posted on Sep, 4 2004 @ 02:27 AM
The single most important reason we're advancing faster and faster is literacy. The number of people who CAN read increases every year -- even in
Europe and North America, places we consider to consist of "1st world" devloped nations, the literacy rate was well under 50% only 125 years ago.
Today it is, on average, over 94%. (source CIA Factbook
- condensed average
by me might be slightly inaccurate by a couple percent).
With more people who can actually read -- ergo learn and pass on what they've learned to others -- you can create, make, teach, improve more than you
can with fewer people who posess the knowledge. Also, once you've achieved a certain levels of "common knowledge" it is no longer a stepping stone
to have to learn the basics. Example: Everyone here knows how to get something clean and safe to drink (you turn on the tap, or you open a bottle
of water). Not even 100 years ago the vast majority of water sources were biologically unsafe due to parasites and other pollutants (we overcame that
by identifying the source of the problem and then fixing it, first by discovering we could boil it to kill the parasites, and then improved the
process through chlorination and/or filtration).
We don't have to even give a moment's thought to, "How can I get a drink?" or, "Where can I
get something safe to drink?" It doesn't take up any of our day. It's quite simple to see how learning one thing leads to smaller and
shorter-distanced stepping stones to learn the next new thing...
You can take the basic principal of above and apply it to anything. We can create a faster computer processor today (one that is 1000 times as
powerful compared to one from 1980) because we don't have to discover the principals behind the technology: we merely have to apply our previously
learned information and devise improvements and apply more efficient methods. Each step to the next "great technology" is based upon the countless
stepping stones that predate it.
New technologies come about because of a need for that technology -- we apply previous common knowledge (and learned information) to come up with
better, easier solutions. Velcro is on almost every backpack, jacket, etc., these days because NASA needed a way to allow astronauts to easily attach,
remove, and re-attach items (notepad, pen, etc) to their bulky spacesuits (suits that have gloves offering little dexterity). Assembly lines exist and
allow us to produce mass quantities of items we require to maintain our standard of living because Henry Ford looked at how to improve the efficiency
of his factories so he could sell more cars to more people (and make them affordable to more people).
Technology from aliens... a novel (and very lazy) way to grasp how technology advances, but give humans some