Cultural Impact of Technology Transfer

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Cultural Impact of Technology Transfer Human history has demonstrated that the flow of information is inevitable; cultures across the world have been trading ideas for thousands of years. Dick Teresi claims, however, that "a technology evolves within a culture and its particular demands and preoccupations, intertwined with that society’s particular environment.” (Teresi, 356) While this statement holds true for many innovations, not all technologies are direct products of the cultures using them. As human communications increased, technologies were frequently invented in one culture and transferred to another. The cultures that acquired technologies from outside sources oftentimes utilized them in ways originally not intended. Did these external technologies have positive or negative effects on the cultures that accepted them? The consequences of implanted technologies vary from case to case depending on a number of factors, including environmental and lifestyle differences between the two communities. To highlight the networking of these factors and weigh the effects of transferring technologies, I will compare two scenarios: the European’s introduction of guns into Inuit culture and the bringing of horses to the Native Americans by the Spaniards. The story of European small arms begins with the cannon. The cannon, first used in the 1346 Battle of Cressey, was gradually reduced in size over the next three centuries until a cannon small enough to attach to the end of a stick emerged (Ferris, 3). This innovation gave birth to the gun, an invention that revolutionalized European warfare. Because the gun was invented for primarily military purposes, Europeans used it more in battlefields than on hunting grounds, where bows and arrows still dominated (Ferris, 3). When the Europeans introduced small arms into Inuit culture, however, they became instruments of seal hunting. The Inuit’s original seal hunting methods involved harpooning the animals through a hole in the ice. Seal carcass retrieval was difficult, so the Inuit designed their harpoons specifically for efficient recovery of seal bodies. Their engineering was so successful that only one seal body sunk out of every twenty (Ehrlich, 216). Unlike the harpoon, however, the gun was not specially designed for seal hunting. Thus, when the Inuit acquired rifles from the Hudson’s Bay Company and started shooting seals, the bodies would sink before they could be harpooned and retrieved. Hunting efficiency plummeted dramatically; nineteen out of every twenty seals hunted with guns sank (Ehrlich 216). Before long, Inuit hunting began depleting seal populations. The introduction of small arms dealt a blow to both the Inuit community, whose hunting efficiency decreased, and their environment, which suffered a loss of mass numbers of animals.
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