived without the state; now we are virtually all governed by this novel institution. In 1750 there were about three quarters of a billion of us; now we are more than 8 billion. How have these revolutionary developments shaped our past and future?
How is it that homo sapiens came to live in concentrated heaps of people, grain, and domesticated animals and ruled by states? What role does the control over reproduction--plants, animals and women--play in the creation of property and the state? Is the state born in coercion and slavery or in a social contract for political order? Clarifying these very longue durée historical issues might help us think of possible futures.