The Relationship Between Culture and Technology
The relationship between technology and culture is cyclical. Logically, a culture will develop technologies based on the needs or desires of the people, because this is where the creative influences lie. As this technology spreads and is absorbed into the people’s lives, it affects their culture and way of life. This change in lifestyle can also occur when a technology developed outside a culture is introduced into the culture, providing an external influence. As Paul Ehrlich explains, there are technological evolutions and associated cultural evolutions, and they do not necessarily occur concurrently. Ehrlich [believes] that, in our modern era, technology is evolving faster than culture, and a major cultural evolution needs to occur to be able to deal with modern technology properly. (NPR, Ehrlich) Throughout history, though, there have also been cultural evolutions that lead to the creation and evolution of technology; hence, the cycle.
History often makes it evident that when people desire something that another culture has, they show little hesitation in taking it. In many cases, trade has taken the place of blatant theft and warfare, but there are always exceptions. As technologies evolved and spread to different parts of the world, the interdependence between peoples increased. At this point there are few self-sustaining societies. (Even our interdependent societies are not permanently sustainable on our Earth).
This limitation of resources leads to need, which in turn may lead to warfare. It is true that the civilized, even moral – if morality can be an argument in this politically correct world – approach involves trade and does not involve senseless killing. And, of course, not all conflicts are based on immediate need. However, many conflicts can be traced to a limitation of resources (i.e. land, water, women). Thus culture – warfare – is affected by technology, and the needs that it creates.
Technology is developed as a way to further a way of life, thus making common tasks easier, if not simpler. It doesn’t make sense for a culture to invent something that is not relevant or useful. Technologies are determined by a culture’s “demands and preoccupations,” and depend on the existing environment of the society. (Teresi) For example, nomadic cultures have no use for architecture or other developments of a non-mobile life, but in 1600 BCE the chariot was a welcome addition to daily life. (Chant) In China in the 11th century, Tseng Kung-Lang published a formula for gunpowder, following centuries of his people’s interest in explosions, eruptions and colorful displays of fireworks. (Teresi) Eskimos developed harpoons with detachable heads, so that, upon killing a seal, the shaft would float to the surface of the sea and simplify retrieval of the seal (Ehrlich). The time-consuming activity of seal hunting was often the Eskimos’ only source of food, and so it was important to...