Sunday, May 2, 2010


The Scientific Revolution, that is.
When did it start?
When will it end?
I've been reading this book, Science and Technology in World History: an Introduction, by James McClellan and Harold Dorn. I forgot to take a picture of it before I returned it; if you really need to see what it looks like, click here.
So anyways, like the title says, it's an introduction to science and tech and how it affected world history.
Or something.
Basically it chronologically goes through how humans have discovered and used technology and science.
Interesting stuff.
If you like that sort of thing.
What got me into that book was Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, which I put aside to read this. Not that Guns was bad or anything, I just sort of got tired of it after the first couple of chapters and S&T looked more interesting.
There are a couple of interesting points the book makes.
First, the rise of science in ancient societies did not follow the rise of science in modern societies.
The East was way more advanced than the West way back when. China and the Islamic folks owned high tech before there was even high tech.
Western Europe, prior to the Renaissance was mostly a bunch of backwards countries still using sundials to tell time.
Science and technology didn't really catch up to each other until after the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the West.
How can that be?
Well it seems science was done purely for the sake of science.
Technology evolved purely for the sake of making things easier.
The steam engine for instance, was invented with very little science involved. It seems the scientific properties involved in the steam engine were figured out after it's invention.
So now a whole bunch of people came out of the fields to work in factories and they now had some disposable income and they just had to catch the next episode of Lost so science and technology entered an evil partnership.
The two words us modern folk naturally put together, were actually very separate things until Walmart opened up.
Okay, not really, but it seems that it was consumerism that spawned the eventual merge of the two.
Good things have come from this so called Scientific Revolution.
Look at the world around you.
The world is truly going global.
There seems to be a shift in economic influence towards the where? East?
Hey, isn't this where all this science stuff started out?
The book points out that in the history of modern man, it really has been the last three hundred years where science and technology have really exploded. In fact if you want an explosion, look to only the last hundred years or so.
A hundred years ago, we(humans) were still sending spark gap radio signals across the Atlantic.
We(humans) thought that was freakin great!
Today, we(I) get all pissed when the internets is down cause I can't check the price of a bicycle tire in England(Chain Reaction Cycles, shameless plug).
If you want to really blow your mind, think back to the last thirty years or so.
Or ten years ago.
Or five.
The Scientific Revolution is still on and it keeps on rollin!
Will it ever end?
That's a great question the book poses. Theoretically, there could be a time when science answers all the questions. We(humans) will know everything there is to know about everything.
Then what will we do?
That's pretty scary.
I mean having string theory and the search for a Grand Unified Theory in physics hanging out there is sort of comforting in a way.
It means that no one knows everything.
Sure there are some pretty smart people walking around out there, but you know what?
They don't know everything.
It would be pretty irritating to meet someone who knows everything.
I hope when the day comes that we close the book on science, some not so smart guy steals the disc or whatever it's on and throws it into a fire.
See, there's this thing I remember reading about called the "Peter Principle." It originated as a business organizational thing, but it can be applied to life as well. Basically, we(humans) rise to a level of our own incompetence.
Think someone talking on a cell phone while driving a car.
Just think of the chaos if suddenly, we(humans) knew and had everything!
The next revolution may just be the Let's Go Back to Simple Things Revolution(LGBSTR).
If you ride a bike, you may already be a part of it.
Vive la Revolution!


John Romeo Alpha said...

We could always pause in our neverending search for the Next Great Tech to think about what we've invented so far, to allow ethics and common sense to catch up with has been invented. Maybe there's an iPhone app for that.

limom said...

iPhone GPS app!
Another reason to take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road!