Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The Pace of Change

"The pace of technological change has speeded up over the millennia. Our ancestors spent many thousands of years as hunter-gatherers, during which time the pace of change was glacially slow. It shifted up a gear with the transition to farming and again with industrialization.  A key factor seems to be the number of people within a communicating group.

A larger community gives greater scope for invention. The greater the number within a group, the more likely it is that among them will be an inventive type who thinks up something new. Inventors area tiny percentage of any society. Possibly natural selection favored minds that learned from successful members of their group, rather than always trying something new (a risky strategy). Among the small hunting bands before farming, it might be generations before an exceptionally creative individual cropped up in any given band. Also, the larger the communicating group, the greater the exchange of ideas, and the less chance of innovations being lost.

Farming could support larger communities, and industrialization created huge cities. Both can produce a surplus beyond immediate subsistence needs. They can support the occasional inventive soul through the trial-and-error process of innovation. Just as importantly, the economic basis of a society dictates the communication range of any individual within it. Innovation can increase that range.  Agriculture generated writing.  Industry generated communication devices such as the telephone.  Inventors these days can not only build upon a vast knowledge base established by generations before them, but also test their ideas among like-minded people around the globe. Are we seeing another step-change in the pace of innovation as a result of the Internet? It could be.  Will today's inventors find answers to the problems we have created ..." Jean Manco Ancestral Journeys. 

It doesn't even seem up for question to me.  We have already seen one step change because of the internet, which is why the term "digital native" is even a thing.  My question is whether there is a second one already brewing.I may be defining them differently.  She skips from writing to telephone.  I would insert the printing press in there, and the subsequent explosion of literacy.

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

I've been listening to "Blueprint" by Nicholas Kristakis, who is exploring the formation of social groups in people as well as apes, elephants, and cetaceans. In a recent chapter he mentioned the primal unease that may arise when we confine our social interactions to the distant and impersonal. Our hindbrains were formed over millennia to know that only close, intimate ties place us securely in a culture. Formal commercial ties with strangers are a great thing for the prosperity of the world, and internet connections are a fine way to expand our circle of intellectual connections, but an exclusive diet of that kind of thing can leave us alienated and emotionally bewildered.