The Evolution of Technology by George Basalla (Cambridge University Press ) pp. viii , $, ISBN 0 I Pbk. The Evolution of Technology has ratings and 8 reviews. Richard said: Humans are the most sophisticated toolmakers in the family of life. We’ve gone f. The Evolution of Technology (Cambridge Studies in the History of Science) [ George Basalla] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Presents an.

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. The Evolution of Technology by George Basalla.

This book presents an evolutionary theory of technological change based upon recent scholarship in the history of technology and upon relevant material drawn from economic history basal,a anthropology.

It challenges the popular notion that technology advances by the efforts of a few heroic individuals who produce a series tehcnology revolutionary inventions owing little or nothing to This book presents an evolutionary theory of technological change based upon recent scholarship in the history of technology and upon relevant material drawn from economic history and anthropology.

Texhnology challenges the popular notion that bqsalla advances by the efforts of a few heroic individuals who produce a series of revolutionary inventions owing little or nothing to the technological past. Therefore, the book’s arguement is shaped by analogies taken selectively from the theory of organic evolution, and not from the theory and practice of political revolution. Paperbackpages. Published June 10th by Cambridge University Press first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about The Evolution of Technologyplease sign up. Be the evolutiln to ask a question about The Evolution of Technology. Lists with This Book. Mar 25, Richard Reese rated it it was amazing. Humans are the most sophisticated basall in trchnology family of life. If we eliminated electricity, this way of life would disintegrate before our eyes, causing many to perish. Humans no longer sit in the pilot seat of our global civilization.

The autopilot runs the show. Our veolution labyrinth of technology herds us through a chute. How and why did we get into this mess? Scholars were debating this issue, and Basalla had an urge to jump into the ring, molest the illusions of his inferiors, and set the record straight.

His first task was to demonstrate that innovation did, in fact, evolve — by synthesizing or altering existing innovations. Famous inventions were never original, unique, unprecedented acts of pure magic that fell out of the sky, like acts of God.

The myth of the heroic inventor is just years old. Henry Ford referred to his monster child as a quadracycle. The mother of invention was evolution, not revolution.

A stick on the ground evolved into a throwing stick, then a spear, then a missile. His second task was to explain the various ways in which our dance with artifacts has evolved, and this consumed most of the book. Readers are taken evolutikn an illuminating journey to realms that our industrial society has erased from the maps and forgotten.

Technological evolution basaola a similar curve.

evooution For most of the hominid journey, our artifacts were little more than sticks and stones, and their evolution happened very slowly. A state of the art stone hammer might be no different from a hammer usedyears earlier. It is important to understand that for almost the entire hominid journey, our ancestors enjoyed a relatively sustainable way of life, and that this era corresponds exactly with the long, long era when technological evolution was essentially in a coma.


This is not a coincidence. Unfortunately, our system of education is writhing in a bad trip after inhaling the loony fumes of the myth of progress. This intoxicant was conjured by notorious buffoons years ago, and its side effects include disorientation, anxiety, and uncontrollable self-destructive impulses.

We continue to hallucinate that the zenith tfchnology the human journey is today, and that the Golden Age is yet to come. We have a remarkable ability to completely tune out what is perfectly obvious, and vitally important. The Tikopians and Sentineli are island societies that keep their numbers in check, and live very lightly, using simple artifacts.

These communities stay in balance with their land, and are content. They do not suffer from a persistent itch for more and more. Technological innovation is entirely off their radar. They have no need for it, and experimenting with it could permanently destroy them. Technoloy American potters and basket weavers created artifacts that were careful, error-free reproductions of traditional designs. Apprentices worked hard to imitate the work of their elders, and their success earned respect.

Their culture had a healthy resistance to change, because their time-proven traditions kept them on a good path.

China invented the compass, gunpowder, and printing, and put them to practical use. When Europeans brought this knowledge home, it sparked immense innovation that led to major changes in their way of life. The vast Chinese civilization was stable and conservative. It was not nimble, fast-paced, and highly competitive, like Europe.

a: The Evolution of Technology — pasta and vinegar

Europe was a chaotic and unstable collection of competing nations. Society had far less resistance to new artifacts. The wheel was first used in Mesopotamia, about 5, years ago. In many societies, it became a popular artifact, used for commerce and warfare. Many groups in the Near East eventually abandoned the use of wagons, because camels were a faster and easier way of moving stuff. Wild tribes often just carried stuff home on their backs via footpaths, or paddled canoes — wheels required far more effort: The industrial civilizations of Europe and America have extensively used wheels in their artifacts.

Our cultural myths celebrate the wheel as a super-sacred icon. No sustainable society used wheels, because they had no need for them. The book just seemed to be evoluton objective, as if it had a good cleansing soak in a potent tbe. It felt like he was a shaman conveying vital messages from the realm of the ancestors, whilst being cleverly disguised as a history professor.

To the mainstream mind, these messages constitute shocking, obscene heresies. But the messages contain the medicine we need to blow the locks off our minds, so we can escape, go home, and heal. Agriculture and architecture are new novelties, not necessities. Therefore, the popular but illusory concept of technological progress should be discarded. But these fresh notions are a sure sign that clear thinking is beginning to seep into the stagnant halls technologyy history departments, those dusty story museums where the dying Cult of Progress will make its last stand.

The path to techjology is blocked by ideas — toxic illusions, metabolized into highly contagious beliefs, resulting in mass insanity. At the gate of the path to healing, rubbish ideas must be left in the recycle bin. There is no shortage of better ideas. Help yourself, and share. Jan 20, Sara rated it it was ok. Good example of sticking off a thesis. Overall a good introductory book.


Dec 05, J. I taught this book to engineering students doing a history course at the University of Toronto in and The analogy of evolution to human activity that is often goal oriented which evolution most assuredly is not is problematic. Feb 06, Ben Babcock rated it really liked it Shelves: History is more than just a series of events happening in sequence. So many history books focus on discussing their subject matter as a series of chronological events, however, so books that flout this convention always feel the need to warn us.

At the same time as he reassures us that this is an historical account of how technology develops, he dispels any misapprehension that this will be a chronological look at technology from f History is more than just a series of events happening in sequence. At the same time as he reassures us that this is an historical account of how technology develops, he dispels any misapprehension that this will be a chronological look at technology from fire through Stone Age hammers all the way to the atomic bomb.

Rather, this is a well-structured argument that includes historical examples as needed. The Evolution of Technology works because Basalla articulates his thesis so clearly and precisely that his entire argument is, if not convincing, at least admirable.

Although the title is a loaded one, Basalla is careful to always demarcate where the metaphor he consciously invokes breaks down, such as is the case when discussing natural selection in evolution versus artificial selection in technology.

By treading so carefully, Basalla avoids overreaching and weakening his argument. The first two chapters are introductory, establishing the topic and the terms in which Basalla will discuss the evolution of technology. Here we’re given an idea of the historical and contemporary attitudes toward technological development, both with regards to what gets developed Chapter I: Basalla’s most concerned with dispelling the—fallacious, in his view—idea that technological development occurs in a series of discontinuous revolutions initiated by individual “genius” inventors.

While he doesn’t dispute that individuals can make significant contributions to invention, he goes to great lengths to establish a sense of continuity when it comes to innovation.

G.Basalla: The Evolution of Technology

This yields a perfect segue into the next two chapters, which are all about novelty. If it’s the case that “revolutions” are more a product of historical analysis than actual fact, what criteria can we use for calling an artifact or invention “novel”, and what factors in society determine these criteria? Basalla divides this analysis into four major types of factors that he splits across the two chapters: Far from being abstract and abstruse, Basalla’s arguments techmology specific examples from a wide variety of technologies.

He does tend to focus on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century innovations, including the steam engine and the automobile, probably because of the plethora of economic and historical data available for these inventions and the people involved in their production.