Complexity

This was the comment page for readings in Introduction to Anthropology 2017 concerning social and technical complexity.

A good accompaniment to “How the Inca Leapt Canyons” is The Incas’ Knotty History by Manuel Medrano and Gary Urton in Sapiens (July 2018):

It is tempting to view the march of progress as an uphill climb to the present moment, and the wheel, markets, and writing as hurdles cleared in the arduous trek toward advanced civilization. Modern-day customs are the lens through which we view the past, defining success—our own condition—with a “despite” clause for others who don’t follow our own path. In reality, the Incas’ 3D records are intimidating because they are so radically outside the comfort zone of modern society and communications technologies. The Incas managed to centralize and collapse mathematics, language, accounting, and history into a durable and portable recording device. Their khipus are a perfect example of why it is dangerous to judge the past through the lens of the present. If ancient peoples were “primitive,” then we must be as well–the Incas and the narrative khipus have, after all, managed to baffle us so far.


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