Since many of us may carry Neanderthal genes, it may be comforting to know what it was like to be one of these ice-age Europeans who flourished between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago, and then mysteriously disappeared.
The biggest difference between Cro-Magnons (that's us) and Neanderthals is innovation. Although Neanderthals invented the craft of turning stone points onto spears, this was one of their very few innovations over several hundred thousand years.
In New Scientist, Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge point out that they also seem to have kept to small family groups, instead of contacting other groups of Neanderthals--and even Cro-Magnons--and trading tools and ideas with them.
Instead, they seem to have relied on observational learning and practice reproducing their existing tools, rather than trying to design more efficient ones. At a time when Western governments are decrying the lack of innovation that would produce jobs that would solve the problems of the recession, this is worth thinking about.
Here's something else worth thinking about: How the heck are we supposed to keep on being here in 2012 without more support from YOU?