Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wazzup my Brutha

I am only in the first few chapters of The Red Queen by Matt Ridley, but he brings up a point that seems so obvious, I am not sure why I wasn't struck by it before.

Have you heard the story of the philosopher who did the Emperor of China a great service, and requested payment involving grains of rice and a chess board? Well, he asked that one grain of rice be placed in the bag for the first square, two for the second, four for the third, eight for the next and so on. With each square the number of rice grains would double. The Emperor thought this sounded reasonable and agreed. It didn't take long until he realised he had given away all the rice in China.

Well Ridley applies it to something a little different (not the story, but the doubling). We have two parents, four grandparents, eight grandparents, and so on... you get the picture.
'A mere thirty generations back - in, roughly 1066AD - you had more than a billion direct ancestors in the same generation (2 to the power of 30). Since there were fewer than a billion people alive at that time in the whole world, many of those people were your ancestors twice or three times over. If, like me, you are of British descent, the chances are that almost all of the few million Brittons alive in 1066, including King Harold, William the Conqueror, a random serving wench and the meanest vassal (but excluding all well behaved monks and nuns) are your direct ancestors.'
That is not really all that long ago. Go a little further back and we all came from Africa.

Now clearly, we can't really go that many generations back. But this false belief that we are descended from a specific line based on our father's father's father... is rather silly. Then you take the fact that it all probably mixes far far quicker than we think. Add to that the complete randomness of where you were born, and to who...

then the whole concept of borders and countries and the like becomes a little silly.

This comes from someone who has always been a strong patriot of South Africa. But perhaps one that is fast realising these artificial barriers of any sort are silly.

Except when playing sport...

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