If humans have been in our current form for 250,000 years, why did it take so long for us to progress yet once it began it’s in hyperspeed?

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We went from no human flight to landing on the moon in under 100 years. I’m personally overwhelmed at how fast technology is moving, it’s hard to keep up. However for 240,000+ years we just rolled around in the dirt hunting and gathering without even figuring out the wheel?

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Anonymous 0 Comments

“if I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Sir Isaac Newton

In the absence of giants, stacking up a thousand generations of midgets may suffice.
After that, exponential growth takes over.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Low population trap. During most of our existence the human race was trapped in a cycle of the population being destroyed by famines and diseases every time it reached a certain ceiling that barely changed with time, the land and big cities could support just so many people. And with a low population there is less people to work, less people to develop new technologies, less people to advance civilization. But after the Ice Age of the High Middle ages and the black death passed through europe, the europeans opened new trade and travel lines which allowed for an huge increase in the population, which allowed for more people developing new technologies, and with new technologies the capacity for population increased, and with more population there was more technologies and so on. This process is exponencial, the improvement rate increased more and more until it exploded with the industrial and sanitary revolutions of the 19th century. Basically, more population = more technolgies = better life = more population = ad infinitum

Anonymous 0 Comments

“if I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Sir Isaac Newton

In the absence of giants, stacking up a thousand generations of midgets may suffice.
After that, exponential growth takes over.

Anonymous 0 Comments

“if I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Sir Isaac Newton

In the absence of giants, stacking up a thousand generations of midgets may suffice.
After that, exponential growth takes over.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Technology is like compounding interest, where If there is more technology; that technology is used to make more technology and so on.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Technology is like compounding interest, where If there is more technology; that technology is used to make more technology and so on.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There were, broadly, roughly eight major turning points in that time. Most of them didn’t involve any fundamentally new idea – they just used the advancements going on in the background to make a new thing work. And since those advancements became more and more enabled by each progressive step, so too were we able to make more and more things work.

The first was language, around 60,000 to 100,000 years ago. Language allowed humans to begin preserving knowledge from generation to generation, meaning that each generation didn’t have to relearn everything. Some other animals can pass on a few things – other primates teach their children how to use tools, for example – but not with the speed or detail allowed by human language. It’s very possible that many people independently invented the idea of language, but – well, if you have an idea of language and other people don’t, how do you tell them about it?

The second was agriculture, around 10,000 years ago. Before the rise of agriculture, humans spent most of their activity just getting enough food to live. After it, you could spare enough resources to have people start to become experts in things. One person could become an expert at computing things, another could become an expert tailor, and so on. And those experts pushed the boundaries of their fields forward (and shared what they learned through language). Agriculture was developed simultaneously around the world at about the same time, which suggests there was some underlying reason it happened then – the most obvious explanation is that this coincides with Earth’s climate warming up after the last glacial period. The idea of planting things probably wasn’t new, but this is the point where you could actually settle down with a field of crops.

The third was writing, around 5,500 years ago (possibly earlier, but cuneiform is the oldest we know of). Writing was a *huge* step forward. Now you could pass information on without having to have an expert sit down and tell you. You could keep track of things for generations, and find patterns in what you kept track of. (For example, a lot of early mathematics was worked out to predict celestial events like eclipses, which you could only do if you had reliable records of when eclipses had occurred in the past.) Writing also arose independently in many different places, but only in places that had settled civilizations, suggesting that settling down was probably a necessary prerequisite to figure it out (or at least to keep documents that survived long enough to be discovered). Marking things wasn’t new, but someone had to figure out a system that could be learned and shared.

<There’s a long gap here, during which there were many smaller pieces of progress – the development of money, of alphabets, of a great deal of materials science, of agriculture, of medicine, etc. But none of them are individually huge, so I’m skipping ahead a bit. But – as we’ll see in a sec – the lack of *individually* huge ideas turns out to disguise a lot of progress.>

The fourth was the printing press, around 600 years ago. This kicked writing into high gear and made information orders of magnitude more available (the printing press could produce copies of text around 100x faster than previous printing methods). While I didn’t include metallurgy in my list here, it was a very important field throughout ancient and pre-modern history, and between the previous bullet and this one, you went through the Bronze and Iron ages. And it was knowledge of metallurgy that made the printing press possible. Gutenberg was a metal-smith and one of his big innovations was using a new alloy of metals that made the physical mechanics of the printing press work. The idea wasn’t new, but Gutenberg built one that actually worked.

The fifth was the Scientific Method, around 400 years ago. While earlier scientists (as we’d call them today) had existed, the scientific method turns out to be a much more effective way to test ideas than most previous frameworks, which tended to *start* with logic and try to *explain* observations, rather than *observing* observations and trying to design theories that fit them. Again, the *idea* of studying the world wasn’t new, but a *particular approach* that happened to work better than previous ones allowed progress.

The sixth was the factory and mass production, around 150 years ago, which was made possible by massive advances in chemistry, engineering, and materials science enabled by the scientific method. This made the tools and apparatus for experiments, data collection, and observation far more available, not just things that could be afforded by a few very wealthy researchers (or those funded by wealthy benefactors). Automation wasn’t new, but advancements in things like metallurgy, steam power, and later electricity made automation *work* in a way the machines of the ancient world didn’t.

The seventh was electronics, which was spread throughout the 20th century. The rise of electronic machinery allowed a whole new range of observations and a new level of precision. Again, this was only possible because factories permitted the mass-production of electronic components and because materials-science had advanced to the point that things like the transistor – a key component of all modern electronics that makes logical circuits possible – could be produced.

And the eighth was networking, currently in the form of the Internet on which we are having this conversation. The idea of a network, of course, was not new. Networks of information date back to the ancient world. But advancements in speed and precision via electronics, and the creation of vast networks of infrastructure through mass production, made it possible to *automatically* shoot vast amounts of information around the world on demand.

In general, it’s best not to think of things in terms of “one big idea”. Big ideas are enabled by a million small advancements, and many big ideas have been had a million times before someone turns the big idea into a working thing. And the pace gets set by those small advancements, not by how many big ideas get had.

EDIT: Guys, you don’t really have to list out every technological advancement that has ever happened in the comments. Yes, this list leaves tons of stuff out. It’s a Reddit post written in ten minutes to sum up ten thousand years of human history. The point is to demonstrate to OP the way that these advancements follow on from previous ones, and the ways in which they depend on underlying small advancements.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Low population trap. During most of our existence the human race was trapped in a cycle of the population being destroyed by famines and diseases every time it reached a certain ceiling that barely changed with time, the land and big cities could support just so many people. And with a low population there is less people to work, less people to develop new technologies, less people to advance civilization. But after the Ice Age of the High Middle ages and the black death passed through europe, the europeans opened new trade and travel lines which allowed for an huge increase in the population, which allowed for more people developing new technologies, and with new technologies the capacity for population increased, and with more population there was more technologies and so on. This process is exponencial, the improvement rate increased more and more until it exploded with the industrial and sanitary revolutions of the 19th century. Basically, more population = more technolgies = better life = more population = ad infinitum

Anonymous 0 Comments

Technology is like compounding interest, where If there is more technology; that technology is used to make more technology and so on.

Anonymous 0 Comments

What happened was exponential growth. Humans had to figure out how to make wooden tools, then stone tools, then copper, then bronze, then iron, and then on to everything else we’ve developed. Wooden tools are very ineffective, stone tools are better, but are still awful. Copper has a huge advantage in that you can reshape it, but even early copper tools were made from naturally formed metallic copper. Being able to make bronze was a huge step forward because we could forge metal and add other things to it and share it much easier. Once you have good tools, it’s much easier to make more complex things. (The way we use energy is also a very similar progression that could be it’s own discussion, but we start with man power, then animal power, fire, hotter fire, water, steam, petroleum, and now nuclear)

Another thing to consider is that in the last 200 years we have made it a lot easier to get food. The most common profession throughout the history of civilization is farming because every society had to produce enough food for everyone every year. You couldn’t get it from far away, you couldn’t store it for very long. Once everyone didn’t have to worry about food all the time, they had a chance to actually spend time working on things that aren’t food, like airplanes.

The sharing of ideas also got much easier as time went on. We don’t know which civilization invented farming, or writing, or mathematics first because they were all invented independently by different groups of people. We do have evidence and theories about who and where they were developed first, but we can never be quite sure. It’s a lot easier to build an airplane if you can learn mathematics from someone who already did the hard part of discovering it. There’s a reason we say science is built on the shoulders of giants, and that’s because it really is. Without Newton’s Laws, now is Einstein supposed to notice that things traveling near the speed of light don’t follow those laws?

Fun fact, it took longer for humanity to switch from bronze tools to iron tools than it took for humanity to switch from iron tools to nuclear power.