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Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at pearwood.info
Thu Jul 5 21:25:31 EDT 2018


On Thu, 05 Jul 2018 11:27:09 -0700, Jim Lee wrote:

> Take a village of people.  They live mostly on wild berries.

Because of course a community of people living on one food is so 
realistic. Even the Eskimos and Inuit, living in some of the harshest 
environments on earth, managed to have a relatively wide variety of foods 
in their diet.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inuit_cuisine

But okay, let's run with this scenario...


> One day, a man invents an automated way to sort good berries from
> poisonous berries.

Right, because it is totally realistic that a pre-agricultural society 
living on nothing but berries has mastered the technology to automate
sorting berries.


> Soon, all the villagers take their berries to him to be
> sorted.

Of course they do, because why pick only edible berries when it is so 
much more fun to pick both edible and poisonous berries, mix them 
together, and then play a game of "let's see if we missed any of the 
deadly berries and will die horribly after eating them accidentally".

In this scenario of yours, is everyone in this a village a workaholic 
with a death-wish? Why exactly are they doing twice as much work as 
necessary picking poisonous berries and mixing them in together with the 
edible berries?


> The man dies, but passes the secret on to his son before doing
> so.  This continues for a few generations.  Eventually, the final
> descendant dies with no children, and the secret vanishes.  Now, the
> entire village is clueless when it comes to identifying the poisonous
> berries.

Even this city boy knows enough to tell the difference between edible 
blackberries, raspberries and strawberries and the many maybe-its-edible-
maybe-its-not berries which grown on random trees and bushes.

Are there a bunch of dead birds around the tree? Then its poisonous.

Do birds happily eat the berries and keep coming back? Then its worth 
trying one or two and see if they give you a stomach ache, if not, 
they're probably safe.

A more sensible example would have been mushrooms. And its true, I'm 
entirely clueless how to identify poisonous mushrooms from edible ones. 
However will I survive?

Nor do I know how to smelt copper, or tan leather using nothing but dung, 
or perform brain surgery. I guess civilization is about to collapse.




-- 
Steven D'Aprano
"Ever since I learned about confirmation bias, I've been seeing
it everywhere." -- Jon Ronson



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