How human brains became so big

This 1885 photo shows a side view of a human brain. In relation to body size, our brains are huge, about six times larger than one would expect from other mammals. And this three-pound organ sucks up fully 20 percent of the body’s energy needs. (Oscar G. Mason/J.C. Dalton/Philadelphia, Lea Brothers & Co. via AP)
Updated 28 May 2018
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How human brains became so big

PARIS: The human brain is disproportionately large. And while abundant grey matter confers certain intellectual advantages, sustaining a big brain is costly — consuming a fifth of energy in the human body.
It is an oddity that has long flummoxed scientists: while most organisms thrive with small brains, or none at all, the human species opted to sacrifice a degree of body growth for more cerebral capacity.
On Wednesday, researchers said they can finally reveal how and why this happened.
The human brain, they suggested, expanded mainly in response to environmental stresses that forced our species to come up with innovative solutions for food and shelter, and pass the lessons on to our offspring.
The finding challenges a popular theory that the thinking organ grew as social interactions between humans became more and more complex, a research duo wrote in the science journal Nature.
In fact, the inverse may be true.
“The findings are intriguing because they suggest that some aspects of social complexity are more likely to be consequences rather than causes of our large brain size,” said paper co-author Mauricio Gonzalez-Forero of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
“The large human brain is more likely to stem from ecological problem-solving and cumulative culture than it is from social manoeuvering.”
From our ape-like Australopithecus ancestors to modern Homo sapiens, the human brain has tripled in size.
But feeding such a big brain has been suggested to come at the cost of slow body growth in childhood — leaving our young dependent and vulnerable for longer than other animals.
Previous research found correlations between large brain size in species and complex social structures, living in challenging environments, and an ability to learn lessons from peers — also described as “culture.”
But no studies have been able to conclude whether these factors are the cause of brain expansion, or the result of it.
With colleague Andy Gardner, Gonzalez-Forero developed a mathematical model to measure whether being confronted with ecological and social problems has a measurable impact on brain growth, and if yes, how much.
Model “brains” were presented with ecological challenges — finding prey in bad weather or in tough terrain, for example, preserving food to protect it against mold or heat spoilage, or storing water amid drought.
Social challenges were introduced too, to test the influence on brain growth of cooperation and competition between individuals and groups.
Interestingly, cooperation was associated with a decrease in brain size, the researchers said — probably because it allows individuals to rely on each other’s resources and to save energy by growing smaller brains themselves.
“We find that increasingly difficult ecological problems expand brains, but social demands fail to lead to human sized brains,” Gonzalez-Forero told AFP.
But why did human brains grow more than those of other animals living in challenging environments?
Probably because of culture — the ability to learn skills from others rather than having to figure everything out for ourselves.
“So, our results suggest that it is the interaction of hard ecology and culture that produced the human brain size,” said Gonzalez-Forero.


Pakistan is rapidly becoming a “digital-first country”, Google

Updated 18 November 2018
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Pakistan is rapidly becoming a “digital-first country”, Google

  • Pakistan digital growth is supported by population and increasing penetration of internet, IT experts
  • Prime Minister’s Taskforce on IT and Telecom to meet next week to draw comprehensive policy

KARACHI: Destine to become the fourth fastest growing economy by 2030, Pakistan, supported by a growing population, fast growing business and increasing penetration of Internet, is poised to grab first position among the digital economies, Information Technology (IT) experts say.
US technology giant, Google, says Pakistan is quickly becoming a “digital-first country”, which means there are new opportunities for brands to reach and engage with consumers that may have previously been overlooked.
“It shows that Google has realized the marketing potential of the country and they are now encouraging businesses to focus on Pakistan as a potential market,” Badar Khushnood, vice president of growth at Fishry.Com and vice chairman of [email protected], commented.
According to Google, there are five reasons for “considering expanding your digital campaigns into Pakistan”.
Pakistan’s growing population is the first reason that makes the country attractive for the foreign and local investors to venture into the IT sector.
“Pakistan has a population of more than 202 million people, which means there are lot of potential consumers coming online every day. And the country is even more urbanized than neighboring India, with nearly 40 percent of total households living in cities,” writes Lars Anthonizen, head of large customer marketing, South Asia, Google.
Pakistan’s economy grew by 5.7 percent in fiscal year 2018. HSBC in is recent report published in September 2018 has projected Pakistan to become the fourth fastest growing economy by 2030.
Around 90 percent of the companies in the country are SMEs which are contributing more that 40 percent to the country’s 313 billion economy, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.
Third attraction, according to Google, is the country’s growing smart phone users. Pakistan has 152 million cellar subscribers, and 60 million 3G/4G subscribers, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
This number will likely grow quickly as smart phone prices have dropped over the last few years. Pakistan also has some of the cheapest data prices in the world, which is helping to grow mobile app usage, according to Google.
However, experts say more work is needed to be done to fully utilize the existing potential. “We need to work on optic fibers, penetration of 4G, creation of data centers, telecom infrastructure and most importantly creation of awareness among masses,” Pervaiz Iftikhar, a member of the newly formed prime minister’s Taskforce on IT and Telecom, told Arab News.
Pakistan’s overall Internet penetration stands at 29.9 percent with 62 million broadband subscribers, a fourth attraction for the investor, as per Google. In spite of this, digital consumption in the country continues to grow quickly. YouTube watch time, for example, has seen over 60 percent growth over the last three years.
The Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the largest Chinese investment venture in Pakistan with around $62 billion, a fifth reason to look toward Pakistan.
The mega project under BRI is not only limited to the infrastructure and energy sector but it is also contributing to the growth of the IT sector in Pakistan.
“One of the first CPEC projects is to lay 820 kilometers of fiber-optic cable, connecting more Pakistanis to the Internet. This is in addition to ongoing investments in 3G and 4G network expansions from China Mobile, and the company has already announced plans to invest another $225 million in 4G expansion (bringing its total investment to $2.4 billion),” writes Lars Anthonizen.
“We have to connect every village through fiber optics that will not only create thousands of jobs but would multiply opportunities for the IT business countrywide,” Pervaiz Iftikhar added.
“A lot of potential exists in the IT sector of Pakistan with the young population turning to computers, smart phones and other digital means, and the country offers big market for local and foreign investors”, Jehan Ara, another member of the prime minister’s Taskforce on IT and Telecom and president of [email protected], commented.
Badar Khushnood, who is also former consultant of Google, Facebook and Twitter, called for comprehensive policy for the growth of the IT sector.
“Taxation systems should be rationalized, simplified, and encouraging for startups. The country also needs data protection laws, and broader cyber laws,” he added.
The first meeting of the prime minister’s Task Force on IT and Telecom is expected to be held next week in Islamabad. “Comprehensive strategy including short term and long term measures would be discussed in the upcoming meeting of taskforce because country needs a policy for the persistent growth of IT and Telecom sector”, Pervaiz Iftikhar informed.