In the book I describe (and present a large battery of new evidence for) my radical new theory for how humans came to have language and music. They’re not instincts (i.e., we didn’t evolve them via natural selection), and they’re not something we merely learn. Instead, speech and music have themselves culturally evolved to fit us (not a new idea) by mimicking fundamental aspects of nature (my idea). Namely speech came to sound like physical events among solid objects, and music came to sound like humans moving and behaving in your midst (that’s why music is evocative). Each of these artifacts thereby came to harness an instinct we apes already possessed, namely auditory object-event recognition and auditory human-movement recognition mechanisms.
The story for how we came to have speech and music is, then, analogous to how we came to have writing, something we know we didn’t evolve. Writing, I’ve argued (in The Vision Revolution), culturally evolved to possess the signature shapes found in nature (and specifically in 3D scenes with opaque objects), and thereby harnessed our visual object-recognition system.
Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of
Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN, a novel about our human future.