Chapter 1 HISTORY, EVOLUTION, AND TECHNOLOGY (c) 1991 by David G. Hays (c) 1995 by Janet Hays 1.1. INTRODUCTION 1.2. TECHNOLOGY AND ITS TRANSACTIONS 1.3. KNOWLEDGE, VALUES, AND GUESSES By tiny steps, technology has repeatedly found its way into new domains. On crossing a threshold, technology expands with new categories of making and using things, and new interactions among categories. We can see this history as an evolution, and ask for a scientific explanation. 1.1. INTRODUCTION 1.1.1. History. Who, what, where, when ... 1.1.2. W h y ? Toward scientific explanation ... 1.1.3. Evolution. Blind variation, selective retention ... 1.1.4. Four Stages, Called Ranks. Technology linked to ways of thinking Technology ordinarily evolves by small steps, but when the level of thinking rises technology is reconstructed on a new basis. Qualitative differences can be seen between forag- ers, agriculturalists, the era of smokestack industry, and today's most advanced technology. 1.1.1. History History and journalism have a lot in common, for they are both narrative arts. The reporter's checklist (who, what, where, when) is also the historian's checklist. Thomas A. Edison and his crew invented the electric light bulb at Menlo Park, NJ, in 1879. That is history. Many people read about history for pleasure. The bibliographic note ( BIBLNOTE* ) includes some books on the history of technology, and I hope that many readers will read one of them--or a comparable book--for pleasure. To appreciate the _evolution_ of technology, one needs a pretty good idea of who invented what, and when and where--the _history_ of technology. The history of technology lends itself to several approaches. Until recently, the standard approach was "Gee, whiz!" or "Wow!" Gee-whiz books are still published, often in coffee-table format. These books are worth skimming, spending lots of time on the pictures. Even better, visit a museum of technology if you can. The point is that much technology is about things, and the best way to get a sense of material culture is to handle it, or at least to see it. Look at the parts of things, how they are formed and joined, how they move on each other if they do move, how their surfaces are finished. Another approach to the history of technology is to deplore its dehumanizing effects. Lewis Mumford ( LMum* ) might be described, not too unfairly, as having deplored the whole history of technology in his last books, and plenty of authors have told some part of the story in this way (among them Aron* Ellul* and Marcuse* ). And we are more alert now to the dangers of technol- ogy: During the summer of 1989 _The New Yorker_ magazine ran a 2-part article on the apparent danger of low-level electrical radiation. _The New Yorker_ also published Rachel Carson's _Silent Spring_ before the book appeared in 1962. (See Hughes's Chapter 9 AMERBIBL* concerning harsh critics.) Physics (electromagnetic radiation), chemistry (pesticides), and biology (genetic engineering) all seem, to many around me, to threaten our health and safety. Or the whole history of technol- ogy is despicably interwoven with imperialism (for example, Wall* and Headrick* ). And then there are fairly scholarly books that tell the story in an objective, detached manner (see BIBLNOTE* ). Reading one or more of these books will give you the facts about who, what, when, and where. I am not a historian, nor a journalist. 1.1.2. W h y ? Why did Edison (and his crew of hundreds, all educated and skillful) invent the incandescent light bulb in 1879, and not in 1779 or 879? Why in Menlo Park, NJ, and not in Aix-en-Provence, France, or in New Delhi, India? Why a light bulb and not a glovewarmer? Why Edison and not Elmer Fudd? In the nineteenth century, when history and historicism were at their peak, there arose a belief that history has laws: What has happened, is happening, and will happen hereafter is determined by historical principle. Not social, cognitive, emotional, cultural, or political principles, but historical principle. The name that I attach to this belief is Hegel, and the example that comes to mind is Marxist: The inevitable decline of capitalism, withering away of the state, and triumph of communism. The notion of history that allows it to have a principle of its own is unintelligible to twentieth-century minds. The truth of this kind of proposition must be mystical. Let me put the matter another way: I cannot understand a universe in which history determines itself. (For Karl Popper's magnificent diatribe against "historicism", see PvHy* .) If you ask "Why?" quite seriously, you deserve to be told how your phenomenon fits into a great structure of ideas. Science is by far the greatest structure of ideas in our time. For 200 years at least we have invested heavily in science. By our collective effort we have built libraries full of theories, some of them tested with the utmost care. These theories fit together, sometimes snugly and sometimes crudely. When the question "Why?" can be answered by fitting the phenomenon into the structure of science, we generally believe that we have a good explanation. Well, then, "Why technology?" Is that question too big to have an answer? Can it conceivably have a scientific answer? That is to say, Can we give an account of technology that fits into the structure of science? The point is not to ask whether science helps technology. The point, stated another way, is Can we give a scientific explanation of the history of technology? Do you think that the question is foolish? Or hopeless? Or even obscene? You could be right. All I can do at this time is show you how work toward an answer is going. At the end of this book we will not have a completely satisfying answer, but we will have earned some benefits ... A sense of the great changes in material culture that have come about in the last 6000 years. A broad understanding of the inventions and innovations that shaped the modern world--who, what, where, and when--and how inventions breed inventions. At least an inkling of what it is like to seek an explanation of an intricate phenomenon. And an approximate answer to the main question, not complete but well worth thinking about because it puts history in a new perspective. The key idea will be evolution. 1.1.3. Evolution Two great men of the nineteenth century, Herbert Spencer* and Charles Darwin* (and also Wallace* ), made the idea of evolution known to everyone. Spencer said that evolution is change toward differentiation of more kinds of parts, and integration of more kinds of parts into individual systems. Nicolis & Prigogine ( THEOBIBL* ) echoed him in our own time. Darwin said that evolution occurs by survival of the fit- test. Two dandelions are born; one absorbs nourishment from the soil more effectively; it has more offspring. If you kill most of the dandelions in the next generation, some of this one's many offspring are more likely to survive. Do not believe in teleology. This obsolete concept, ab- horred by most biologists, supposes that the end is determined before the beginning. In a footrace, the finish line is painted before the runners take their places. They go for it. If you believe in teleological explanation, you may say that the human type is the goal of biological evolution. The race to this goal--evolution toward us--began as soon as life appeared on earth. (Of course, if you adopt teleology with respect to matters outside the range of my text, that is not my concern.) The advantage of Darwin's tautology, that the fittest survive, is that it permits us to reject teleology. We can believe that all biological change begins with random variation, but the disappearance of the unfit makes for improvement. The trouble with evolution is that fitness is relative, and not absolute. The more fit an animal is to live in a marsh, the less fit to live in a dry place. If after 50 million years the marsh dries up, the very fit marsh-dwellers may disappear. The Darwinian mechanism makes no predictions; those survive who are fit to live in the here-and-now, and if they are unfit to live in the world of the future, that's just tough. We should notice, also, that survival is a random process. If we could take all the rabbits on Old MacDonald's farm and rank them from left to right according to fitness, highest on the right, we could not separate them into a right-hand group of survivors and a left-hand group of nonsurvivors. All we could say is this: The further to the right, the better the chance of survival. Even the most fit can die by accident without progeny. Even the least fit can sometimes slip through all of life's troubles. Spencer was a philosopher and a social scientist. He was interested in biology, but also in society and culture. He applied his concept of evolution to history, and so shall I. In the nineteenth century, Victorian England believed that it stood at the pinnacle of history, the goal toward which evolution had been moving. The ideas of Darwin and Spencer were tainted with racism. For us, racism is unacceptable. We can study a non-racist theory of evolution, but for that we need better theories of culture and learning than could be found in Victorian England. The technological system of Victorian England was more highly differentiated and integrated than that of any non-literate group. In this sense, the Spencerian sense, it was more highly evolved. How could that be? (a) The brains of Victorian Englishmen were more powerful than the brains of persons in nonliterate groups--bigger, say, or biologically more potent somehow. (b) The Victorian English taught (some of) their children how to learn better than any nonliterate group could teach its children. By learning to learn, these (few) Englishmen were able to invent, organize, and manage a more evolved system. Explanation (a), which might be true, is racist. Nineteenth- century Englishmen had no real evidence to support this explana- tion, and neither do we. Explanation (b), which might be true whether (a) is true or false, is not racist. I repeat: Explanation (b) is not racist ... nor sexist, nor ... Because, starting young enough, anyone can learn to learn. But unfortunately the Victorian English were not able to formulate explanation (b). The concept of learning to learn had not been invented. Explanation (a) was accepted, not because of the evidence, but because of the lack of an alternative. And also, of course, if you are insecure and plagued by self-doubt, explanation (a) is comforting. I feel pretty sure that many of the chauvinist English Victorians were insecure. Technology has evolved. The technology of the modern world is more differentiated and integrated than the technologies of the past. In other words, we in Europe, America, and Japan apply more diverse and specialized skills in dealing with nature than any of our ancestors ever did. And we link our skills and the products of our skills together into larger systems, with more parts and more kinds of parts, than ever before. That is the fact. The fact that technology has evolved cannot be changed by saying "Wow!" or "How terrible!" or "Don't cultures with simple technologies have a lot to offer?" If you feel like saying "Wow!" as you read of the accomplishments of past inventors, you will certainly do so. And if you feel like deploring technology, or deploring the evolution of technology, you will. No harm done. Only I ask you to remember that this book is trying to answer the question, "How and why does technology evolve?" Praise and blame are not part of an explanation. 1.1.4. Four Stages, Called Ranks When William L. Benzon was a student at SUNY Buffalo, he showed me a book called _The Four Ages of Music_, by Walter Wiora* . Wiora had studied reports of musical forms in many cultures and inferred from these contemporary observations a historical progression; the same method is used by some anthro- pologists, although others object to such inference* . Wiora's four ages were the ages of rhythm, melody, harmony, and modern eclecticism. Boiled down, Wiora's scheme went like this: 1. Rhythm. For a long time, music was almost entirely a matter of rhythmic chanting, beating of drums, and the like. Different tones might be used, but not in any regular way. 2. Melody. Then for a time the dominant patterns in music consisted of sequences of notes chosen to have an effect as a whole. 3. Harmony. Not so long ago, new patterns appeared. The notes played simultaneously were chosen to have a special effect. Music became two-dimensional, a sequence of combinations. 4. Now, says Wiora, anything goes. Eclecticism, mixing effects from all times and places, is the new idea in music. Benzon suggests that a new pattern is coming to dominate music, a pattern that he calls "texture". But Benzon cannot quite tell me what texture is (see BMusic* for his newest ideas). Benzon showed me Wiora's book, and said, "Isn't everything like that?" So in our Buffalo seminars we began working on the history of thought as a four-stage affair. We needed a special word and chose "rank" (rank is not exactly the same as stage* ). Then a young person I know took a high school course called "Athens and Florence". It covered the Golden Age of Greece and the Renaissance. How neat, I thought, and added a couple of cities to the list: Eden The Rank 1 non-city Athens The Rank 2 city where philosophy began Florence The Rank 3 city where modern thought--and especially science--originated New York The Rank 4 city You can see that I am not quite serious; Eden is just a familiar word for a place without large population, without writing, without technology of any complicated kind. And New York is not the center of what has been happening lately in the same way that Athens and Florence were centers in their different periods. However, not all of Greek thought issued from Athens, and the whole Renaissance did not happen in Florence. Then, with tongue in cheek but with a serious thought in my head, I expanded the list: Eden - Rank 1 - Babylon Athens - Rank 2 - Rome Florence - Rank 3 - London New York - Rank 4 - Tokyo If the fact that London, New York, and Tokyo lie within nations, whereas the earlier places do not, see CITYSTATE* . Otherwise, let us look for a moment at each pair. Eden - Rank 1 - Babylon Think of Eden as a place where food-getting is almost the only skill applied in dealing with the material world, where food grows naturally and the skill is to be in the right place at the right time to gather it. Allow a little hunting, to bring in meat as a special treat. How is Babylon different? Farming has come in, and provides enough food for a concentrated population. A fair number of craft specialties have arisen: building houses, making pots and some tools, making clothing and other things. But Babylon is overgrown, too large for its technological base. Athens - Rank 2 - Rome Think of Athens as the original exploiter of writing. No, of course writing did not originate in Greece, and long before Greece's Golden Age (5th century BC) writing was used for laws both secular and religious. Still it seems fair to me to think of Athens as the place where writing was put to its natural use: Clarifying thought. The philosophy of Athens was the beginning of rational discourse, and it required writing. Was the technol- ogy of Athens advanced beyond that of Babylon? Somewhat, yes; they replaced bronze largely with iron. Rome, the successor of Athens, rose with the elaboration of technology throughout the Mediterranean basin. The advance was multifarious. But Rome ended up overgrown, the city and its empire both too large for their infrastructure. Florence - Rank 3 - London Think of Florence as the original exploiter of calculation. That is probably not what you have been told about the Renaissance by others; indeed, it may be my own original idea. Arithmetic had reached Europe--a convenient way of writing numbers and calculating with them. Business became easier to manage, and science got started a little later. Military technology advanced, and--to furnish the precision needed for astrology--so did instrumentation. London, the successor of Florence, was late in its Renaissance, but when it got going it produced the Industrial Revolution and an empire on which the sun never set. Overgrown again. New York - Rank 4 - Tokyo Think of New York as the original exploiter of computation. The computer was invented in the periphery where New York keeps its intellectual support (Boston, Ithaca, Princeton, Philadelphia) by John von Neumann, who took part in sessions at the University of Pennsylvania and went home to the Institute for Advanced Study to write down the complete scheme that was needed to go forward from high-speed arithmetic machines to universal computers of the kind that we are using here and now. Between 1800 and today, a lot of technological progress has originated in New York and its hinterland. Tokyo, the possible successor of New York, is said to think of California's silicon valley as its easternmost suburb. If Japan is not overgrown yet, it looks to be going that way. The inhabitants of Eden, unlike their animal predecessors, had speech. So we can see an informatic novelty at each of the four ranks: Rank 1 Speech Rank 2 Writing Rank 3 Calculation Rank 4 Computation Chapter 4 is about this sequence. But as we shall see, life is not so simple. Nowhere, never except at the beginning is all of life confined to a single rank. Mixture is the rule as soon as any advance occurs. Some authors take mixture as a reason to deny rank: We have used the word "levels" rather than "stages" quite consciously; a great deal of blending of the levels and of persistence and resistance has happened, and a stadial type of sequence was not their inevitable arrangement. (Braidwood & Reed, 29-30) "it is in the nature of evolution that our examples are all in transition." (Eric B. Ross, reviewing Johnson & Earle, p. 819) (References in AGRIBIBL* .) Old ways persist, new ways are resisted, and many lives are lived in transitions. Yet a new rank, once established, is felt in the lives of all who have even remote contact with it. Rankshift is a major phenomenon. 1.2. TECHNOLOGY AND ITS TRANSACTIONS 1.2.1. Aspects of Technology. Materials, tools, skills ... categories of use 1.2.2. The Simple Life. Foraging ... 1.2.3. Ten Thousand Peasants per Prince. Agriculture, pottery, and temples ... 1.2.4. Something for Everyone. Coal, textiles, and education ... 1.2.5. Everything, Now. Electronics, global trade Qualitative change across the ranks appears in tables that show the contributions of technological sectors to end uses and to each other. The number of sectors increases, and the interdependence of the sectors grows. To read the rest of this diskbook, you need to know what technology is in a very general sense, and you also need a crude notion of what the technologies of the four ranks are like. In this section I explain my general idea, then I offer lists of categories of needs and of means for supplying them. From the list of different means ("industrial sectors") I can build a simplified version of Leontieff's input-output matrices: Give each industrial sector a row, and each end use a column, and see what is going on in each cell. With that tool I can go through the four ranks laying out sketches of their technological econo- mies. 1.2.1. Aspects of Technology I'll tell you now what I think technology is: know-how. (See TIMA* for a similar definition.) Know-how, and specifically with respect to the material world. You can expand the meaning of technology to cover, say, the skills of making and running organizations. But if you do you run the risk of losing the essence of the idea. Producing plastics requires different skills from making stone tools, but I think there is more in common between these two kinds of technology than between either and the skills of management. If you think that technology is shoes and ships and sealing wax--and the tools for making them--you are close to my position. But if all the shoes and shoe-making machinery disappeared tonight and had to be remade starting tomorrow, I would say that we had not lost the technology if we were still able to remake them. If we lived among shoes and shoe-making machinery with no knowledge of their use, then I would say that we did not have the technology. Before the Renaissance, Europeans lived among the ruins of Roman aqueducts and used the stones to build huts. We need to distinguish between being able to make shoes and being able to tell how to make shoes. The implicit skill, which I call lore, gets the shoes made. How-to-do-it books (explicit statements about the skill) have been around since ancient Rome at least; the impulse to tell how is strong. We might narrow the concept of technology, saying that it is the explicit knowledge that we have of how to do things. If we do, however, then Eden had no technology, at least during that early period when sapients* were learning to talk, to think, and to use tools to make tools. My dictionary suggests that the word is used in different senses by different groups. Anthropologists would use it as in my original statement, know-how with respect to the material world. And some would say that technology did not appear on earth until science was brought to bear. We will probably have to slide up and down this scale of restriction. Wheels, weapons, and wires stand for three branches of technology: transport, warfare, and communication. Three more branches are mining, agriculture, and manufacture. If we look through history we see the number of branches growing moderately up to around 1900, and then exploding. Three new ones are biotechnology, satellite observation, and chip-level photocommun- ication. Many other authors have classified technologies. A how-to-do-it book written in China in 1637, _T'ien-kung K'ai-wu_, by Sung Ying-Hsing (and translated in the 20th century by E-Tu Zen Sun and Shiou-Chan Sun) did not by any means cover the technology of its time. Sung has no chapters on the building of roads and canals, or the making of clothing. But his list of topics suggests what a range of skills a rank 2 culture can possess. (To see the table of contents: Sung* ) George P. Murdock, for many years a professor of anthropology at Yale University and later at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote with collaborators an _Outline of Culture Materials_. At a broad level it is sufficient for a culture of any rank up to our own. In his _Ethnographic Atlas_, which is a list of societies ranging from Eden to Rome (and a few beyond), Murdock identifies some elements of technology that are found in many but not all places. Looking at his schemes, you would probably get a sufficiently clear idea of the range of skills that I expect to examine in this book. (To see a long list from Murdock's _Outline_: OCM* ) Bibliographies (for example, Oleson* ) may also classify their entries according to branch of technology. The biologist Bernard Campbell* proposes an evolutionary classification. After examining these sources, and the contents of some histories of technology, I am ready to suggest my own framework. On the one hand, there are _industrial sectors_ that have separated themselves according to the materials, machines, and skills that they involve. This is my list, in approximate chronological order of origin: Agriculture, including foraging Ceramics Food conversion (cooking, drying, etc.) Textiles, including leather and paper Wood fabrication Mining and quarrying Metal refining and fabrication Stone fabrication Transportation Chemicals Power and light Electronics On the other side, there are _end uses_ of goods, which separate themselves according to the needs they meet and the circumstances in which they operate: Domestic: Food, clothing, shelter, furniture, warmth, light Security: Government, warfare, police Spiritual: Magic, religion, art, psychotherapy; drugs Health: Cleanliness, medicine Travel and communication Knowledge: Education, research, and development Capital: Land, factories, machines and tools, organization In between, there is Trade: Distribution and marketing a sphere that belongs neither to production nor to consumption-- as Braudel pointed out ( FBCC* ). 1.2.2. The Simple Life In rank 1, the world is simple. Domestic Spiritual Health Agriculture Foraging Offerings Herbs and roots Food conversion Roasting Drugs Potions This matrix shows life at the basal level; there are, and have been, many people with technologically more complex lives but no writing. We will expand the theory to give them a place in due course. A few people still live the life of rank 1 at the end of the twentieth century, deep in the Amazon or a desert in Africa or Australia. The Eskimos who lived such lives not long ago are now educated and supplied with snowmobiles (Pelto) and gasoline by the governments of the United States and Canada, as I once saw with my own eyes. (For a survey of contemporary rank 1, see Bicchieri or the lighter Cheneviere; references in FORGBIBL* .) With a few tools and weapons made of stone or bone, rank 1 people live off the land. They have fire to cook their meat, and perhaps clothe themselves with hides. They have no pots. Their shelters, if any, are simple ones. The security arrangements are very simple, and use the same tools or weapons that serve for foraging. The making of tools is both significant and simple, so simple that I have not inserted a row for it. Each family does its own work and consumes its own product. The rows and columns of this table do not represent units of organization; these people do not have anything like a health maintenance organization or a central cooking staff. 1.2.3. Ten Thousand Peasants per Prince In rank 2, most of the population lives on the land as peasants* . They do not exchange much of what they produce, but they are required to support the small part of the population that lives in fortified places, or in villages and towns, where specialists make goods of kinds that rank 1 does not imagine. Still, the table is not an organization chart, although rank 2 does have organizations. A rank 2 government can provide its own ships for invasions and colonizations, and if it does then that activity is in the transport sector. (Every society with agriculture gets food from agriculture; but not every agricultur- al society has horses to use in warfare. So the table lists possibilities that become realities in some places at some times.) RANK 2 Domestic Security Spiritual Health Trade Agriculture Food and Cavalry Offerings Herbs and fuel roots Ceramics Pots Statues Houses Food con- Grinding Teas version Cooking Textiles Clothing Baskets Woodwork Furni- Forts Churches ture Houses Metals Knives Weapons Statues & Pipes coffers Pots Stonework Aqueducts Forts Temples Baths Houses Transport Grain Invasion, To spas Shipping migration Chemicals Salt Greek Incense Soap Perfume fire Dye Houses are of brick (ceramics), wood, or stone, and cement may be available although I have not put it in the table. The mining sector provides rank 2 with metals, but it is not yet providing fuel; you may move salt from the chemical row to a mining row if you like. The difference between cooking and chemical technology is not very great, but specialists make dyes and perfumes. The transport sector is not developed for personal travel, but commerce is developed: Athens and Rome required considerable imports of grain. I chose the word "church" for a building for spiritual use made of wood, and the word "temple" for one made of stone, simply because I have different images of them; but they are conceptually about the same. I have omitted the contributions of the industrial sectors to knowledge. All that I would need to insert would be paper (or the functional equivalent) and ink, since Athens put nothing much more into discovery and dissemination. In rank 2 it is worthwhile to see flows between industrial sectors. For that we need a matrix with both a row and a column for each sector. Read across each row to see what one sector provides to each of the others. (Not every transaction occurs in every place at rank 2.) RANK 2 AGR CERM FOOD TXTL WOOD MINE METL STON TRAN CHEM AGRIC Seed Wood All Flax Wood Wood Wood Hors Wood Wool Ox CERAM Pots Brick FOOD TEXTILE Basket Sail Nets WOOD Plow Wheel Loom Cart Boat MINING Lime Clay Ore Stone METAL Knife Need Saw Pick Anvl Chisel le STONE Road TRANSP CHEM Salt Dye But in fact, there is relatively little circulation of goods among the sectors here. Agriculture and mining are the source of materials and fuel for the others, but only a few wooden and metal tools are used and complex mixtures of raw materials do not occur. The textile sector provides nets for fishing and sails for boats. Transport is too expensive to serve much. I have noted the existence of stone-surfaced roads, although there are not many of them at rank 2. In much of the world, technology remains near the level of rank 2. Those countries with per capita income below $5000-- there were 96 of them in the late 1980s, and only 33 with more-- or with Human Development Index below 0.5--they numbered 51, as against 86 above--or with enrollment of children ages 6 to 11 in school below 20%--there were 67 of them, and 70 above (but many wealthy ones are not in the source table)--could not maintain technology far above rank 2. These are the countries that were once called undeveloped, then said to be developing; the label 'Third World' has been used. (For sources see HDI* ) 1.2.4. Something for Everyone Rank 3 is a more familiar world, the world of Victorian England for example, or of the Soviet Union from the 1930s through the 1980s. (The chart is on the next screen.) Brick is a favorite building material, because wood is scarce and stonework takes too much labor (rank 2 burned the trees, or used them for ships and windmills, and rank 3 needs its workers in factories). Coal is the favorite fuel, and from it gas is extracted and pumped into houses and factories. Iron is the favorite material for all mechanisms and many structures: Bridges in particular and also some buildings, providing both frames and facades. Care for the sick is much developed, although medical care is not very effective in curing them. The production and dissemination of knowledge is taken very seriously in rank 3; buildings and equipment are provided, and a portion of every lifetime is allocated. Capital formation is a major end use. RANK 3 Domest Secur Health Trade Know Capital Agricult Food Medication Ceramics Dishes Sinks Windows Factory Windows Ware- buildings Houses house Chimney Store Food conv Grind'g Rations Canning Salting Cooking Textiles Clothing Paper Linens Woodwork Furniture Houses Mining Coal Coal Coal Cement Metalwork Pots Guns Utensils Instru- Machines Cutlery ments Building Stoves frames Stonework Houses Forts Hospital College Transport Trips Troop Import- movement export Logistics Chemicals Salt Powder Medica- Bleach Gas tion Dye Leaven Perfume Power Gas for light & cooking In rank 3, inter-industry flows are richer than before. The old industries have not found many new industrial customers, but metallurgy has advanced and many industries use not only tools but also machines of iron and a few other metals. Power is furnished to every sector by the burning of coal to produce heat for processes and steam to drive machines; beyond that, this sector is limited to production of coal gas. A simple internal-combustion engine that burned coal gas was used as a power source in Britain at the end of the nineteenth century. Transport of supplies and products is being used in every sector. RANK 3 Agric Ceram Food Text Wood Mine Metal Stone Trans Chem Agric Seed Wood All Flax Wood Wood Wool Cotton Ceram Pots Brick Pots Jar Food Feed conv Tex- Basket Paper Uphol Fil- tiles Netting stery ter Wood Plow Wheel Cart Mining Lime Clay Ore Stone Lime Ferti- Sul- lizer fur Metal Har- Can Loom Saw Pick Anvil Chisl Train Vat vester Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Rails Ships Stone Roads Transp X X X X X X X Chem Ferti Glaze Many Paint Pow- Acid lizer der Power X X X X X X X X X X 1.2.5. Everything, Now And finally, rank 4 is almost visible in the near future. The matrix in the next screen incorporates all of the advances between the ideal-typical rank 3 situation of late Victorian England and the present in highly industrialized countries, and includes a few items that rank 4 may bring--or may not. RANK 4 Domest Secur Health Trade Know Capital Agricult Food Medica- Biomass tion fuel Ceramics Dishes Sinks Windows Vessels Factory Windows Ware- Shields buildings Houses house Chimney Store Pots Food conv Grind'g Rations Anti- Canning biotics Salting Hormones Freezing Cooking Textiles Clothing Paper Linens Woodwork Furniture Houses Mining Coal Coal Coal Gas RANK 4 Domest Secur Health Trade Know Capital Metalwork Pots Guns Utensils Trucks Instru- Machines Cutlery Vehicles Trains ments Building Stoves Aircraft Rails frames Appli- Missiles Ships ances Airplane Stonework Houses Hospital Roads College Transport Trips Troop Ambu- Import- Exchange Tele- movement lance export phone Logistics Commute Chemicals Salt Powder Medica- Petrol Bleach Gas tion Dye Petrol Anes- Leaven thetic Perfume Petrol Power Electri- Electri- Electri- city for city city light, cooking, heating (MORE) RANK 4 Domest Secur Health Trade Know Capital Electron Controls Radio X-ray Controls Computer Computer Alarms Radar CAT scan Phone Control EKG Radio Robots EEG TV Laser Stereo Rank 4's internal flows are very rich. RANK 4 Agric Ceram Food Text Wood Mine Metal Stone Trans Chem Agric Seed Wood All Flax Wood Wood Wool Cotton Ceram Pots Brick Pots Jars Food Feed conv Etc. Tex- Basket Paper Uphol- Fil- tiles Netting stery ter Wood Plow Wheel Mining Lime Clay Ore Stone Lime Ferti- Sul- lizer fur Metal Many Many Many Many Many Many Many Many Many Many Stone Transp X X X X X X X X Chem Many Glaze Films Many Paint Pow- Acid Rayon Panel der Nylon Power X X X X X X X X X X Elec- Some Therm Many Many Some Some Many ? Many Many tronics By now, the only productive sectors that do not obtain raw materials or fuel at a distance are mining and stone working. And even these two are not wholly independent of transportation; mining may buy energy from a distant source, and some stone work is done near the market with raw stone imported from a quarry. The power sector, too, has extended its services to all; everyone buys at least a portion of the necessary power as electricity. And we see electronics reaching into most sectors. Farmers may not make heavy use of computers and automatic controls as yet, but metal refining and fabrication is proceeding toward full automation with robots linked to computer-aided design and management systems. In transportation, radar and automatic pilots are essential to the current traffic in many places. The plastics industry (chemicals) provides materials for all sorts of products. We might ask, finally, if it is not time to introduce a sector for biotechnology; but I took some note of its existence by writing 'many' uses of chemistry in agriculture. Since these matrices are not organization charts, the fact that food conversion has moved more and more from home to restau- rant to frozen-food plant does not show up. 1.3. KNOWLEDGE, VALUES, AND GUESSES 1.3.1. The Mystery of Change. Distress ... clusters ... a paradigm needed 1.3.2. Knowledge before Evaluation. What is progress? ... Does study signify approval? 1.3.3. The Uncertain Future. The ranks ahead ... Change, accelerating through history, is the most obvious characteristic of technology, but nevertheless mysterious. As technology changes, it contributes to human welfare but does harm as well, and the balance is hard to assess. Learning what we can about technological change, its causes and occasions as well as its nature and effects, will support honest assessment and help us in the impossible task of predicting the technology of the future. 1.3.1. The Mystery of Change As you read the details of the history of technology, you will see that change occurs mostly in very small steps. And you will perhaps notice that changes are often upsetting. Skills are important to people; we think of ourselves in terms of what we can do, and we apply our skills constantly in making a living and getting through life. Technological change means giving up old skills and getting new ones (for some contemporary examples, see Zuboff* ). We read almost every day in newspapers and magazines about the troubles that beset towns where old skills are no longer useful, steel mill towns for example, about unemployment accompanied by lack of workers with the new skills that are needed; Paul Kennedy ( PREP21* ) writes in several places about this problem. Why, then, does change occur? A mystery. You will also see that changes occur in many times and places, but much more often in a few places during short periods. Historians have given names to several clusters of change: The agricultural revolution, the urban revolution, the Golden Age of Greece, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, the computer revolution. (We will give attention to each of these clusters of change as we continue.) Why should changes be clustered? Another mystery. Mysteries are unfathomable. Mysteries are romantic. Science is simple-minded, straightforward, pedestrian. Science has no truck with mysteries. Unless we can convert the mysteries of technological change into problems, science will give us no answers. To convert a mystery into a problem, we have to formulate a paradigm. You will find a long discussion of paradigms in Thomas Kuhn's _The Structure of Scientific Revolutions_ ( PRDGMBIBL* ). I think that we need a scientific revolution to create a science of evolution of technology. But I think that a revolution of the kind we need has begun. We can join it ... and it's easier to join one than to start one. In Chapter Two--Ranks, Revolutions, and Paideias--I will tell you some things about ranks and rankshift, about scientific and technological revolutions, and about different ways of thinking that enable thinkers to make quite different kinds of inventions. 1.3.2. Knowledge before Evaluation Should we call the changes in technology from the beginning until now "progress"? My old _American Heritage Dictionary_ says that progress is 1. Movement toward a goal 2. Development; unfolding 3. Steady improvement, as of a society or civilization Number 1 is the teleological view, and we are not adopting that view. Number 2 is very much like a definition of evolution, but it gives an old view, suggesting that the end is concealed in the beginning--not far enough from teleology to suit me. Number 3 is the one we will have in mind if we decide that change in technol- ogy constitutes progress. The unacceptable element in 3 is the word "steady". The changes in human affairs, including technology, have been very _un_steady. We have had ups and downs. Life in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire was much like life at an earlier time, simple and--as I see it--not good. Life in the United States today seems to me not truly improved over life in 1955. Even recent technological change may have taken us into blind alleys that we have to back out of carefully lest we mess up the world in very dreadful ways. An anthropologist I know wrote a book about the death penalty ( UCSn* ). In it he says that he found few publications by anthropologists on this topic, and that when he talked with others about his work they felt that he must approve of execu- tions if he was studying them. He claimed that he was making an objective study, and perhaps he was; I cannot tell you whether he approves of the death penalty, but he wrote an informative book. Can we study the evolution of technology without approving of technological change, without believing that technology contributes to the steady or unsteady improvement of society and civilization? According to my principles, we can and we must. To approve or disapprove without knowledge is prejudice. If we see technology destroying something we love ... Technological change causes some of our friends to lose their jobs and have trouble finding new ones ... The use of plastics is filling much too much of the earth's surface with garbage* dumps ... Nuclear power threatens us with planet-destroying war, causes radiation sickness in its workers and neighbors, and leaves waste that we cannot handle ... Demand for wood and pulp or for agricultural land leads to the destruction of forests today, as the demand for fuel for iron smelting led to the destruction of forests in England long ago ... ... we may condemn technological change out of hand. But perhaps we look instead at some benefits ... Easier travel and communication ... Longer life and better health ... Avoidance of famine in many areas ... ... and praise technological change without thinking of the bad results: The riches of the post-industrial society have meant longer and healthier lives, liberation from the pains of hunger, from the fears of infant mortality, from the unre- lenting deprivation that were the part of all but a very few in preindustrial society. ( Mokyr, p. 303 BIBLNOTE* ) Mokyr, I hasten to add, is not naive. Before deciding whether on balance the net effect of technological change is progress, a reasonable person will try to appreciate it for what it is. An appreciation of technology and its evolution includes Knowing who, what, when, and where ... the history Knowing as well as possible also how and why ... the evolution Knowing the consequences of technological change, in terms of as many relevant variables as can be imagined ... the evaluation ... remembering always that natural selection is blind to long- term effects, and so are we. Lynn T. White, Jr. ( MRTe* ) suggested that the invention of knitting enabled mothers to keep their little children warm, preventing disease and reducing mortality. The inventor of knitting probably did not anticipate that result, and we must not suppose that we can do very much better. With knowledge, we can do better than praise or condemn. We can sort out good and bad aspects and components of technology, according to our best understanding, and work for technological change that enhances the good aspects and diminishes the bad. We can strive for the adoption of appropriate technology. If, when the book is over, you wish to assert that the whole history of technology is one long blind alley, and that the best hope for the future is to begin again without tools or skills and look for a new route, you are free to do so. 1.3.3. The Uncertain Future I believe that our species has lived in three successive ranks, and that a fourth rank is becoming visible around us. How could I doubt that a fifth rank will follow? And perhaps still more. As you will see in the next chapter, I believe that thinking changes from rank to rank, in such a way that persons who grow up in any rank are incapable of understanding the later ranks. Remember, this is the problem of learning to learn. A person who grew up in a nonliterate society would have a hard time studying the philosophies that followed Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Maybe remedial work would solve the problem, but maybe not, and that's not my point anyhow. My point is that, if I am right, we would have a hard time studying the best work of the 21st century. The best thinkers of the future are going to have thoughts that would not fit easily into our minds. So the future of technology seems to me to be beyond our grasp. We do our best today, and if it is good enough it lays the foundation for better work in the future. If we do our work badly, tomorrow may never come. If we hone our skills and sharpen our consciences, we may do good enough work so that our children can create for themselves a brighter future.
[Mind-Culture Coevolution Home] [Tech Evol Contents]
[2 Ranks] [3 Energetics] [4 Informatics]
[5 Politics] [6 Investment] [7 Appropriate] [8 Best They Could]
[Bibliography] [Figures] [Notes]