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Who is mankind?
Since we began asking ourselves who we were and what made us human, we have pondered ways to define ourselves. As philosophers emphasize our ability to reason as the most important trait that differentiates us from other animals, today’s man is called Homo sapiens, the “wise man.” Genetics specifically define humans as living things comprised of 3.2 billion pairs of DNA bases per sequence. But it is never easy to define mankind and its essence from the perspective of evolution. Numerous species, which all evolved and behaved differently, have appeared and disappeared throughout history, making it difficult to choose specific traits that define us. A large brain fitting the name, “wise man”, was once seen as spear heading the human evolution, but, after long dispute, this trait has been replaced by bipedalism(walking upright on two feet).
Human evolution did not happen step by step like climbing up a stairs, nor was one specie replaced by another, as if in a relay. Until modern human race appeared, the process was repeated where numerous species of our ancestors appeared simultaniously and disappeared, to be replaced by a new species. Since species with brains a bit larger than chimpanzees’ evolved first, the genera of Australopithecus and Paranthropus lived during similar time period but looked quite different. Due to its rough-shaped skull, the Paranthropus species is regarded as robust while the relatively soft-looking Australopithecus species is considered weak. Then the Homo genus appeared and the brain size increased exponentially.
Still, human evolution was never consistent, it fluctuated constantly: among the species making up the genus Homo, Homo floresiensis had an extremely small head while Homo neanderthalensis had a much larger head than modern human’s.
Efforts to discover when the first men emerged on the Earth and who they were have tenaciously continued from the beginning of recorded history totoday. Because we can understand our evolution properly and know whereto go only when we understand our beginning. In other words, the first humans are the first piece of our evolutionary puzzle. The oldest known species in the human family tree is Sahelanthropus tchadensis, discovered in 2002. Also known so far to have existed at the beginning of our evolutionary history are Orrorin tugenensis and two species of the genus Ardipithecus. Due to the small numbers of remains found, the features of these early humans have not been completely restored. The assumption is that they had brains about the same size or a bit larger than chimpanzees’ with smaller canines.
Being able to swivel both feet and step forward while walking on the ground is the very basic trait of humans, as well as the first step to human evolution. Opinions differ on when this change first occurred, but in general, the species of the genus Australopithecus, who lived about 3.5 million years ago, are believed to have walked on its two feet. Evidence for this theory are the location of the foramen magnum(a large oval opening in the occipital bone of the skull in humans), the angle of the knee joints, and the shape of the pelvic bones . Above all, the footsteps they left reveal that they walked on two feet more proficiently than previous human species.
The first humans were a very weaker competitor to carnivore in hunting fast herbivore or scavenging dead animal. Thus, they found a way to break animal bones with a stone to get to marrows or brains of dead animals. The stones used to break an animal bone slowly transformed into a capable tool. This Oldowan stone tool produced about 2600 thousand years ago is known as the tool used by Homo habilis. A human brain started to get bigger as human race started to eat food high in fat. This change allowed human race to gain enough energy to support bigger brain that require lots of energy to function.
The ability to manage and use fire is of great significance to humans, so much so that it can be called mankind’s first important invention. Humans keep their groups safe with the light and heat of fire and expand their territory into colder regions. Besides this, cooked food digests better and kills germs and parasites left in it, reducing the incidence of disease. There is no consensus on when humans began to make their own fire and control it. What is certain is that Homo erectus, who had spread out of Africa, came to group together around fires and this led human evolution to go in a clearly different direction from before.
Human race hunted deer using Acheulean stone tools about 400 thousand years ago built an oval shaped huts at Nice, South of France. It is assumed to be an evidence left behind by Homo heidelbergensis who lived approximately 800 thousand to 200 thousand years ago. Homo heidelbergensis is considered to be a common ancestors to contemporary human and our extinct cousin, Neanderthal man. They are the link connecting us and Homo erectus
The first humans who left Africa and arrived in Asia are known to be Homo erectus, whose traces can still be found on the Korean Peninsula. The traces of human inhabitation have been found in Danyang’s Geumgul Cave (from 700,000 years ago), and the Sangwon Geomeun Moru site of Pyongyang (600,000 to 400,000 years ago), which are among the remaining vestiges of the earliest humans of the peninsula. The oldest human fossils on the peninsula belong to “Yeokpo man” found in Yeokpo-ri, Daehyeon-dong, Pyongyang, North Korea. They are similar in some traits to the Homo erectus found in China’s Zhoukoudian site. Fossils corresponding to five people, termed "Yonggok man" excavated at Yonggok Cave near Pyongyang, exhibit the traits of both modern and archaic humans, like a mosaic. Human fossils, including those of "Mandal man" found in Mandal-ri Cave and assumed to be a male, also show this mixture but they are more similar to modern humans than the Yonggok fossils. In South Korea, fossils from a child, assumed to have been 5 to 6 years of age at time of death, were found in Durubong Heungsu Cave near Cheongju-si (city), Chungcheongbuk-do (province) and it is mentioned in textbooks as South Korea’s Paleolithic man. Recent genetic analysis has revealed that Koreans are a mixture of the Northern and Southern races of Asians that continues over the course of thousands of years.
Stone tools, made by humans during the Late Paleolithic, were an innovation. Stone implements, and it were produced in a large quantities by standardized methods that involved elaborate stone processing , which varied according to its properties. Elaborate tools were made with intentionally-split stone blades, and flakes.
The tools tied to a wooden branch, or assembled with other tools were first seen during this time. Modern humans put their excellent cognitive abilities into developing a variety of tools and manufacturing techniques, traces of which are found all over the Korean Peninsula. They chipped dozens of micro blades out of one stone using the standardized methods and assembled them into other tools. This micro blade core technology was an innovation itself and allowed for mass production.
Today’s communications are not limited by space. We can freely send our thoughts or information via letters, sounds, images, and video without being limited by distance. Information and communications technology as adopted in computers, the Internet, mobile communications, and satellite communications transcend mere tools of communication to tools that are building new relationships and new aspects of culture. ICT enables so many things: we can watch tv programs anywhere and at anytime, use transportation information services in real time, work from home, conduct e-commerce, study online, and hold tele-conferences. In the future where ICT even enables ubiquitous computing, we will evolve into a “mankind of communication,” communicating without limitations on networks covering the entire world.
One of the greatest inventions in human history is a wheel. Ancient humans who invented it thousands of years ago did not know the science behind it, but realized the resistance from rolling a wheel is lower than the friction of sliding it. The arrival of the 6th century B.C. saw the appearance of the“natural philosophy’, which broke away from the habit of attributing natural phenomena to supernatural beings, instead, sought to find their causes in nature. The goal of natural philosophers, as explained by Aristotle of ancient Greece, was to explore the prima materia of all things, and its properties that created, eliminated, and changed natural phenomena. It is generally believed that natural philosophy also known as science originated from ancient Greece. As the philosophes of ancient Greeks were compiled by Aristotle, Greek cosmology is called Aristotle's view of nature. Greek cosmology is divided into astronomy on the movement of heavenly bodies and physics on the movement in nature. The former is based on the geocentric model while the latter on the principles of kinesis. Aristotle's view of nature dictated the European understanding of nature for close to 2,000 years.
The law of gravity, the law of motion, the principles of geology, and the Copernican system, familiar to us, were all established in the 17th century and pushed European science into the era of modern science. As the science of that period laid the foundation for modern science, we consider it the age of “scientific revolution.” All phenomena were regarded as subjects for scientific study while theories of the past were questioned and challenged, allowing new scientific facts to be established. The knowledge system and values of the time were based on scientific thinking that laid stress on experience and experiment, and altered the way mankind understood cosmic order and nature, as well as himself.
Human race’s curiosity and imagination have infinitely expanded our living space. Our brains accept virtual space, which does not exist, as actual reality, redefining and widening our concept of space and our experience. We can now access the virtual world anywhere and at any time we want, and stay in it as long as we want. Moreover, augmented reality presents a real world environment where virtual objects are placed, making it difficult to tell which are real and which are not. In this way, the virtual world has broadened our senses and our perceptions, while the virtual self we develop constantly interacts with our real self, developing a new understanding of ourselves.