Homo Technologicus : What Makes Us Human

There are two aspects to human nature that no serious political, religious, economic or philosophical discussion can overlook: our intelligence and our technology.

As humans, we have the capacity to comprehend the world around us. We see patterns and extract from them the laws of cause and effect. But comprehension is just the beginning of our ability. What makes us truly exceptional among living creatures is our ability to change our environment through the tools we make. The more knowledge we have of the world around us the more advanced are the tools we make. And as our tools become more advanced we begin to see new patterns in the world around us.

Our technology does not only shape our physical environment, it also determines how oursociety is organized. Let’s consider, for example, the effect of the agricultural revolution on hunter-gatherer societies.

Hunter-gatherers mostly lived in non-hierarchical and egalitarian communities, where each member contributed to obtaining subsistence foods from wild plants and animals. The invention of agriculture completely transformed these societies. As people began farming and becamesedentary a surplus of food was created. This led to a significant growth in populationwhile at the same time fewer hands were necessary for cultivation. As a result, a division of labor emerged. Men assumed the responsibility for working in the fields, while women cared for the children and performed household duties. In addition, people began to specialize in crafts and engage in trade. As the town grew in size and population there was also a greater need to defend the inhabitants from hostile forces. This brought about the emergence of anelite group that would be responsible for the protection and governance of the town.

Thus, we can see how a new technology (agriculture, in this case) can completely transform how society is organized; from semi-nomadic to sedentary, from egalitarian to hierarchical, from a communal subsistence economy to a primitive market economy, and from a small tribe to a large and complex society.

As technology advances some social, political and economic institutions becomeprevalent while others become obsolete. It is evident how modern democracy andcapitalism depend on an effective and centralized military and police force, a somewhat efficient bureaucracy, the ability to transport goods cheaply and safely, and the ability to disseminate information in a timely manner. All of these could not have come into existence without the invention of the printing press and the locomotive, the scientific revolution, and the industrial revolution. At the same time, these technological advances made institutions such as feudalism and monarchy obsolete.

As we look to the future, we must realize that the institutions we have today are not immutable. They are merely the result of our limited technology and imagination. As technology advances our institutions must too evolve – or they will become obsolete. This means that it is entirely possible that in the near future capitalism and democracy may become obsolete. The only question is whether these will be replaced by better institutions…