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Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. The Evolution of Technology by George Basalla. Presents an evolutionary theory of technological change based on recent scholarship in the history of technology and on relevant material drawn from economic history and anthropology.
Challenges the popular notion that technological advances arise from the efforts of a few heroic individuals who produce a series of revolutionary inventions that owe little or nothing to the Presents an evolutionary theory of technological change based on recent scholarship in the history of technology and on relevant material drawn from economic history and anthropology. Challenges the popular notion that technological advances arise from the efforts of a few heroic individuals who produce a series of revolutionary inventions that owe little or nothing to the technological past.
Therefore, the book's argument is shaped by analogies drawn selectively from the theory of organic evolution, and not from the theory and practice of political revolution. Three themes appear, with variations, throughout the study.
The first is diversity: an acknowledgment of the vast numbers of different kinds of made things artifacts that long have been available to humanity. The second theme is necessity: the mistaken belief that humans are driven to invent new artifacts in order to meet basic biological needs such as food, shelter, and defense.
And the third theme is technological evolution: an organic analogy that explains both the emergence of the novel artifacts and their subsequent selection by society for incorporation into its material life without invoking either biological necessity or technological process.
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More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Evolution of Technology. Mar 25, Richard Reese rated it it was amazing. Humans are the most sophisticated toolmakers in the family of life.
If we eliminated electricity, this way of life would disintegrate before our eyes, causing many to perish. Humans no longer sit in the pilot seat of our global civilization. The autopilot runs the show.
Our complex labyrinth of technology herds us through a chute. How and why did we get into this mess? Scholars were debating this issue, and Basalla had an urge to jump into the ring, molest the illusions of his inferiors, and set the record straight.
His first task was to demonstrate that innovation did, in fact, evolve — by synthesizing or altering existing innovations. Famous inventions were never original, unique, unprecedented acts of pure magic that fell out of the sky, like acts of God. The myth of the heroic inventor is just years old. Henry Ford referred to his monster child as a quadracycle.
The mother of invention was evolution, not revolution. A stick on the ground evolved into a throwing stick, then a spear, then a missile. His second task was to explain the various ways in which our dance with artifacts has evolved, and this consumed most of the book. Readers are taken on an illuminating journey to realms that our industrial society has erased from the maps and forgotten. Technological evolution follows a similar curve. For most of the hominid journey, our artifacts were little more than sticks and stones, and their evolution happened very slowly.
A state of the art stone hammer might be no different from a hammer used , years earlier. It is important to understand that for almost the entire hominid journey, our ancestors enjoyed a relatively sustainable way of life, and that this era corresponds exactly with the long, long era when technological evolution was essentially in a coma.
This is not a coincidence. Unfortunately, our system of education is writhing in a bad trip after inhaling the loony fumes of the myth of progress.
This intoxicant was conjured by notorious buffoons years ago, and its side effects include disorientation, anxiety, and uncontrollable self-destructive impulses. We continue to hallucinate that the zenith of the human journey is today, and that the Golden Age is yet to come.
We have a remarkable ability to completely tune out what is perfectly obvious, and vitally important. The Tikopians and Sentineli are island societies that keep their numbers in check, and live very lightly, using simple artifacts. These communities stay in balance with their land, and are content. They do not suffer from a persistent itch for more and more. Technological innovation is entirely off their radar.
They have no need for it, and experimenting with it could permanently destroy them. Native American potters and basket weavers created artifacts that were careful, error-free reproductions of traditional designs. Apprentices worked hard to imitate the work of their elders, and their success earned respect.
Their culture had a healthy resistance to change, because their time-proven traditions kept them on a good path. China invented the compass, gunpowder, and printing, and put them to practical use. When Europeans brought this knowledge home, it sparked immense innovation that led to major changes in their way of life.
The vast Chinese civilization was stable and conservative. It was not nimble, fast-paced, and highly competitive, like Europe. Europe was a chaotic and unstable collection of competing nations.
Society had far less resistance to new artifacts. The wheel was first used in Mesopotamia, about 5, years ago. In many societies, it became a popular artifact, used for commerce and warfare. Many groups in the Near East eventually abandoned the use of wagons, because camels were a faster and easier way of moving stuff. Wild tribes often just carried stuff home on their backs via footpaths, or paddled canoes — wheels required far more effort: cleared roads, bridges, and wagons.
The industrial civilizations of Europe and America have extensively used wheels in their artifacts. Our cultural myths celebrate the wheel as a super-sacred icon. No sustainable society used wheels, because they had no need for them. The book just seemed to be unusually objective, as if it had a good cleansing soak in a potent mythocide. It felt like he was a shaman conveying vital messages from the realm of the ancestors, whilst being cleverly disguised as a history professor.
To the mainstream mind, these messages constitute shocking, obscene heresies. But the messages contain the medicine we need to blow the locks off our minds, so we can escape, go home, and heal. Agriculture and architecture are new novelties, not necessities. Therefore, the popular but illusory concept of technological progress should be discarded. But these fresh notions are a sure sign that clear thinking is beginning to seep into the stagnant halls of history departments, those dusty story museums where the dying Cult of Progress will make its last stand.
The path to sustainability is blocked by ideas — toxic illusions, metabolized into highly contagious beliefs, resulting in mass insanity. At the gate of the path to healing, rubbish ideas must be left in the recycle bin. There is no shortage of better ideas. Help yourself, and share. May 12, Helio rated it it was amazing. Basalla provides multiple examples how lifeform patterns are similar to trends in technology akin to saying it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, smells like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, flies like a duck but then says it's not a duck.
He misses the chance for a breakthrough in understanding the diversity of life. Jan 20, Sara rated it it was ok.
The Evolution of Technology
One of the most thought provoking books I've ever read The Evolution of Technology. George Basalla. Presents an evolutionary theory of technological change based on recent scholarship in the history of technology and on relevant material drawn from economic history and anthropology. Challenges the popular notion that technological advances arise from the efforts of a few heroic individuals who produce a series of revolutionary inventions that owe little or nothing to the technological past.