The main reason I keep a subscription to National Geographic is that, once a year, they publish an article about the latest findings in the field of anthropology. The idea that, thousands of year ago, we shared living space with different branches of our family tree is something I love reading about in as much as I wonder how our world would have looked had these other ancestors survived.
Today, there is an article at the National Geographic website which suggests Neanderthals may have survived longer than we previously thought. One of the theories about their extinction was that they died at the hands of our modern ancestors. Or it could have been environmental. In Robert J Sawyer’s trilogy, The Neanderthal Parallax, a parallel world is discovered where Neanderthals not only are the dominant species of humans on Earth, but they’ve also created a kind of ideal society of environmental sustainability, low population, atheism, and open marriages. They also carry a recording device embedded in their arms so that everything you ever do or is done to you is recorded for posterity. This is regarded as a good thing. But generally the novels put forward the theory that Neanderthals were not “less intelligent” than modern humans.
I guess that’s why I’ve always liked science fiction because a lot it deals with how humans cope with meeting a competing intelligence. Our track record, and how we deal with our contemporary primate cousins, suggests that we still have a lot to learn.