“Technology is human innovation in action.” ~ Author Unknown

Humans and all hominids before humans were - and are - the maker of tools. The two qualities that separate humans from all other species on this planet are our ability to create technology and to create the systems that technology requires. Technology is the catalyst for cultural change. The process of political, economic, and social adjustment to these technological changes is cultural evolution.

Many animals construct things using parts of their bodies as tools. Beavers cut down trees to make their dams and lodges. Other animals make nests, hives, or warrens. A few animals, like crows and apes, do have the ability to make simple tools but appear anatomically unable to go beyond a rudimentary level.

There is a close relationship between culture and the environment in which it exists. For all but a few isolated hunter-gather groups, technology is the most important shaper of that environment. It often produces unanticipated consequences in parts of our lives seemingly far removed from the original idea. Often the positive aspects of new technology are immediately apparent but the negative consequences are not, thus requiring an adjustment in behavior as the result.

Technological changes can increase our standard of living and our freedom. Other times it places limits on behavior, sometimes by intention or design; sometimes because of negative results. Laws that limit cell phone use while driving are good examples of limiting the behavior of new technology for the common good.

It is easy to think that the most recent technological inventions and discoveries are the most important, and indeed many are, such as the unraveling of the genetic code or the change from analog to digital information. But sometimes some of the simplest technological changes have produced the most dramatic cultural changes.

The use of a vine to tie animal skins around one’s waist to conserve heat, or cooking meat over a fire rather than eating it raw are examples of the ability of technology to extend the habitat range of hominids to most of the globe, to work cooperatively in groups, to learn how to make and to use stone tools, and to discover and make fire. More recent technological innovations have reduced the physical advantages that men have had over women since our origins, accelerating the pace towards true equality of mind and spirit.

Technology accelerated with the agricultural revolution and its sedentary lifestyle. As with stone tools and controlling fire, some certain pivotal inventions and discoveries have had a trigger effect that promoted further technology in a feedback loop that continues to accelerate to this day.

The pace of technological change is exponential. Each new contrivance or system feeds upon itself, creating new fields of technology and decreasing the time between its introduction and its application. Many discoveries and inventions do not address the ethical, legal, and social issues that are created by the onset of the innovations. The consequences have been, and continue to be, immense.

Here is a quick summary of the major technological advancements made in the last five or six thousand years in the following fields: social-economic groups; agriculture; transportation; war; communication and expanding knowledge, power/energy, and the growth of political institutions and the bureaucracy to run them.

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