The Place of Technology in History: Past, Present & Future

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It’s strange that, in the study and teaching of history, so much of humanity pays so little attention to the History of Technology. Buckminster Fuller warned humanity away from politics because “the end move in politics is always to pick up a gun.” As Fuller elucidated in his writings, the true history of humanity is technological history. The biggest leaps forward for humanity come when a new technology, indistinguishable from magic is born.

Technological history is an entire field of study which has, for some decades, been at the core of the development of the “new history of science.”

The Science Media Centre and the History of Science in Europe have jointly launched an ongoing consultation on the topic of the new history of science.

“Our new history of science needs to be inclusive and participatory,” said Niamh Shields, Director of the Science Media Centre, “it needs to describe how the traditional model of ‘expertise’ is increasingly being questioned and metamorphosed, with new players such as the citizen science movement changing how we understand science.”

The history of science is currently organized around 4 key categories.

  1. The beginning: What is the genesis of science?
  2. The evolution: How is science evolving?
  3. The present: How are science institutions structured?
  4. The future: How will science look and change in the future?

Technological & Social History

Technological history has clearly shown itself to be an indispensable part of the project of Social History. Technological history is not a simple application of traditional concepts of history to a modern setting. Technological history differs from the traditional, in that it is a descriptive and analytical science, taking history as its object.

Technological history posits a comparison between the historical event and the technological phenomenon at the time, describing the general character of the difference. Technological history is, in short, a science that seeks to describe how a product or process can be studied from its point of genesis until its final use or disposal.

A Science of Science

Technological history should be studied as an integral part of Social History because the purpose of Technological History is to explain social transformations that are produced by the developments in science.  Technological history is a science of science; science is the method that enables us to discover and comprehend the nature of things, the science of inventions.

Inventions are the means by which knowledge is attained. Technological history is a science of mass production; mass production is the means by which goods are produced in large quantities at low cost.

Labor & the Mechanical Arts

Technological history is the science of the division of labor; the division of labor is the outcome of the scientific discoveries of the mechanical arts.  Technological history is the study of the comparative strength of the forces which oppose the development of civilization. Technology leads to the process of accumulation, which constitutes the general characteristic of an industrial system. Technological history is the study of the application of technology to the production of food.

The Science of Production

Technological history is the science of production; production is the fundamental process that accompanies the development of civilization. Technological history is the science of living resources; living resources are the endowment of nature. This includes the development of the social organization; the development of civilization is inseparably associated with the development of the social system.  Technological history is the science of the use of living resources; it is the science of the distribution of social products.

The Science of Consciousness & Humanity

Technological history is the science of consciousness and its development; it is a science of values.  Technological history is the science of the evolution of society; the evolution of society is the evolution of the social processes. This includes the consciousness of the whole society; it is the general definition of the species-consciousness of mankind.  Technological history is the scientific, knowledge of man and his society.

Technological history is the program of the science of humanity; it is a program for the ethical development of man. Technological history is the national science of every society; it is the knowledge of the historical essence of each society. It is the testimony of every community to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it is the universal code of conduct for a unified humanity. Technological history is knowledge of our future.

The Science of the Future

Technological history is the scientific wisdom of the future; it is the scientific clarity of the future.  Technological history is the definition of our present destiny; it is the intellectual horizon of our future; it is the science of our future. It is the independent science of humanity; it is the knowledge of humanity from its roots to its future. Technological history is the collective creation of humanity; it is the cosmos of humanity. And it is the faith of humanity; it is the only religion of humanity. 

Technological history is the conscious realization of the Absolute Reality; in philosophy, the totality of what really exists regarded as a unity transcending the world of phenomena experienced and interpreted by humans. The concept of absolute reality is mainly of significance in the idealist tradition deriving from the work of Immanuel Kant; it is the realization of the Supreme Cosmos, a theological and scientific cosmology. Technological history is the rule of the ascendant; it is the rule of the best.

Improving the Human Species

Technological history is the principal guide for the improvement of the species; it is the philosophy of the ascendant. Technological history is the latest and best guide of the arts and sciences; it is the arts and sciences of the ascendant. Technological History is the continual process of gaining wisdom; it is the lifelong process of developing the wisdom of the next step. It is the sure and certain test of the maturity of the races; it is the immortality of the races.  Technological history is the period in which the universal essence of the universe was achieved; it is the period of the ascension of the universal essence of the universe.

Machines & Spirit

Technological history is the process of making the machines and tools of the spirit; it is the process of designing the machines and tools of the human spirit.

Speculative or not, what are the implications of the rise of the machines on the realm of the spirit? Can people really foresee a future where human beings no longer exist? A recent example of this is the recent video by Wolfgang Tillmans, who explored the questions of the “Machine and Spirit” with a series of black and white shots taken from the front and back of the company’s products.

Many have spoken about the wonders of virtual reality (VR), and the augmented reality (AR) found in popular apps. But VR is just a screen, and while the makers of Oculus have tapped into our humanity in a significant way, the goggles don’t allow you to interact with the world. While augmented reality has the potential to be as life-changing as VR in terms of its ability to transport you to a specific location or experience, it has one fatal flaw. You can see someone waving at you from a skyscraper window in the middle of Berlin, but you can’t interact with them.

Interestingly, both AR and VR allow us to see and hear the world. The question is not whether they change us, but rather how.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay