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The tech evolution

There exists a stark difference between the rates of the biological and socio-cultural evolution of humans. Scientists believe that we are still evolving and adapting, but not any serious breakthrough has occurred for a long time. On the other hand, our socio-cultural evolution has gone faster over time. Nearly 10,000 years ago, we developed ourselves to perform agriculture and lead a sedentary lifestyle. And 7,000 years ago, we learnt to ‘write’ which historians believe is the most important feature of a ‘civilised’ society. Of course, not all the communities were on the same page.

The period before we learnt to write (proto-history) is generally associated with the Stone Age. It was a major breakthrough in our socio-cultural evolution to learn to use such tools, as not many species enjoy this prerogative. The first major civilisations appeared with the dawn of the Bronze Age, which again drew us to a whole new adventure of metallurgy. Iron Age helped us clear the dense forest for settlements across the valleys and fertile plains. We also established social institutions such as family, kinship, and marriage to regulate our members. Major political institutions such as state, empires, army, and democracy also bloomed with time. To regulate the economy, we created taxation and currency; and to augment them, we established the universities, urban centres, and transport vehicles.

During medieval times, humans explored new landscapes and inhabited new avenues. Not just land, but the ocean also became a centre of power. Some of the architecture crafted in this era still awes its viewers with the same intensity. New technologies and inventions led humankind to unfathomable distances.

Modern times came with some stellar changes in our timeline. The Industrial Revolution increased our potential to the skies and made human capabilities unbound. Today our space probes have crossed the boundaries of the solar system and we are aspiring to develop a "Type 2" civilisation, by exploring the resources of our solar system. Nanotechnology has made big tasks appear small, and Artificial Intelligence is doing the jobs that were impossible for the humans themselves some centuries ago.

Researchers are trying to play with the laws of nature, and artificially creating, evolving, and augmenting the organisms to our benefit. But again, our natural biological evolution seems to be so little and trivial vis-a-vis this sea change of socio-cultural revolution. This poses a serious question that is our natural biological evolution being able to keep up with our socio-cultural revolution or vice versa? Malthus held that the resources grow arithmetically and population exponentially. A similar difference seems to be the case with the evolutions.

Technological paradox

Everything comes with a cost, and so does the technology. There are several paradoxes created by technology. Although it is supposed to make our lives easier, it also makes them tougher in various ways. Learning to use new technology is one of them, which becomes even more serious in the case of less advantaged groups. Old people often struggle to adapt to the new technologies coming in every day. Socially or economically disadvantaged groups often lack the means to access, avail, and afford such technologies, which is highlighted by the lockdown and online education.

What seems most funny is that we have created these technologies to save our time, energy, and resources; but on the contrary, these technologies have increased the wastage of the same! If tech would have saved time since the Industrial Revolution, today we would have been sitting idle! In the modern urban lifestyle, one saves time through tech and then goes to the gym to work out in the saved timeslot. The net time saved remains zero. Earlier, it was not essential to visit gyms because our lifestyles were such. Today, our biological and socio-cultural evolutions are not synchronised. Our body has almost the same needs which it used to have a millennium ago, but our lifestyles today do not allow us to avail of those needs. Consequently, lifestyle diseases have increased manifold nowadays. As we know, certain things are a good servant but a bad master. Henceforth, for our very own benefit, we need to stay closer to nature.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 10:05:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-tech-evolution/article34004604.ece

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