This is a brief follow-up to yesterday's important post Bernanke Tells It The Way He Wants It To Be. I recommend you read it if you haven't done so.
There are a couple of points of agreement between Ben and me. First, I think technological innovation will continue. Where we disagree is what the consequences of that innovation will be.
The second point is more important and fundamental. Here's the chairman.
First, innovation, almost by definition, involves ideas that no one has yet had, which means that forecasts of future technological change can be, and often are, wildly wrong. A safe prediction, I think, is that human innovation and creativity will continue; it is part of our very nature.
It is part of our very nature. Yes, I believe it is.
The inextricable link between technology and hominid survival predates the genus Homo. Consider Australopithecus garhi, dating to some 2.6 million years ago.
The most surprising fact about A. garhi is that it occurs in the same layers as stone tools and animal bones with cut marks. These stone tools are the earliest known flaked tools (part of the Oldowan tradition, the simplest form of stone tools) to be found in layers with hominins; the oldest stone tools, dated to 2.6 mya, are not found in layers with hominin remains. These stone tools are also found with animal bones showing marks made from stone tools, indicating that whichever hominins used these tools were butchering animals and eating their meat. Because no other hominins have been found in these layers, some scientists believe that A. garhi was the maker and user of these tools; it is possible however that another hominin made and used these tools without leaving fossilized remains in these layers. If A. garhi is responsible for these artifacts, it is the only hominin outside the genus Homo which fashioned stone tools; such a finding would contradict the assumption prevailing among many paleoanthropologists that only species in the genus Homo had this ability.
Note: The hypothesis that early Homo species were the makers of the first stone tools was further undermined by the discovery at Dikika, Ethiopia in 2009 of antelope and bovid bones bearing cut marks that could only have been made by stone tools. The stone tools have not been found but the cut marked bone has been dated to 3.4 million years ago, a time and place where the only hominin species was Australopithecus afarensis..
The complex history of the genus Homo and stone tools lies outside the scope of what I want to say in this post. Today I merely want you to consider the hypothesis that the reliance on technology in modern humans is an outcome of our "technological instinct" in the same way that the reliance of ancient hominids on stone tool making was.
The only book I've read which makes this link explicit is Steven Mithen's The Prehistory of the Mind: The cognitive origins of art, religion and science. I've scanned two images from that book.
The mind of Homo erectus (left, 1.6 million years ago), and the mind of early modern humans (right, 100,000 years ago). Note the inclusion of a prominent "Technical Intelligence" module in both species. Click to enlarge.
You'll find that the world makes more sense if modern man's reliance on technological solutions to all problems is built right into who we are. The reliance of ancient hominds on stone tools was a matter of survival pure and simple. In modern humans, technology serves a variety of ends, including of course the innate urges to grow populations and consumption.
Think about it.
Bonus Video — The Turbo Encabulator. And do not miss version #2.