Brother, Can You Spare Some Surplus?
Summary: After humans started getting good at agriculture, employing human and then animal labor, their work resulted in grain and food harvests exceeding what was immediately needed by the farm workers and their families. Grain could now be stored and even traded. The agricultural surplus was large enough that some members of society no longer had to work to produce their food, but instead could pursue other specializations that society needed (or wanted) - blacksmiths, or bakers, or candlestick makers. Now part-time warriors could become full time soldiers. And, over time, the societal access to excess grain meant more babies could be born, fed, and ultimately employed. Surplus - in the old days - was related to an abundance of food, and this in turn raised population and made possible the benefits derived from organizing around cities. Skipping ahead a few thousand years, we can imagine the fantastic amount of surplus energy used by some 100,000 human workers over a 20-year period to quarry, shape, and move the over six million tons of stone comprising the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Creative use of technology in the form of levers, pulleys, sleds, etc., was necessary for this undertaking, but without the caloric expenditures needed to power human muscle, such structures could never have been built. That people would
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