Human Technology

is not a kind of tool use but a type of social organization that supports  cooperative action—that is, a system where two or more people accomplish together what no one person can do alone. Humans differ from other primates by dependence on a social system that assumes cooperative production and reciprocal exchange in a face-to-face context, coordinated by a shared goal. Such groups are called task groups.

Some cut to length, others place and tie

In the photo above, some men cut bamboo poles to the same length and split them, while others tie them in place. These are Batek, a hunting and gathering people on the Malay Peninsula.

Task groups are often confused with "the division of labor in society" and "task specialization." In the former, a task is assigned to a specific category of person (e.g. small boys herd the cattle), whereas a specialist is someone with the skills or authority to do a specific task (e.g., a tailor). But task groups are defined by the   shared goal, not by the personnel.

The photo below shows another task group on the opposite side of the world, in Costa Rica. One man paints the white line while the other two paint the green. The activities are instrumental to a shared goal.

Two men paint the green and one the white

When one member of a task group makes one part of something and another person produces its complement, this type of cooperative action is called complementation.

For example, I once videotaped two Australian aborigines making stone knives. One man chipped the quartzite while the other attached the handles. Complementation is definitive of Homo sapiens as a species, and it occurs in all cultures, in language and art as well as in technology.

Because the complementation theory of human origins is incompatible with the competitive, atomistic individual of modern capitalist culture and the disembodied machines of industrial technocracy, it has been ignored by "serious science" and scholarship. ""B

Technologies that facilitate face-to-face complementation are sustainable, whereas much modern technology is alienating.ibliography 

Writings on the differences between tool use and technology in
apes and humans by Peter C. Reynolds, Ph.D.

Reynolds, P.C. (1978). The use of computers in the formal description of behavior. Canberra Anthropology, 1(3), 70-81.

Reynolds, P.C. (1980). The programmatic description of simple technologies. Journal of Human Movement Studies, 6, 38-74.

Reynolds, P.C. (1982). The primate constructional system: the theory and description of instrumental object use in humans and chimpanzees. In M.v. Cranach, & R. Harré (Eds.),  The Analysis of Action:  Recent Theoretical and Empirical Advances (pp. 185-200). Cambridge: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Reynolds, P.C. (1982). Affect and instrumentality: an alternative to Eibl-Eibesfeldt's human ethology.  The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 5(2), 267-273.

Reynolds, P.C. (1983). Ape constructional ability and the origin of linguistic structure. In E.d. Grolier (Ed.),  Glossogenetics: The Origin and Evolution of Language. (pp. 185-200). New York and Paris: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Reynolds, P.C. (1991). Structural differences in intentional action between humans and chimpanzees--and their implications for theories of handedness and bipedalism. In M. Anderson, & F. Merrell (Eds.), On Semiotic Modeling (pp. 19-46). Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter and Company.

Reynolds, P.C. (1993). The complementation theory of language and tool use. In K. Gibson, & T. Ingold (Eds.) , Cognition, Tool Use, and Human Evolution (pp. 407-428): Cambridge University Press.

Reynolds, P.C. (1993). Technology—not tool use: cognitive representation of cooperative construction, Abstracts, American Anthropological Association 92nd Annual Meeting  (p. 486). Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association.

Miscellaneous Writings on Primate Evolution by Peter C. Reynolds, Ph.D.

Oakley, F.B., & Reynolds, P.C. (1976). Differing responses to social play deprivation in two species of macaque. In D.F. Lancy, & B.A. Tindall (Eds.), The Anthropological Study of Play:  Problems and Prospects   (pp. 179-188). Cornwall, NY: Leisure Press.

Patterson, F.G., Bonvillian, J.D., Reynolds, P.C., & Maccoby, E.E. (1975). Mother and peer attachment under conditions of fear in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). Primates, 16, 75-81.

Pinneo, L.R., Kaplan, J.N., Elpel, E.A., Glick, J.H., & Reynolds, P.C. (1972). Experimental brain prosthesis for stroke.   Stroke, 3, 16-26.

Reynolds, P.C. (1969). Review of "Thomas A. Sebeok (ed.), Animal Communication: Techniques of Study and Results of Research, Indiana University Press, 1968".  Language Sciences (February).

Reynolds, P.C. (1970). Social communication in the chimpanzee: a review. The Chimpanzee, 3, 369-394.

Reynolds, P.C. (1975). Handedness and the evolution of the primate forelimb. Neuropsychologia, 13, 499-500.

Reynolds, P.C. (1976). Play, language, and human evolution. In J. Bruner, A. Jolly, & K. Silva (Eds.), Play: Its  Role in  Development and Evolution  (pp. 621-635). Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Reynolds, P.C. (1976). Language and skilled activity.   Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 280, 150-156.

Reynolds, P.C. (1976). The emergence of early hominid social organization. I: The attachment systems. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 29, 73-95.

Reynolds, P.C. (1977). Review of "Robin Fox (ed.), Biosocial Anthropology, Malaby Press, London, 1975". Oceania, 48(1), 78-79.

Reynolds, P.C. (1981). On the Evolution of Human Behavior: The Argument from Animals to Man. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Reynolds, P.C. (1987). Animal intelligence and human instinct:  reflections on the psychobiology of rank. In D. McGuiness (Ed.),   Dominance, War, and Aggression (pp. 119-130). New York: Paragon House.

Reynolds, P.C. (1988). Reviews of "Brady and Berwick (eds.), Computational Models of Discourse; Marcus,Theory of Syntactic Recognition for Natural Language; and Bara and Guida (eds.), Computational Models of Natural Language". Computers and the Humanities,  22, 319-320.

Reynolds, P.C. (1993). The complementation theory of language and tool use. In K. Gibson, & T. Ingold (Eds.), Cognition, Tool Use, and Human Evolution (pp. 407-428): Cambridge University Press.

Reynolds, P.C. (1993). Review of "Joel Wallman, Aping Language. Cambridge University Press, 1992." Man: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Reynolds, P.C. (2002). Pretending Primates. In R. Mitchell (Ed.), Play and Pretense in Humans and Animals  (pp. 196-209). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.