According to well-known, and highly regarded health guru Lou Gehrig (pictured above), baseball players do have an important secret to their success: bats! Specifically, bats made of durable carbon fibers, like those made by Bats Inc. The appeal of bats, apparently, was not simply the wonders of Babe Ruth’s durability. Because much carbon fiber is composed of unbreakable carbon nanotubes, bats that can withstand over 1000 hard knocks are of great value. Sadly, the key characteristic that makes bats so valuable doesn’t make them good medicine.
Every life has a bat, of course; when you swing a baseball bat, you’re striking out. I never would have guessed, however, that a baseball bat, one made of carbon fibers, might also be useful as a specimen of what the human body has become: just a collection of cells, vulnerable to damage from excess heat, harmful chemicals, and myriad hazards of modern life.
One of the great ongoing mysteries in modern science is how humans live longer than other mammals. The prevailing explanations have largely been on the order of, “well, we’re mammals,” and “humans are better at metabolizing toxins,” or even “humans are just smarter than other animals.” Sure, I may be the slowest subscriber to this theory, but even I find it an unsatisfying explanation of this fact. The real reason for human longevity might simply be this: there are now a lot more of us than there used to be.
Just look at baseball. Our current version of Major League Baseball doesn’t even exist, really. The ancient Romans began baseball as a popular sport in the second century, and played it regularly for hundreds of years — then it got completely wiped out, except for an occasional Olympic match. Incredibly, this massive extinction event just happened, with no human involvement at all. Of course, we know what happened next. Sure, nobody could tell the reason why they eliminated baseball, because nobody really knew why sports were important — yet these were the same people who finally decided that cities mattered, and organized them. (The question of why these two unrelated events occurred at the same time was unclear in the ancient world. They just did, and obviously they are related.)
These are but a couple of the reasons why people are talking about how baseball was truly turned on its head by globalization, or why Europe began adopting this form of the game. Even after a billion people were left to their own devices, with little opportunity to play organized, interlinking baseball, these experiments invariably led to success. This fact, though, also hints at something else: this success is more a tribute to the single dominant tool in our modern world: the personal computer. The major cities that are easily connected to the rest of the world, and that make up the vast majority of the global population, spend vast sums of money on infrastructure, such as Internet connectivity, to make life easier for people. While the process of making computers used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, it has essentially been democratized, turning money into almost nothing.
And this is true of society in general. The main difference between us and Neanderthals, or our ancient ancestors in other parts of the world, is that we have the tools to make ourselves self-reliant in a lot of ways, like buying our own homes, cars, appliances, and even jewelry. Because of the Internet and all the other innovations that give us access to other people and their products, we’re encouraged to shop online, even to buy products we never used in our lives. The idea that we are a people able to maintain a cohesive community depends on the technology that helps us do this, as well as on the time we spend participating in civic affairs. This great social capital and ability to thrive in our own specific environment is what allows us to move from point A to point B, from our two or three favorite, inexpensive computers to, say, a world of things we once had to travel all over the place to buy, selling our votes in Congress and the like. It’s one of the reasons that we are so far ahead of Neanderthals, or our human ancestors elsewhere on the planet: simply because we can adjust our daily routine to the need for capital — as well as all sorts of socially useful skills — at all times.
This is the secret of how humans have lived more or less forever. And it’s why we should be skeptical about any kind of explanation that tries to explain why we’re so far ahead of other species. We’re not just better at making stuff, we’re better at constantly adapting and maintaining our productive life — and it’s that, more