This post is part of my series on the belief in progress. This blog post deals with the evidence for a positive trend in technology. As usual in order to extend my trends to geological time spans I need to regard technologies as mechanisms adapted to particular need which may have been designed or may have evolved. This is an abuse of the word technology but I think it is justified in order to see the development of human technology in its proper historical context.
10 billions years ago: There were no entities with any purpose (even the undirected mirage of purpose of a gene) and so no technology.
1 billion years ago: The development of the ribosome is probably the single biggest biological breakthrough of all time. A nanoscale machine capable of translating a message in RNA and manufacturing a protein using it.
Plants have developed photosynthesis and animals respiration. These are key energy processing and gathering techniques.
Animals have developed primitive sensory organs. At this stage all mechanisms are "in house" and biological. Bones and teeth soon emerge to allow the consumption of plant and animal matter.
1 million years ago: The first humans are around and they are using stone tools of various types. This is the first true technology we have evidence for. Although other animals were probably capable of some level of technology if modern studies of crows and primates are considered.
10,000 years ago: Farming has been invented and the first states emerge around now.
5,000 years ago: Writing has been invented. The ability to carry complex and long messages over long distances in time and space is a massive breakthrough.
300 years ago: The printing press has been invented allowing for higher specialization as each industry and scientific discipline creates its own journal. Greater economic/technological development results.
100 years ago: The industrial revolution has reduced the cost of travel, the production of food and the speed of communication amongst myriad others things.
50 years ago: Plastics, supertankers, radio and the telephone have been invented.
Now: The pace of change is still accelerating with the mobile phone and the Internet both developments of the last 30 years.
In the near future we can expect a robotics revolution and a new energy revolution.