Saturday, January 23, 2010

Evolution of technology

Technological evolution is the name of a science and technology studies theory describing technology development, developed by Czech philosopher Radovan Richta. According to Richta and later Bloomfield, technology evolves in three stages: tools, machine, automation. This evolution, he says, follows two trends: the replacement of physical labour with more efficient mental labour, and the resulting greater degree of control over one's natural environment, including an ability to transform raw materials into ever more complex and pliable products.. The emergence of technology, made possible by the development of the rational faculty, paved the way for the first stage: the tool. A tool provides a mechanical advantage in accomplishing a physical task, and must be powered by human or animal effort.Hunter-gatherers developed tools mainly for procuring food. Tools such as a container, spear, arrow, plow, or hammer that augments physical labor to more efficiently achieve his objective. Later animal-powered tools such as the plow and the horse, increased the productivity of food production about tenfold over the technology of the hunter-gatherers. Tools allow one to do things impossible to accomplish with one's body alone, such as seeing minute visual detail with a microscope, manipulating heavy objects with a pulley and cart, or carrying volumes of water in a bucket.

The second technological stage was the creation of the machine. A machine is a tool that substitutes the element of human physical effort, and requires the operator only to control its function. Machines became widespread with the industrial revolution, though windmills, a type of machine, are much older. Examples of this include cars, trains, computers, and lights. Machines allow humans to tremendously exceed the limitations of their bodies. Putting a machine on the farm, a tractor, increased food productivity at least tenfold over the technology of the plow and the horse.

The third, and final stage of technological evolution is the automaton. The automaton is a machine that removes the element of human control with an automatic algorithm. For example:computer programmes, auotomatic telephone switches, digital watches and cameras, etc. It's important to understand that the three stages outline the introduction of the fundamental types of technology, and so all three continue to be widely used today.

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