posted on Nov, 23 2005 @ 11:44 AM
Well, I don't think that you need to come up with Lost Civilizations or Spaceship Guys to explain scientific and technical advances over the last
hundred years. I believe that there are several interlocking reasons why our race has gone from struggling to get off the ground to going to
the moon in sixty-six years -- after uncounted millennia of living in caves and clubbing each other with stone-tipped utensils.
There are three things you need to have for there to be a quantum leap in science and technology.
(1) Lots of spare time, which was driven by the most important invention in history: agriculture. With agriculture, you now have time
to do something besides walking around and gathering food or running around and catching it. Once the harvest is in, other fun things have time to be
invented, like astronomy, irrigation and building engineering, priest-craft, kings, and war. The leisure class has time to start thinking
about stuff, which is the first thing we need for technological advances.
(2) A logical and coherent way to think about things, coupled with the willingness to keep an open mind and rely on evidence to build a
picture of the universe and how to do cool stuff with it. This way was made possible by the invention of the scientific method, which requires
people to make an assumption (called a hypothesis) about one little piece of the universe, test it, re-test it, and re-re-test it until it
either falls apart (at which point you toss it out and come up with another assumption) or codify the re-tested hypothesis into a “rule” (now
called a theory) which you can use in your attempt to build subsequent hypotheses and then test and re-test them.
This scientific method faced an incredible battle with the entrenched forces of priest-craft which, for the sake of power, had a vested interest in
having people not use logical and coherent methods of thought. This war lasted for over four hundred years, starting with the priests burning
scientists at the stake, and pretty much ended in 1925 with the Scopes Monkey Trial. Of course, the priest-craft dissidents are still fighting, as
evidenced their coming up with new types of suicide bombers (called the “intelligent design" controversy); but, all in all, the priests have pretty
well been vanquished or co-opted.
(3) The understanding that the ‘natural’ order of growth (whether of knowledge, bunny-rabbits, or yeast cells) is that of a linear-square
function, commonly called the asymptotic-curve rule. That states – simplified – that as the years pass linearly (since the passage of one
year doesn’t make the previous year go faster), the knowledge increases as the square (since each piece of knowledge gained makes the next piece of
knowledge easier to get and apply).
If you want to know what this curve looks like, and have a graphic calculator, punch in something like [X = Y^2] and you will see how progress goes.
Take speed, for example. For ten thousand years, top speed was as fast as a guy could run. For another four or five thousand it moved up to how fast
the guy could go on a horse. Two hundred years ago it started to inch up as steam trains were introduced, and by a hundred years ago, tops speed was
about a hundred miles per hour. Then airplanes -- and the speed doubled and doubled again and doubled again. Then rockets -- and now we’re
zipping along at 25,000 miles per hour. With knowledge, we increase as the square of elapsed time, because each piece of knowledge makes the
next piece easier and faster to find, which does the same thing to the next piece of knowledge, and so on
So you see, it’s not Ancient Long-Lost Civilizations Of Atlantis And Mu, or The Benevolent Little Purple Men From Arcturus, or anything like
It’s compound interest.