10,000 years ago we were cavemen who lived off the land. We only had what was accesible in nature. Now we have cars, iPhones, and computers. I’m assuming everything we have now is composed of the same matter cavemen had access to. How did we get all this stuff?


Apologies if this is a repost.

I just don’t get how the Earth went from being entirely nature to having the iPhone I’m typing this on. And like where did we get the internet? And how do we take pictures?

ETA: A lot of great answers but I’m not really asking about people. More about the stuff. When I picture the Earth 10,000 years ago I don’t see anything that could make my phone.

In: 0

Understanding multiplied by fossil fuels…

For most of time, humans were limited by the economics of hunting and gathering. Right around 10,000 y.a… humanity figured out how to gain a surplus (agriculture) which allowed specialization…

We were bottlenecked, then, by fuel, namely, wood (also fat / grease / blubber).

Once we figured out how to dry pit mines using pumps, we had access to a much more energy-dense fuel source: coal.

(first steam engines were for pumping water out of mines to allow access to otherwise flooded coal)…

After that, industrial revolution was just more of that… more understanding leads to more access to the universe, more access to the universe leads to more understanding… and so on.

Well they started with some rocks and sticks and banged them together and stuff. Eventually they figured out that you could make them sharp and kill stuff as well as plant food to make more food more often. Because food was secure in specific places people would move to those places and then more food and more people. Then people started to do things that weren’t growing food but supported growing food so they got paid in food. Eventually people figured out more efficient ways of getting food and making tools and getting rocks and melting rocks etc. this cycle continued for a very long time of people figuring out new ways to make more food and supply more people and as cities and towns grew beyond just food they invented trade of goods and currency and things. This then led to more discoveries of more techniques and ideas in other places because trade isn’t just goods but ideas too and so more things were discovered and people invented science by noticing patterns. People started to learn more and more about the fundamentals of our universe and then boom explosives and plastics and nuclear bombs as we learned more of the basic structures of the universe, using tools and techniques like glass smelting that are thousands of years old. Everything built on everything else.

https://youtu.be/xuCn8ux2gbs this should help

That’s a very very long story.

In short: first we civilized, wich basically means we specialized on specific jobs and worked together. One person grows food, the another defends from enemies, a third makes tools and yet another has time to write and think.

Then we industrialized. We thought about how we could make work more efficient by inventing machines that allows fewer people to get the same thing done. And then this grew pretty fast and the machines were able to build things we couldn’t make before. (As the less people you need for manual lahor the more can work on progressing things)

We discovered a bunch of new things that you could manipulate to achieve something. Electricity being a big one of them.

The internet is basically a far developement of the early telegraph. That was quite simple, you press a button and electricity will be transmitted to punch a point onto a piece of paper in a different town. That was enough to communicate, but over the decades we kept improving that concept to transmit more complicated information by basically encoding it into the electrical signal.

As inaccurate as it can be at time, the anime/Manga Dr. Stone does really well at explaining how the basics turn into advanced machinations that can advance everything further.

We build on what the previous generation did. We use their tools to make better tools (technology). And so on.

Social relations are also technology that builds up over time. The ways in which we work together– supply chains, command hierarchies, ideologies– become more complex and enable more specialization and more expertise.

The tools we use were built by using tools which were built by tools which were built by tools which… So on.

Once you go far back enough, you get to a position where you have just two rocks, and you the next step is to bash them against each other until you have a crude hand axe that’s better at shaping wood. From there, you have ten thousand years to go from sticks and stones to crudely forged iron which you can make into tongs to better manipulate hot iron, and eventually you get electron microscopes, integrated circuits and touch screens.

The silicon used to make the chips in your phone was made from beach sand, as was the glass that makes the screen. That’s relatively abundant. The plastic components were made from the polymerized hydrocarbon remains of marine algae commonly called crude oil. Gold is usually found in nature, while aluminum, copper, lithium, and iron are extracted from ores. In some cases it’s a matter of breaking apart complex compounds to extract specific minerals, while in others it’s a matter of combining simple materials to create more complex ones.

An iPhone is mostly made out of rocks that we mined up and processed. The rocks were there the whole time, we just didn’t have the technology to mine and process them.

The phone in your hand is made of a bunch of little pieces that fit together like a puzzle. Each of those pieces is made of one or more naturally occurring substances, dug up by humans and shaped/changed using methods refined over thousands of years.

Your phone likely has a plastic body. We learned to dig up oil, and one of the things we learned to do was process it into plastic that we could shape. The frame of your phone is probably aluminum. We dig up raw aluminum ore, and refine and shape it into the frame of your phone. So on and so forth for each component in the phone.

The internet is just a big network of computers all strung together on copper or fiber optic cables. We make both of those out of materials we dig up and process.