Technology: A Blast from the Past?
By: A. Cordeiro
Today technology makes up a big part of our lives, be it for entertainment, communication, or even transportation purposes. But has it always been like this? Have people always appreciated technology and urged for the newest gadgets like we do today? The short answer to these questions is no. No, people have not always supported the idea of understanding everything that goes on around them and have not always desired new pieces of technology. However, throughout the centuries, people’s perspectives on technology have changed drastically.
During the 14th and 15th centuries, the church had the most power. This meant that the church was the one who picked the monarchs to rule over their country. At that time, the church told citizens that they had the answers to anything and stated that those who did not rely on the church for answers nor worshiped the church would go to hell. As a result, these claims persuaded more people to follow and worship the church.
However, by the 16th and 17th centuries the ideas of the renaissance, raised by small groups of scholars and scientists, had spread throughout the whole of Europe. Although this was a milestone, it did not mean that the population supported these different ideas. Take as an example, Leonardo da Vinci, the infamous artist who painted the Mona Lisa. At the time, he was recognized by his contemporary pieces although some of his most impressive works of art were hidden in notebooks unknown by the public. These notebooks contained sketches of airplanes, helicopters, submarines, and other types of technological gear. The fact that he had to keep his more outgoing ideas hidden in notebooks shows how the population of the time would have not accepted his ideas and might have even deemed him as crazy if he were to show them to the world. The 16th century was not yet ready for these innovations for two main reasons: the lack of resources to develop these ideas into something physical and the lack of people who would find use in these inventions. From another perspective, take Galileo Galilei, one of the greatest astronomers to have ever lived. He, who also lived during the 16th century, was thrown into house arrest due to his ideas and innovations. This truly shows us how, even though the ideas of the renaissance had reached a wider audience, people still refused to believe in the power of science and knowledge. Up until the renaissance, the ideas of many intelligent scholars such as Aristotle, Ptolemy and Galen had been overlooked by society as they laid their trust upon the church. Moreover, at the beginning of the 16th century, the answers given by the church were challenged and overthrown by scientists and scholars as they began to find explanations for the things around them that made sense and could help them comprehend why things happened the way they did.
The 17th century was an era in which scientists began to explore ideas such as steam and atmospheric pressure in more depth. In 1698, Thomas Savery, an English inventor, took out a patent for his “new Invention for Raising of Water and occasioning to all Sorts of Mill Work by the Impellent Force of Fire”. His research helped with the invention of the Steam Engine. In the 17th century, the public began to open their eyes towards technology and science and began to support these ideas more each day. However, there were still those people, known as non-technologists, who did not support these innovative ideas at all.
In the 18th century, people’s thoughts towards technology did not differ too much from those in the 17th century. The 18th century was an important period for scholars as it was when ideas collected from the previous 100 years were carried out.
When talking in regards of the 19th century, we can say that the group of non-technologists was almost extinct as more people began to believe in the power of technology to facilitate their lives. Even people with strong political views welcomed technological progress because, from their point of view, it would cause the need for people to fully control and own parts of industry. Many famous novelists wrote books in which technology would play a beneficial role to society in the future. Edward Bellamy and his novel “Looking Backwards” are the perfect example of this. On the other hand, there were still those few people who still believed technology would someday take over people’s lives and cause grave harm to humanity by taking over nature and eliminating the natural order of things. A good example of a person who believed in this was Ralph Waldon Emerson, an American essayist.
Even though it might seem strange as the 20th century does not seem like very long ago, there were still a handful of individuals who did not like the idea of technology even if most people had been convinced of the benefits it could bring. Some of these people suspected that technology would control humanity in the future by stealing people’s creativity and freedom. Aldou Huxely, a novelist, expressed exactly this idea in his novel “A Brave New World”.
Today, in the 21st century, technology takes up an immense part of our lives, especially during tough times like the ones we are experiencing right now. It helps us to communicate and talk to friends and family when we cannot see them in person and allows us to continue to learn and work effectively. People’s perceptions towards technology have changed incredibly and without those few people who stood by their beliefs in the past, we surely would not be where we are today with technology and innovation.
“Europe in the 18th century”. Dartmouth. 25/03/2021. <https://math.dartmouth.edu/~euler/historica/eighteenth.html >
“The technological dilemma”. Britannica. 25/03/2021 <https://www.britannica.com/technology/history-of-technology/The-technological-dilemma >
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