The Cultural Roots of Technology

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“A technology evolves within a culture and its particular demands and preoccupations, intertwined with that society’s particular environment (Teresi, 356)”. As the human race and daily life becomes more advanced, there are times when it becomes necessary to consider the variables that influence our society. These variables-religion, tradition, environment, etc. - make up the culture of a society. New technologies are created when the people living in a particular society feel that one of these variables needs to be expanded upon or changed (Discovery Channel, Feb. 11). A particularly relevant example is the United States Space program. The space program grew out of the Cold War in the 1960’s. The technological needs of this effort, specifically small computers, heat resistant ceramics, radio communication, and power cells lead to the products and devices that we enjoy today. Societies, with their specific cultural needs, influenced the development of their own technology. For example, the Chinese in ninth century A.D. were fascinated with perfumes, noxious bombs, explosions, gases, and smoke. They burned incense and fumigated their houses for health as well as spiritual reasons. In the Chinese culture, smoke and loud explosions were connected to the spiritual and supernatural world. Chinese priests invented gunpowder by combining charcoal, saltpeter, and sulfur. Their military-centered society saw the advantages gunpowder gave them in battle situations as well. The Chinese were the first to invent land mines, fire lances, and grenades. When Europeans learned about gunpowder, they began experimenting (Teresi, 355-56). Before long, cannons and guns were invented and warfare would never be the same aga... ... middle of paper ... ... purposes, would the history of war have changed? It is probable that gunpowder would have eventually been invented, but who would have discovered it and when? What was their culture like; would the smoke and fumes make them feel connected to supernatural beings or would gunpowder strictly be used for war? Just like the space program created cultural needs and wants over fifty years ago, culture continues to be the driving force for technological developments. Sources Chant, Colin, "Chapter 2: Greece" in Pre-industrial Cities and Technology, Routledge Press, 1999, pp. 48-80. Ehrlich, Paul R., "Ch.11: Gods, Dive-Bombers, and Bureaucracy" in Human Natures: Genes Cultures, and the Human Prospect, Island Press, 2000, pp. 253-279. Teresi, Dick, Lost Discoveries: The ancient roots of modern science, Simon and Schuster, 2002, ISBN 0-684-83718-8, pp. 325-367.
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