Cats and Cans

More food for thought on why things evolve or not….

Remember the car and its seeming inability to evolve significantly? I stress the word “seeming” (read your peers’ comments attached). Well, in looking for new thinking on the subject, I ran across this quote:

“If Darwin’s theory of evolution was correct, cats would be able to operate a can opener by now.”
– Larry Wright

And why can’t they? Why do cats rely on humans to open cans and on their own abilities if cans aren’t opened? The answer is “Need”. Think on it – we have evolved cans, but cans are for human use. Worse come to worse, cats can still hunt. My sense is that if we disappeared and if all food was in cans, cats would be carrying can openers. By the way, try making the human analogy in reverse… See the thought? Some of what we do seems to be hard-wired, while other stuff seems to be open to change – meaning evolution.

Okay, so what’s hard-wired? Why don’t we use a musical example, and thank you to London’s Trevor Attridge for the inspiration and for sharing an amazing web site, www.pandora.com. (Check it out and let me know what you think…)

Why music? Music crosses so many of our primal and cultural needs and connections as well as being a source for technological advancement, social interaction and whatever else. So here’s a link that’s worth checking out first hand from the Harvard Gazette, where the author William J. Cromie has written on the “Biology of Music”. Let me quote:

“Babies come into the world with musical preferences. They begin to respond to music while still in the womb. At the age of 4 months, dissonant notes at the end of a melody will cause them to squirm and turn away. If they like a tune, they may coo. Scientists cite such responses as evidence that certain rules for music are wired into the brain, and musicians violate them at the risk of making their audiences squirm. Even the Smashing Pumpkins, a hard-rock group, play by some of the same rules of harmony that Johann Sebastian Bach did in the 18th century.”

Bottom line – we all have the same capacity, and maybe even need to hear music. And I bet that from the time our earliest ancestors put two rocks together – or heads, or rocks and heads – music has been religious, martial, social and personal, no matter what the culture. In fact the article continues:

“‘All humans come into the world with an innate capability for music,’ agrees Kay Shelemay, professor of music at Harvard. ‘At a very early age, this capability is shaped by the music system of the culture in which a child is raised. That culture affects the construction of instruments, the way people sound when they sing, and even the way they hear sound.’”

Now, here we are in the 21st century, and technology has helped us make the world smaller and more intimate, from a certain perspective. Music anywhere has been influenced by music everywhere, yet we don’t try and learn from the music itself, which is considered low-tech, but instead we praise Napster and other music shareware (read about the legal case was decided against a Napster look-a-likes this week) and talk of the revolution. WHAT REVOLUTION? Napster was all about copyright infringements – which Mozart also suffered from – and free stuff. In fact, as I have written before, I bet that if I gave away new music on free Eight Tracks (remember them?) I’d have long, long lines of takers…

Napster was about the hard-wired desire to share, which is nothing new, and its business model was larcenous. In terms of evolution? Absolutely, it was an evolved technological efficiency, but no more. It had nothing intrinsic to do with the music. Much like eBay, is about the hard-wired need to trade and buy, in combination with the technology as an evolved efficient means to do it. The ancient Agora in Athens is on a direct and close line to eBay in terms of business model, and guess what? It still works.

Back to music. Here is a quote from one of the greats:

“Bebop was about change, about evolution. It wasn’t about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating, they have to be about change.”
Miles Davis

So what can we learn from the evolution of music?

1. Human need is hard-wired; and that is the strongest need imaginable
2. Don’t confuse the need with the change; the need allows for the change
3. Evolution is about creation and not standing still
4. Evolution takes risks

Back to the cat. The need to eat is hard wired. But the cat had no need to take risks, because the human-cat relationship has stayed stable (meaning we feed them, they ignore us.) Being safe is a good state. Change that, and the need to eat would propel change as quick as a can could be opened…

Rather than take excerpts from last week, I thought I’d share a handful of comments. Take a few minutes to read through the responses posted here

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