Despite long debates among scientists in the past, general consensus has emerged among the scientific community that our technological evolution is somehow 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 regard to our technological advancements.
In the 17th to 19th centuries, the rate of technological development was slow and had a wide variation. In the 20th century, the rapid development of technology started from World War I and this rate decreased again due to more wars. The rate of technological evolution is never meant to be static.
This article is to discuss whether our technological evolution was just random, or had to be that way.
The history of our technological evolution
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 were not too innovative.
For thousands of years, humans used horses as a means of transportation. 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?
What if our human ancestors had, since the beginning, 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 simpler words, if our ancestors jumped from horses using bicycles for transportation.
The history vs the present of technology
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, the terrain, oceans, and climate of Earth are changing 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 larger 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, it’s impossible to go back in time. If our technological evolution was completely random, a small difference in the timeline would have chosen different things to invent and we might 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 pointed out that science was not an independent phenomenon but was deeply connected to capitalism. Today, there has been another industrial revolution with deep connections between science and the 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.
Was our technological evolution ‘completely’ random?
The development of science and technology 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. 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.
We can say that our technological evolution was not completely random as many people think. It is also important to remember that there are many other factors in our evolution beyond just being lucky or unlucky. For example, out of 1 Million possible parallel Universes, all of them would have developed different kinds of airplanes. But all of them would have developed something that can fly, not something completely different like teleportation.
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.
Humans are not as unintelligent and lucky as some hypotheses claim. There is no underlying order that explains why we came up with technology the way we did. The technological products we have today were created randomly, but the end goal was always to be the same. We were neither lucky nor predestined.