The Commodity Benefits
First, let’s talk about the commodity benefits of strong language skill. Most animals have ways of warning others around them of danger. Most animals have some sort of “follow me” command. These are examples of commodity uses of language. Humans can not only warn each other of danger, they can describe the danger in exquisite detail. Humans can not only tell others to follow, they can tell them why they should follow. These are examples of extending the commodity use of language.
There are some surprise extensions for even these very basic commodity uses of language. One example of a surprise use is that a human can tell other humans where to go, without having to lead them there personally. The teller can also describe when to go and what to take along.
A human can describe a danger to another human in exquisite detail, what to do about it, and even tell about dangers that haven’t happened yet.
These are examples of extending a technology in a commodity way.
There are also surprise ways to use language.
The Surprise Benefits—Changing Waste/Benefit Parameters
The biggest surprise benefit of strong language skill is passing skills from one generation to the next. Children can learn from adults, and learn a whole lot! Thanks to strong language skill, no other organism can teach like humans can.
This change is huge! One of the subtler consequences of teaching children is that it changes around a whole bunch of body-design parameters in terms of what is a good investment and what is a wasteful investment.
Here is an example of benefit versus waste.
Suppose you have two proto-human brothers with different mutations. One brother got better legs so he can run faster, the other brother got a bigger brain so he could think better and, if one-in-a-thousand circumstance happens, he would learn arithmetic—think of a circumstance like Newton and his apple.
All Mother Nature asks is, “Which of you two is going to have more grandchildren?”
The boy with the strong legs says “Me” and he’s right ... unless ... unless ... the other boy can teach his children arithmetic.
A real world example of this pass-down learning is