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They were able to think it over for so long because the life they lived was remarkably abundant.

Like the early civilization of China in the Yellow River Valley, Mesopotamia was a wetland territory, as its name (“between the rivers”) suggests.

We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers.

“Why human fire as landscape architecture doesn’t register as it ought to in our historical accounts is perhaps that its effects were spread over hundreds of millennia and were accomplished by ‘precivilized’ peoples also known as ‘savages,’ ” Scott writes.

The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains.

That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

The evidence shows that this isn’t true: there’s an enormous gap—four thousand years—separating the “two key domestications,” of animals and cereals, from the first agrarian economies based on them.

Our ancestors evidently took a good, hard look at the possibility of agriculture before deciding to adopt this new way of life.

Scott argues that a state’s interests and the interests of subjects are often not just different but opposite.Some of the most important things we use every day were invented long before the adoption of the scientific method. In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods.I love my laptop and my i Phone and my Echo and my G. S., but the piece of technology I would be most reluctant to give up, the one that changed my life from the first day I used it, and that I’m still reliant on every waking hour—am reliant on right now, as I sit typing—dates from the thirteenth century: my glasses. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest.To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa.The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us.

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(for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics”). When it comes to the shiniest wonders of the modern world—as the supercomputers in our pockets communicate with satellites—science and technology are indeed hand in glove.

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