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The Evolution of Technology: From Stone Age to the Age of Automation

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Technology is a collective term that encompasses man-made methods, products, skills and protocols that serve to expedite work for the generation of goods and services. Technology was created to truncate the human expenditure of energy to complete a particular task. Ironically, technology itself relies on the conversion of energy from one form to another. Even so, this energy expenditure is far less than one would require if technology did not exist. Historically, the invention of technology was incomplete without sourcing its raw materials from nature, which man learnt primarily in the Stone Age.

Historical overview

Stone was one of the first natural materials used by man for inventing technology. At the dawn of the Stone Age, approximately 10 million years before present, called the ‘Eolithic’ era, man started making tools from stone. This was followed by the Lower Paleolithic Age or Old Stone Age (approximately 5 million YBP) when hand axes were used widely for knapping of flint and for other purposes. Around the time of the Upper Paleolithic Age (approximately 35000 YBP), blades started getting utilized as cutting tools for various purposes. The Neolithic period (6000 BC) saw the agrarian revolution and the beginning of towns. The Bronze Age and the Iron Age then followed with a shift of technology from stone to metal. Copper and Bronze Age saw the discovery of copper ores and their use by man without smelting. Later, as man started applying heat for metal smelting, bronze was made as an alloy of copper and tin. The widely used stone for various technologies got replaced by the highly stable alloy bronze. Bronze was later replaced by Iron in the Iron Age which proved to be hardier.

Architecture saw the light of the day in early Mesopotamia where ‘simple machines’ were invented. The invention of waterwheels in Mesopotamia for conversion of the energy of flowing water into power drastically changed the face of technology as muscle power was replaced by hydropower. The manufacture and use of paper was first seen in Egypt where parts of the Papyrus plant were used for layering of paper. The Egyptian civilization contributed substantially to technological evolution with the development of shipbuilding, pyramids, food processing and even medical science. This was followed by the Indus Valley Civilization.

Several technological inventions occurred in the Hellenistic period of Mediterranean history when some of the most important agricultural inventions occurred which were later advanced by the Roman Empire. The Islamic world used wind power along with water power and contributed the spinning wheel and crankshaft to the world. After the Age of Exploration, which saw significant advances in navigation technology, came the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution marked the complete transition of technology from manual operations to machines. All manufacturing processes were systematically assorted by mankind to produce a bulk quantity of products. While the 19th century saw advances in telecommunication and transportation technology, the 20th century brought innovation to existing technology.

The birthplace of most modern technological inventions resides in the 20th century such as electronics, aviation, telecommunication, computers, spacecraft, the internet, biomedical technology and many other creations. In the 21st century, mankind changed the face of the earth through the amalgamation of engineering with living creatures in the form of biomedical engineering, biotechnology and genetic engineering. The 21st century showed a greater reliance and transition of technology to automation. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the most advanced innovation of mankind. Machines perform a majority of tasks humans can through ‘’learning’’ which seemed impossible at one time.

Cons of Technology

Overdependence on automation can result in disastrous consequences. A machine can only do as many tasks as it can deduce from its database, even though it has been designed to learn. Certain complex tasks that require prompt rectification cannot be done by machines. Machines can be designed to alleviate or aggravate the suffering of mankind, the latter leading to increased crime and terrorism. The data present in machines is subject to leakage and exposure unless protected by relevant or constantly updated cybersecurity systems. As companies are switching more towards automation, employment opportunities are going down. Tasks such as data entry which earlier required human work are now performed entirely by machines. People are increasingly preferring to mingle and interact using digital gadgets rather than face-to-face contact. This may easily lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Human beings have evolved over thousands of years to have actual touch, so removing it has a variety of detrimental consequences that we’re only beginning to comprehend. According to studies, many people suffer from depression and other mental illnesses as a result of a lack of real-life contact. Many individuals no longer have direct access to real-life events. On mobile phones, music concerts or live shows are videoed, events are photographed, and audio is captured. Social media platforms are used to upload media. Life is now viewed through the lens of digital media rather than direct experience.

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