Volume 2, Issue 1 (March 2024) – 5 articles

Cover Story (View full-size image):
The phylogeny of Hominini is definitely the most important and interesting part of the Anthropological Halls in most of the natural history museums. Many visitors will stop in front of the fossils of Australopithecus and learn what our ancestors might look like. By this time, people will seldom question that Australopithecus was an ancestor of human, just like Chinese people used to trace their ancestry to Peking man for granted decades ago. However, sufficient genetic studies invalidated that preconception subsequently. Therefore, we may rethink that why Australopithecus must be the direct ancestors of human.  View this manuscript

Perspective

06 July 2023

An Extremely Long Span of the Sun-Earth Pattern in the History of China

Chinese people believe that they are descendants of the prehistory Emperors Yan and Huang, while Yan (hot/red) and Huang (yellow) are the colors of the sun and earth. In the Dahecun style of Yangshao Culture archaeological culture of the legendary Yan and Huang’s period, the patterns of the sun and earth were frequently painted on the religious potteries, implying that the paired symbols might refer to the two emperors. However, the same paired pattern appeared in Shangshan Culture much earlier than Yangshao, indicating that the worship of Sun-Earth might have a quite long history prior to the two emperors. The pattern was inherited in the populations of China till today. The Jade Bi-Cong group of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age China also showed the same meanings and shapes. We found that the Sun-Earth pattern was quite common on the traditional brocade belts woven in the countryside around Shanghai. The origin of the sun shape was easy to understand, while that of the earth shape, a cross with or without an outline square, was hard to trace. Recent archaeological discovery in Shangshan Culture of a kind of yellow pyramid stone provided a new clue to the origin of earth symbol.

Letter

15 December 2023

Have We Been Barking up the Wrong Ancestral Tree? Australopithecines Are Probably Not Our Ancestors

The dominant paradigm regarding human evolution since the split with Pan considers australopithecines as hominins, i.e., the closest relatives and/or direct ancestors of Homo. Historically, this paradigm started from the assumption that the Homo/Pan/Gorilla last common ancestor was a knuckle-walking ape that evolved into the fully upright (orthograde), obligate bipedal genus Homo, whereas Pan and Gorilla remained knuckle-walkers. Obligate terrestrial upright bipedalism, unique for our species, is an odd locomotor behaviour for a primate. Therefore, it had become generally accepted that a cooler and drier African climate had caused deforestation, which had forced our ancestors to develop upright bipedalism as an adaptation to living on open grassland savannah. This view, already held by Lamarck and Darwin, appeared most parsimonious in the almost complete absence of fossils. The discovery in the 20th century of australopithecine fossils, bipedal apes with small brains, in open country in southern and eastern Africa corroborated the savannah paradigm. Therefore, australopithecines are considered hominins. However, it is now recognized that most australopithecines instead lived in a mosaic of forests, grasslands and wetlands, and better knowledge of their fossils clearly indicates that they possessed several climbing adaptations. Moreover, none of the extinct ape species older than Australopithecus and Paranthropus for which postcranial remains have been described (e.g., Morotopithecus, Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, Ardipithecus) were knuckle-walking. On the other hand, upright posture/gait is already present to different degrees even in Miocene apes. Moreover, the notion that hominoid orthogrady is a primitive characteristic is corroborated by the growing consensus that knuckle-walking is not a primitive trait but has evolved in parallel, independently in both Pan and Gorilla. Consequently, it is possible that australopithecines are not transitional between a semi-erect ancestor and upright bipedal humans, but to the contrary, are intermediate between a more upright ancestor and extant semi-erect African apes. In summary, hypotheses that attempt to explain how a semi-erect Homo/Pan last common ancestor transitioned into the bipedal australopithecines as an adaptation to life on the savannah appear to be ill-conceived and moreover seem to have been superfluous from the very start. We review the numerous similarities between australopithecines and extant African apes, suggesting that they are possibly not hominins and therefore not our direct ancestors. We suggest that we may have been barking up the wrong ancestral tree, for almost a century.

Perspective

05 January 2024

The Future of Artificial Intelligence Will Be “Next to Normal”—A Perspective on Future Directions and the Psychology of AI Safety Concerns

This paper introduces the AI “next to normal”-thesis, suggesting that as Artificial Intelligence becomes more ingrained in our daily lives, it will transition from a sensationalized entity to a regular tool. However, this normalization has psychosocial implications, particularly when it comes to AI safety concerns. The “next to normal”-thesis proposes that AI will soon be perceived as a standard component of our technological interactions, with its sensationalized nature diminishing over time. As AI’s integration becomes more seamless, many users may not even recognize their interactions with AI systems. The paper delves into the psychology of AI safety concerns, discussing the “Mere Exposure Effect” and the “Black Box Effect”. While the former suggests that increased exposure to AI leads to a more positive perception, the latter highlights the unease stemming from not fully understanding its capabilities. These effects can be seen as two opposing forces shaping the public’s perception of the technology. The central claim of the thesis is that as AI progresses to become normal, human psychology will evolve alongside with it and safety concerns will diminish, which may have practical consequences. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of the “next to normal”-thesis and offers recommendations for the industry and policymakers, emphasizing the need for increased transparency, continuous education, robust regulation, and empirical research. The future of AI is envisioned as one that is seamlessly integrated into society, yet it is imperative to address the associated safety concerns proactively and not take the normalization effects take ahold of it.

Editorial

17 January 2024

Article

01 April 2024

Fighting Arts on Today’s Coins, Medals and Badges: Popularity or Uniqueness

Background. Medallic art is used to promote the subject matter which is important for the issuer. Also fighting arts and martial traditions are used here as icons in the coins and medals. Problem. What is the purpose of occasional coins, medals or badges relative to their contents or symbolism, the metal used or the volume of the release? Does an issuer aim at promotion or rather at recognition and at maintaining the uniqueness? Material and Method. The study uses a regression method, comparative analysis and literature review. Approximately one hundred examples are discussed. Statistical analyses took into account N = 64 of contemporary coins (47) and medals (17), representing the relevant thematic groups. Pearson C coefficient was calculated for the factor of popularity FA and a number of variables. Results. It has been found that medals are issued in small volumes and are significantly varied in terms of the subject matter (uniqueness and originality). Some organisations seek to ensure the exceptional status of medal-type award which is granted based on strictly defined rules. Conclusions. Presentations of martial arts on coins, medals and badges make reference to the related symbolism or to the issuer’s national traditions. Large volume releases are mainly done for promotional purposes. On the other hand medals issued in small numbers are meant to be unique—they find their way to a select group of people deserving special recognition.

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