The Evolution of Man

The Economist has a survey in its year-end double issue: “New theories and techniques have revolutionised our understanding of humanity’s past and present.”

The proverbial Martian, looking at that darkened Earth, would probably have given long odds against these peculiar apes making much impact on the future. True, they had mastered the art of tool-making, but so had several of their contemporaries. True, too, their curious grunts allowed them to collaborate in surprisingly sophisticated ways. But those advantages came at a huge price, for their brains were voracious consumers of energya mere 2% of the body’s tissue absorbing 20% of its food intake. An interesting evolutionary experiment, then, but surely a blind alley.

This survey will attempt to explain why that mythical Martian would have been wrong. It will ask how these apes not only survived but prospered, until the time came when one of them could weave together strands of evidence from fields as disparate as geology and genetics, and conclude that his ancestors had gone through a genetic bottleneck caused by a geological catastrophe.

Mobile Marketing

WSJ has a Q&A:

The Wall Street Journal Online: How does mobile marketing differ from traditional marketing?

FAREENA SULTAN: The personal nature of the [handheld] device makes it one in which the user is very attached — and at times emotionally attached — to the device. It’s an extension of their personality and of their being, which is particularly true of the youth market. So when a marketer is trying to approach a consumer through this very personal device, they have to be extra careful not to overstep the boundaries. A consumer has asked to be sent information or content or entertainment, so anytime this user receives information that they do not want — it’s bad enough when you are looking at email and getting spam — it’s even worse because it is such a personal device and there’s so much [emotional] attachment to it.

WSJ.COM: So how are advertisers and marketers approaching this situation?

DR. SULTAN: A marketer might think, “Here’s a device, it’s in the hand of my target audience 24-7, and most people are not a foot away from this device 24 hours a day,” so I can reach this person at various locations. A person is in a mall and you send them a solicitation for a coupon for a sale that’s going on nearby. So your ability to reach people is immense and perpetual. But at the same time, you only want to reach the people who want to be reached. If you cross that boundary, the reaction is much worse.