When the drought came and forced our ancestors to leave the trees, the ones who could stand on two legs to better outrun predators survived. Using only two limbs to walk meant the other two limbs were open and available to pick up sticks, rocks, and bones to re-purpose them as tools or weapons. When our ancestors first picked up a rock or stick and decided to use it, our journey into technology began.
The first technologies were created for the purpose of fulfilling Basic Functions, namely protection and food. Found items could be manipulated and combined to create new tools to aid in hunting or gathering food. As societies advanced, more technologies could be implemented for grander purposes. For example, the ancient Egyptians made use of levers, pulleys, and wedges to create their architectural masterpieces. Each generation of new technology allowed for new technologies beyond it.
As cultures merged and clashed, technologies from one culture could be copied or repurposed by the other. For example, the gunpowder, originally developed by the Chinese for flares and fireworks, was weaponized and used in cannons and pistols. Sadly, many technologies have been repurposed for warfare throughout human history.
One region of the world was particularly keen on developing new lethal technologies. European history is littered with monarchies, politics, and lots of wars. It’s no surprise that the people living in that region became very good at war, using iron weapons and armor instead of primitive stone or sticks used elsewhere. Europeans got so good at warfare that when they started to explore other parts of the world, they had absolutely no problem conquering any indigenous people; their technology was too advanced.
New technology can sometimes feel like it’s magic. Think about what your grandparents would say about being able to change a song wirelessly via Bluetooth, back when they were young that would be considered magic. I am still amazed whenever I have the chance to watch the “magic” of a self-closing minivan door!
I want you to try and imagine you are living in a primitive village, just doing your thing, when a strange person shows up. He doesn’t look like you and he’s wearing a shiny suit and carrying a short stick. Your friend approaches the stranger, who points the stick forward. You hear a loud bang and watch your friend fall lifelessly to the ground!
Based on everything you understand, this man is a wizard or a god whose magic can kill! If I lived in that village, I’d listen to this man so the same does not happen to me. There is a reason it seems like white people are in control of the entire world, they spent centuries training and improving their technology explicitly to conquer.
Industrialization meant that new technologies could be made using electricity, opening up a huge amount of niches for possible inventions. The technology diversified to fill those niches. As technology boomed, much of the old tech was replaced with newer and better tech. The steamboat was a marvel of its day, moving along the water with no oars or sails! Traveling via steamboat is still possible today, but why wouldn’t you use an airplane to travel more efficiently?
The current trend of technology is to combine functions of multiple inventions all into one, thereby out-dating all of the inventions that could only perform one function. The perfect example of this is the smart phone. Why would you ever carry a camera, a map, a music player, a pager, and a calculator when you can have one device to do it all and more?
Today’s cutting edge technology is unfortunately much less tangible than it was just a few decades ago. We used to be able to see the cutting edge like the shift to flat-screen TVs or DVDs from VHS tapes. The diversification of technology means that every new invention opens the possibility for more inventions that use it as a springboard. In other words, the most cutting edge technologies of the present are not able to be understood by the layman because the even basics require years of very specific education.
It’s a little upsetting to know that our technology has passed the scope of what a single person can understand, but it’s also empowering. We are a single population that can count on each other to take what we produce and make it better for every facet of our society. I appreciate the fact that I can trust the people working on the stuff I know nothing about. I’m just excited to see where we’ll go next.