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Have you ever tried to imagine living in ancient times, without our modern science and technology, and felt mind-boggled about how advanced our modern era is compared to centuries past? I have. But recently I came across a historical overview that put this contrast into perspective for me. Now I can look past the stark contrast between ancient times and now and see more clearly the process of how we got here. Here’s a brief summary (from a Western perspective, naturally).
In ancient times, people lived by subsistence, producing their own food and materials directly to meet their needs. When they were able to produce more than what they needed, they used the surplus to trade for other goods. Trading systems and society structures gradually became more advanced—societies traded with each other, and people began trading their labor for monetary payment. As resources expanded, societies grew more educated and civilized.
The Age of Exploration brought greater profits than European countries had ever known. With the capital from these profits, people began investing in ventures they believed would return even greater profits: machines and scientific innovations. These new machines increased production of consumable goods, yielding further capital for further investments in scientific innovation, leading to more inventions. This cycle (which I portray visually below) turned the wheels of the Industrial Revolution, which set the ball rolling fast and straight toward our modern day culture. And here we are!
Expansion of Trade and Civilization
(Industrialization) ↑ ↓ (Investment)
Invention ← Innovation