Since prehistoric times, humans have always used their intelligence to improve their living conditions in multiple ways. All that knowledge that has allowed humanity to get over the problems they faced in each period of history is what we know as technology. Obviously, the needs of people who lived millions of years ago in caves are not exactly the same as those we experience today, although many of them still remain. Now, we are going to see how the needs of humanity have changed and how technology has adapted to meet them.
How have people’s needs change over time?
At first, during a period we call the paleolithic, humans were nomads so they moved from place to place looking for food and the best climates to live. At that time, the first technological devices were developed: stone tools and weapons for hunting, clothes made of animal fur…
However, around 10.000 years ago humans started to settle as they learned how to cultivate several crops: wheat, lentils, rice… Being able to produce their own food allowed them to stay in a fix place but also forced them to develop new tools for agriculture, such as the plough, and other objects such as clay containers to keep food. The neolithic had started.
As time passed, humans started to feel the need to take note of things: how many sheep did they have, how many potatoes had they bought from their neighbor, what was the best time of the year for each kind of crop… That’s why they started to develop different writing devices.
The first written texts, around 3.000 B.C., were engraved on clay tablets with the help of a metal or wooden wedge, but later on, papyrus and parchment were invented, which allowed much faster writing. And finally paper, that was a much cheaper and easier material to manufacture. If you think about it, those inventions must have been something revolutionary for the people of that time.
(Bilge Şeyma Kütükoğlu, Pexels)
(Jeff Dahl, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons))
In those times humans were already able to cultivate the land, raise livestock, manufacture metallic objects (of copper and iron) and produce wool and cotton fabrics. Little by little people started to specialize in certain tasks and therefore felt the need to buy goods that they were not able to produce. This created a new need that made technology advance, the need for transport. The first means of transports such as boats and basic wheeled vehicles allowed people to trade with distant societies.
We come to the times of the Roman Empire, an empire that included all the territories that surround the Mediterranean Sea and therefore the need to move from one area to another increased. The use of boats was not always possible since many cities were built far away from the coast, so Romans were forced to create a network of roads that connected the different parts of the empire. In addition, with the construction of the roads arises the need to cross rivers, for which they started to build large stone bridges based on the use of arches that still stand today:
(Ángel M. Felicísimo, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikimedia Commons)
Roman stone bridge (Mérida)
Later, during the Middle Ages, important inventions were made that also meant great advances for humanity:
- Several devices, such as the compass or the astrolabe, made it possible to improve navigation. This made it possible to carry out explorations towards unknown lands (Asia, America…).
- Mills were built that allowed to take advantage of the force of the water from the rivers or the wind to carry out hard works. This way, the physical effort that people had to make was reduced.
- Finally, in 1492 Gutemberg invented the printing press, a machine that made it possible to manufacture books in a much faster way, with which they began to reach a large number of people:
(Amfeli, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)
Gutenberg’s printing press
(Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla, España, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)
Fragment from Gutenberg’s Bible
In the last centuries, the needs of people have been increasing each time faster. For example, nowadays we enjoy a wide variety of means of transport:
- Cars and motorcycles allow us to move comfortably and with great freedom not very long distances.
- Trains and buses allow large groups of people to be moved very efficiently.
- Airplanes travel great distances in a very short time.
Finally, in recent years, due to our need for communication, there has been a great development of the media. From radio or television, to the most advanced computers and mobile phones, a large number of electronic devices have been developed to meet the needs of people today:
As you can see, as humanity moves forward, new needs emerge that people need to satisfy. All this knowledge has been transmitted from generation to generation and has allowed people’s lives to improve little by little over time. Technology gathers all that knowledge that has allowed us to have good means of transport, efficient medicines, abundant food, drinking water, good clothes…
However, there are great differences between the more developed countries and the so-called third world countries. The poorest countries still lack the technological resources needed to cover many of the necessities that we no longer care about. What needs do you think is most urgent to guarantee in all places of the world? How do you think we can help the poorest countries on the planet?