My latest article up at newmyths.com
My latest article up at newmyths.com
In 2013, a survey of one thousand Americans indicated that 9% of them would have sex with a robot. A similar survey in 2014 of Britons reported that 17% would have sex with a robot. The same British survey reported that almost half of people thought the idea of robot sex was “creepy.” Of course, when we talk about human-robot sex, we are really talking about sex with an android–a robot in the likeness of a human.
Science fiction is part and parcel of the American culture that is reflected in the American military. In fact, military men and women have a special affinity for sci-fi. The influences of sci-fi on the military are both technical and cultural and flow in both directions; from the military into the general society and from sci-fi into the military.
Mercenaries have existed as long as organized armies and for as long as they have existed they have been despised and denigrated. Aristotle wrote against them,[i] as did Machiavelli.[ii] Yet there has always been a “market for mercenaries.”[iii] In the mid-20th Century’s best market for mercenaries was the newly independent Republic of the Congo, indeed Africa in the 1960s was a “golden age” of mercenarism.[iv]
This paper will examine what were the specific circumstances during the Congo Crisis of 1960-67 that precipitated this new heyday of the mercenary and what where the responses to this new mercenarism? Mercenarism as a military, political, and economic phenomenon in post-colonial Congo will be examined. By focusing on the Congo Crisis, this paper will illustrate the circumstances that encourage the wide-scale use of mercenary soldiers. Counter-mercenary operations will be examined. Further, mercenarism as a driver for United Nation interventionism and Cold War conflict in the post-imperial Third World will be explored. Lastly, the economics of mercenarism will be analyzed.
[i] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1116b and Politics 1306a
[ii] Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XII.
[iii] David A. Latzko, “The Market for Mercenaries” presented at the Eastern Economic Association Meetings, Crystal City, VA, April 4, 1997 at http://www.personal.psu.edu/~dxl31/ research/presentations/mercenary.html. (Accessed 18 Dec. 2013)
The fact that we humans are different from our ape cousins is self evident. We have bigger brains, walk upright and we make and use tools. But ever since the publication in 1871 of Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man the question was and is how we got to be so different.
Richard Wrangahm offers us a good, new answer to that question in his book: Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. The answer is simply that we cook our food. Wrangham is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University and also the Curator of Primate Behavioral Biology for Peabody Museum, so he knows of what he speaks.
Written in clear, accessible prose the book draws on diverse scientific disciplines such as Wrangham’s own studies of ape behavior, paleontology, biology, chemistry, sociology, physics, and nutritional science as well as studies of hunter-gathers to draw the conclusion that cooking “made” humans, well, human.
Wrangham knowledgably speculates that about 1.8 million years ago our ancestors brought fire under control, turning it from a fearful destroyer to a tame helper and then cooking was invented. According to Wrangham, it was this ability to cook that drove the development of the first “true” humans, homo erectus. Cooking started to drive evolution. The ability to cook and eat cooked food gave a huge advantage to our forbearers. It made food easier to chew and digest and therefore less body energy was required for these activities allowing more investment into hunting and gathering. Further homo erectus’ body started to change; teeth and jaws became smaller, as did the digestive tract and more calories started to go to the burgeoning brain.
Cooking also drove social changes. Cooking created the pair-bond and specialized sex-roles. Wrangham makes the point that monogamy developed as a deal in which men would provide and protect the food source, while women cooked it. In short men hunted and defended the food, while women prepared it. This wandering into evolutionary psychology is Wrangham’s weakest argument, but he doesn’t put too much reliance on it.
Finding new, interesting and sweeping ideas in the field of evolutionary science are rare. Even rarer is a clear, concise and truly fascinating treatise on these any of these big new ideas. Wrangham has written just such a book with Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human.