Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Past...

The long-term history and fate of humanity is driven almost entirely by technology. There have been five great technological revolutions in hominid history...

Tools. The penultimate great biological advance on Earth was the evolution of hominid intelligence. This led directly to the hominids' first great technological revolution at the beginning of the Paleolithic Age by 2 Mya: the use of stone tools and (later) fire. Tools and fire granted to hominids a mastery over predators, prey, and the elements that was literally unimaginable to other primates.

Language. The second technological revolution was also the most recent great biological advance on Earth: the development of language by 50 Kya. The development of language, watercraft, and weaving combined to allow early modern humans from Africa and SW Asia to master climates and locales throughout the world.

Agriculture. The third revolution was the development of agriculture at the beginning of the Neolithic Age about 10 Kya. The resulting specialization led to the advanced development of writing, government, and science.

Industry. The fourth revolution was the Industrial Revolution that was under way by 1840. It included the development of heat engines, medicine, electromagnetics, and (later) atomics. The Industrial Revolution was of course only possible because the Scientific Revolution that began during the Renaissance. However, it was not until the Industrial Revolution that living standards finally made a leap to levels that would have been unimaginable to Aristotle or even Newton.

Information. The fifth revolution is the current Information Revolution. It had started by 1971 with the development of electronics, computing, and networking, which together had major impacts on commerce and communications by the 1980s and 1990s. The Information Revolution will continue with the nascent developments of photonics and genetics. It will largely complete the liberation of humanity from tyranny and superstition. It will witness the completion of humanity's basic understanding of the origin, mechanism, and fate of mind, life, and the universe itself.