Was our technological evolution just random?
Despite long debates among scientists in the past, general consensus has emerged among the scientific community that our technological evolution is actually a little bit random. However, many people don’t know what the real causes are of the disorder in technological evolution. When it comes down to it, a lot of scientists believe that we are simply lucky or unlucky, rather than intelligent or unintelligent in regards to our technological advancements.
If we look into the history of technology, it seems that the centuries before and after the industrial revolution have been chaotic. In the 17th to 19th century, the rate of technological development was slow and had a wide variation. In the 20th century, rapid development of technology started from World War I and this rate decreased again due to wars. The purpose of this article is to examine the evidence for both opinions and see which one is more convincing.
The history of our technological evolution
For thousands of years, humans used horse as a means of transportation. Earlier, it took hundreds of years for humans to figure out that horse was not very good for transportation in open terrain because it cannot run very fast and it needs to be fed. Even after we discovered wheels and figured out how to ride horses, we still had to feed them and clean up the manure. All in all, it seems like a lot of trouble when we could have just used a wheeled cart from the start, right?
Using this example, what can science conclude about the evolution of technology? First off, without studying all technological developments and discoveries throughout history which would be too time-consuming and impossible, what we can conclude is that humans came up with a lot of innovative ways to travel despite our seemingly random actions. This is a hint that there must be some kind of order as to why humans came up with all these innovations.
At a first glance, you might conclude that this is a pretty convincing example, but what if our human ancestors had randomly chosen to use a wheeled cart rather than horses? Would the history of transportation have played out differently and perhaps created a new technological advancement that we would never have discovered? In other words, if our ancestors used horses rather than carts and then randomly jumped around to using bicycles for transportation, what would happen then?
Is there any way to knowing all about the ways of technological evolution?
Against the backdrop of several billion years of history, the last few centuries of human history are impressive. Our species has not only reshaped its planet’s biosphere. But, terrain, oceans, and climate of Earth are undergoing change to a magnitude not experienced since asteroid impacts or centuries of apocalyptic volcanic eruptions. These changes also cause enormous impacts on technological evolution as they will have a long-term impact.
In today’s world, we sometimes think about technology as just the latest innovation: smartphones, 3D printers, and VR headsets. By taking a longer view, however, we can see how it is so deeply tied to how we live.
We are unsure of the first human tool, but we can say that, around 2.5 million years ago, our distant ancestors began to use found objects in a deliberate manner: hard or sharp stones for breaking open shells or protection; sticks for reaching distant food and plants or animal parts for shelter or camouflage. In this regard, as well as in the creation and improvement of these objects, our ancestors were not so different from many other groups of animals.
Of course, there is no way of knowing whether or not our technological evolution is actually random or not because it’s impossible to go back in time. But in theory, if our technological development was completely random, history would be completely different. Meaning that if our technological development was completely random, we would have chosen different things to invent and we might possibly not be as advanced as we are now.
What did Engels and Marx think about technological evolution?
One example to support that technological evolution does not take place in order, we can go back to Enges. Over 100 years ago, Engels had pointed out that science was not an independent phenomenon but it was deeply connected to capitalism. Today, there has been another industrial revolution with deep connections between science and economy. This shows that technology is driven by social factors; it has no independent characteristics, which makes it chaotic and unpredictable.
Similarly, as early as 150 years ago, Marx pointed out that industrial evolution would lead to revolution as well as the development of technology. Starting from World War II, revolution began to break out in many countries in Africa and Asia; this was triggered by overpopulation and natural disasters which gave rise to sharp class conflicts. Not long ago, another crisis of capitalism occurred which led to the greatest financial crisis in history. The 2008 crisis also caused environmental problems such as global warming and pollution.
However, socialists and communists argue that these crises did not develop randomly. On the contrary, they were mainly the result of a certain system; the capitalist mode of production was responsible for bringing chaos and instability to human society. Many political economists have defined capitalism as an economic system based on private ownership of capital rather than common ownership by all people.
Then, was our technological evolution just random?
One may think that scientific research cannot be purely random, because it draws its inspiration from certain conditions such as scientific theories or society. This is true, but the development of science does not occur through some planned order.
For example, every time a new piece of technology is invented, it has influenced many scientific fields and then scientists have developed related theories such as quantum mechanics or chaos theory accordingly. Therefore, technological innovation not only adds new devices to help people work more conveniently; instead, it also brings uncertainty to the world of science and society.
Therefore, we can say that our technological evolution was not completely random as many people think. However, it is also important to remember that there are many other factors in our evolution beyond just being lucky or unlucky. For example, humans ever had an impulse to invent things because of our creativity and the fact that we had a desire to improve our lives.
Although it might not have been completely random, technological evolution has no underlying order either. In my opinion, I believe that technology developed because humans wanted to be more efficient and live better. With better technology, humans would be able to do more things and have a higher quality of life.
To sum everything up, this article given evidence on both sides whether our technological evolution is completely random or not. For example, the fact that we ‘discovered things in a seemingly random order’ is the proof that there is no underlying order in our technological development. However, the fact that we came up with such incredible inventions despite being random may be the proof that there is some kind of order after all.
I believe that humans are not as unintelligent and lucky as some scientists claim but we are more intelligent than most people realize. I believe that we are not completely random in our technological development. However, there is no underlying order that explains why we came up with technology the way we did.
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In other words, technology developed as humans wanted to make their lives better with things like wheels, cars, airplanes and rockets. Technology developed because of human creativity and desire to improve our quality of life. From this, we can conclude that we were neither lucky and nor predestined, but instead were a complex result of random evolutionary processes. In addition, we have found that random technological innovation not only adds new devices to help people work more conveniently; it also brings uncertainty to the world of science and society.