by Tyler Cowen
on July 11, 2006 at 4:40 pm
Take The Big Here Quiz, via Jason Kottke. I got about five right out of thirty-four.
This is the division of leisure, not the division of labor. I got about 20 questions, most because my wife gardens and I sail. I wish I knew only 5 edible wild weeds trying to conquer my yard.
Do you all agree with the basic premise of the test? I mean as people here in the US, we might choose to notice different big picture things about our environment.
Edible plants? Are you kidding? Ground cover 10,000 years ago? I guess I embrace the division of labor.
Well here is a thought experiment I play sometimes. I live near Chicago and lived in Chicago city limits for most of my adult life. Some times I wonder, starting down town, where is the first place that a human being hasn’t trod upon? In downtown Chicago, I assume that if there were paint on the bottoms of everyones feet, literally all of the gound would be covered. But as you go out from downtown, where would be the first place where someone hasn’t walked? Then the first square foot, then the first square yard, and so on. Is there a square mile on earth where nobody has ever set foot?
I reject the division of labor approximately not at all. I’m a very smart chap, well-rounded, quick learner, etc. I looked at those questions and was struck by how little I cared to answer them. It’s the equivalent of trivia for most people as it has no practical implications on how most people live.
I outsource any need I may have for being able to answer these questions.
I’m not sure how to score my answers on that quiz, because I know most of them to a good approximation, and that’s good enough for me. As an amateur astronomer, I always know how long it is to the @#!$ full moon, for example. And I find local geology and ecology to be interesting subjects, so I’m not sure if that’s division of labor or not, since I don’t consider learning such things to be labor. That said, I think that several of the things on the quiz are worth knowing for their own sake, although certainly not all of them.
As for Mickslam’s question, I’ve had similar thoughts. When I lived in Germany for a year or two, I wondered when the last time was that no one lived in the town I was in. That was prompted by a visit to a local museum, which featured items from the area going back through the Bismarck era, the Napoleonic wars, the earlier days of the Holy Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, Roman settlements, Celtic/Germanic tribal days, megalithic cultures, and, in the last room, Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal bones. All from the same town.
27/30 and a couple of the bonus questions. I looked up the location of my wastewater treatment plant the minute I finished the quiz.
(The first couple years after the pandemic are going to be hard on you guys. Come find me and I’ll help you all I can.)
Ground nobody has trod upon can be found in the aftermath of a mudslide or volcanic eruption.
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