History of Technology - Measuring Technological Progress

Measuring Technological Progress

Many sociologists and anthropologists have created social theories dealing with social and cultural evolution. Some, like Lewis H. Morgan, Leslie White, and Gerhard Lenski, declare technological progress to be the primary factor driving the development of human civilization. Morgan's concept of three major stages of social evolution (savagery, barbarism, and civilization) can be divided by technological milestones, such as fire, the bow, and pottery in the savage era, domestication of animals, agriculture, and metalworking in the barbarian era and the alphabet and writing in the civilization era.

Instead of specific inventions, White decided that the measure by which to judge the evolution of culture was energy. For White "the primary function of culture" is to "harness and control energy." White differentiates between five stages of human development: In the first, people use energy of their own muscles. In the second, they use energy of domesticated animals. In the third, they use the energy of plants (agricultural revolution). In the fourth, they learn to use the energy of natural resources: coal, oil, gas. In the fifth, they harness nuclear energy. White introduced a formula P=E*T, where E is a measure of energy consumed, and T is the measure of efficiency of technical factors utilizing the energy. In his own words, "culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased". Russian astronomer, Nikolai Kardashev, extrapolated his theory creating the Kardashev scale, which categorizes the energy use of advanced civilizations.

Lenski takes a more modern approach and focuses on information. The more information and knowledge (especially allowing the shaping of natural environment) a given society has, the more advanced it is. He identifies four stages of human development, based on advances in the history of communication. In the first stage, information is passed by genes. In the second, when humans gain sentience, they can learn and pass information through by experience. In the third, the humans start using signs and develop logic. In the fourth, they can create symbols, develop language and writing. Advancements in the technology of communication translates into advancements in the economic system and political system, distribution of wealth, social inequality and other spheres of social life. He also differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication and economy:

  • hunters and gatherers,
  • simple agricultural,
  • advanced agricultural,
  • industrial,
  • special (such as fishing societies).

Finally, from the late 1970s sociologists and anthropologists like Alvin Toffler (author of Future Shock), Daniel Bell and John Naisbitt have approached the theories of post-industrial societies, arguing that the current era of industrial society is coming to an end, and services and information are becoming more important than industry and goods. Some of the more extreme visions of the post-industrial society, especially in fiction, are strikingly similar to the visions of near and post-Singularity societies.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Technology

Other articles related to "measuring technological progress, technological progress, technological, measuring":

Primitive Technology - Measuring Technological Progress
... Leslie White, and Gerhard Lenski, declare technological progress to be the primary factor driving the development of human civilization ... of social evolution (savagery, barbarism, and civilization) can be divided by technological milestones, such as fire, the bow, and pottery in the savage era, domestication of ...
List Of Cube Sats - Complete Table
... active ADCS Test of COTS 2012-02-13 Vega N/A MaSat-1 1U BME Technological demonstration 2012-02-13 Vega TBD Active First Hungarian satellite Xatcobeo 1U University of Vigo Verification of a new ... Germany Education, testing software defined radio, measuring atomic oxygen concentration, demonstrating TFSC 2013-04-19 Soyuz PhoneSat 1.0 (Graham) 1U NASA Ames Research Center ongoing NASA project. 2012-10 Confidential TBD Preparation for launch TBD NEE-02 Krysaor 1U Ecuadorian Space Agency Technological demonstration / Education Orbital debris and small asteroids ...

Famous quotes containing the words progress and/or measuring:

    Legislation and adjudication must follow, and conform to, the progress of society.
    Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)

    ... there is no way of measuring the damage to a society when a whole texture of humanity is kept from realizing its own power, when the woman architect who might have reinvented our cities sits barely literate in a semilegal sweatshop on the Texas- Mexican border, when women who should be founding colleges must work their entire lives as domestics ...
    Adrienne Rich (b. 1929)