Attitudes toward invention and innovation

Fantasus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2012
2,381
Northern part of European lowland
#1
The question is what attitudes are currently around the world regarding those important forces shaping the modern world. Especially in regions not so much known in the past for their contributions to technology, science etcetera. As example : What inventions where lately (say last 2 decades) made in Arabic countries, and how where they received? Are there any national leaders or groups enthusiastically supporting, say, African innovations, or Indian science breakthroughs? Or, on the contrary, are there other forces, resisting all such because of religious or other arguments? What about those people that gained wealth because of oil, gas or other natural ressources. Such ressources would for the most part have been of little economic value before the industrial/machine age. I have not heard much about say, arabian or iranian oil - magnates doing much for science and technology, neither of Russian "oligarcs".
 

Asherman

Forum Staff
May 2013
3,280
Albuquerque, NM
#2
My wife and I have long been interested in the native cultures of the American Southwest, and decided we wanted to collect at least one outstanding example of pottery made by each of the 19 pueblos of New Mexico. A Pueblo like Acoma is very conservative living in a drier part of the State, and it produces a lot of pottery. Some great, but most aimed at the uneducated tourist market. Within a few years Natalie and I had examples of pottery from over a dozen Pueblos, but since then, and for the past 10 years our collection has stalled. Why? Because some Pueblos found that operating casinos pays better than selling handicrafts and art to Anglos. Other Pueblos with access to good water traditionally put their energy into growing corn, beans, squash, etc. rather than in shaping pottery.

Greeks became seafaring adventurers and innovators largely because their land was so rocky and unproductive. South Sea islanders whose waters are filled with fish, and coconuts can be easily obtained, had no reason to invent a steam engine. Read Maslow. Cultures who are challenged, innovate and invent. Those who face few challenges will often resist change. Today's world that is so much smaller than the world even fifty years ago, is presenting major challenges to our entire species. So we might assume that there is an up-tick in innovation and invention in regions that previously changed more slowly. Is that happening? Perhaps.

India has excellent schools that are turning out well trained scientists who have been expanding the bounds of science and technology, but usually after they've immigrated to a places already immersed in rapid technological/scientific change. China in its infancy was one of the world's most inventive and innovative cultures/civilizations. It was so advanced for the time, that they became convinced they alone were civilized and everyone else was a barbarian not worth noticing, even if the savages could make clever clocks. Hubris and conservative, China fell behind Europe about 1500 years ago, and is only now yawning and stretching itself into modernity. Africa, Mother of Us All, has harbored some large complex civilizations, but was still at the starting line when Europeans showed up with technology and hunger less than a thousand years ago. These groups, once isolated and slow changing, were strongly influenced by the West. European dominance in the world's backwaters has never completely vanished, nor is it likely to in the foreseeable future.
 
Oct 2013
4,574
Canada
#3
My wife and I have long been interested in the native cultures of the American Southwest, and decided we wanted to collect at least one outstanding example of pottery made by each of the 19 pueblos of New Mexico. A Pueblo like Acoma is very conservative living in a drier part of the State, and it produces a lot of pottery. Some great, but most aimed at the uneducated tourist market. Within a few years Natalie and I had examples of pottery from over a dozen Pueblos, but since then, and for the past 10 years our collection has stalled. Why? Because some Pueblos found that operating casinos pays better than selling handicrafts and art to Anglos. Other Pueblos with access to good water traditionally put their energy into growing corn, beans, squash, etc. rather than in shaping pottery.

Greeks became seafaring adventurers and innovators largely because their land was so rocky and unproductive. South Sea islanders whose waters are filled with fish, and coconuts can be easily obtained, had no reason to invent a steam engine. Read Maslow. Cultures who are challenged, innovate and invent. Those who face few challenges will often resist change. Today's world that is so much smaller than the world even fifty years ago, is presenting major challenges to our entire species. So we might assume that there is an up-tick in innovation and invention in regions that previously changed more slowly. Is that happening? Perhaps.

India has excellent schools that are turning out well trained scientists who have been expanding the bounds of science and technology, but usually after they've immigrated to a places already immersed in rapid technological/scientific change. China in its infancy was one of the world's most inventive and innovative cultures/civilizations. It was so advanced for the time, that they became convinced they alone were civilized and everyone else was a barbarian not worth noticing, even if the savages could make clever clocks. Hubris and conservative, China fell behind Europe about 1500 years ago, and is only now yawning and stretching itself into modernity. Africa, Mother of Us All, has harbored some large complex civilizations, but was still at the starting line when Europeans showed up with technology and hunger less than a thousand years ago. These groups, once isolated and slow changing, were strongly influenced by the West. European dominance in the world's backwaters has never completely vanished, nor is it likely to in the foreseeable future.
China fell behind Europe 1,500 years ago or 500?
 

Fantasus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2012
2,381
Northern part of European lowland
#4
Greeks became seafaring adventurers and innovators largely because their land was so rocky and unproductive. South Sea islanders whose waters are filled with fish, and coconuts can be easily obtained, had no reason to invent a steam engine. Read Maslow. Cultures who are challenged, innovate and invent. Those who face few challenges will often resist change.
Such a view does not offer a good explanation of modern innovation.
Desert peoples and arctic people are among those living in extremely hars environments, but I know of few innovation originating from there.And I donĀ“t think inventions made by, say, modern americans and australians would count here, because they live in a larger economy, not dependent upon the ressources of their deserts.
Also people hardly stop inventing as their economies grow.


Today's world that is so much smaller than the world even fifty years ago, is presenting major challenges to our entire species. So we might assume that there is an up-tick in innovation and invention in regions that previously changed more slowly. Is that happening? Perhaps.

India has excellent schools that are turning out well trained scientists who have been expanding the bounds of science and technology, but usually after they've immigrated to a places already immersed in rapid technological/scientific change. European dominance in the world's backwaters has never completely vanished, nor is it likely to in the foreseeable future.
Yes the rest has more or less acces to a common "pool of knowledge and skills", at least in principle. And at least some places and populations that are not from european origin have wealth and also education and ressources. So they should be able to make it a priority to change technologies, science etcetera. Not only by copying but by contributions of their own. I would even think only copying is not truly enough, since that mean a sort of one sided dependence.
 
Jul 2010
1,374
N/A
#5
You might want to read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. But I'll save you the short and the long of it by stating the usual cliche:

Necessity is the mother of all creations.

In the fertile crescent people saw a need to fertilize the plains with food bearing plants and to become an agrarian society. Large masses of people could be fed and so society developed. Animals were domesticated to cut down on man hours of tilling the planes and the wheel was developed further to use the existing animals to make peoples lives easier. Civilisations grew in a close knit sense and the first human cities also began to develop due to the close-knit nature of these societies.

In a sparsely populated country such as Australia with an arid terrain settling down in one spot for too long could mean death. It was far easier to learn to be a farmer of the natural landscape and to move from place to place. The indigenous people used fire to change the terrain as necessary to change their ecosystem around them. Slower growing older tress were felled for faster growing new trees that bore food bearing sources. Without a horse, cow, or ox that was native to Australia there was no need for the native people to develop a wheel or any concept of what the wheel was, or to domesticate anything more than the native dog being the dingo. Without an environment to subsist off there wasn't much need for any kind of long term or permanent shelters to develop.

The basic premise is that necessity drives all creations, if you need it you will build it, or work out how to. If you don't as in the case of Australia, you will learn how to be mobile yourself, and learn how to navigate the terrain, otherwise you will probably die.
 
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GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,405
Wirral
#6
You might want to read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. But I'll save you the short and the long of it by stating the usual cliche:

Necessity is the mother of all creations.
I'm not sure that it's so clear cut. I don't think the Wright brothers first flew because it satisfied a need or that Fleming was looking for something to kill bacteria when he first noticed the effects of penicillin. I imagine a lot of progress has arisen out of a scientist or engineer noticing something unexpected and subsequently going on to make practical use of it.
 

Fantasus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2012
2,381
Northern part of European lowland
#7
You might want to read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. But I'll save you the short and the long of it by stating the usual cliche:

Necessity is the mother of all creations.



The basic premise is that necessity drives all creations, if you need it you will build it, or work out how to. If you don't as in the case of Australia, you will learn how to be mobile yourself, and learn how to navigate the terrain, otherwise you will probably die.
I have read it years ago, but did not get that from it.
I think when he write something important it is more about how geography and especially biogeography are a player in history.
Thought-provoking book, but more it is the overall view than the examples and details.
 
Last edited:
Jul 2010
1,374
N/A
#8
I was fleshing out the finer details on the points he raises about the facts of biogeography. More so to the point that without the precursor element nothing generally comes from it. Why do the Indigenous Papuans farm while the Indigenous Australians do not. The right biogeography just so happened to occur.

This is the case of 4 parts geography and 6 parts necessity. If you want to live an agrarian lifestyle in villages you must have the means to do so self-sufficiently otherwise its likely your population will perish and die.

As to necessity I said it was the mother of all inventions, I didn't say its family members wouldn't necessarily spawn other means or reasons for inventing things.
 

jackydee

Ad Honorem
Jan 2013
4,569
Brigadoon
#9
The question is what attitudes are currently around the world regarding those important forces shaping the modern world. Especially in regions not so much known in the past for their contributions to technology, science etcetera. As example : What inventions where lately (say last 2 decades) made in Arabic countries, and how where they received? Are there any national leaders or groups enthusiastically supporting, say, African innovations, or Indian science breakthroughs? Or, on the contrary, are there other forces, resisting all such because of religious or other arguments? What about those people that gained wealth because of oil, gas or other natural ressources. Such ressources would for the most part have been of little economic value before the industrial/machine age. I have not heard much about say, arabian or iranian oil - magnates doing much for science and technology, neither of Russian "oligarcs".
I think the attitudes towards invention and innovation are improving, or are about to improve. The world has moved on tremendously tech wise the past two hundred years. I may be exaggerating but 90% of this tech improvement has been accomplished by Europeans, or those of European descent. These "Europeans" accounted for a small % of the worlds population(5-10%?) for the past two centuries. Today we have included much of Asia to those who are now dedicated to tech progress. Forget the Middle East, Africa etc. If we consider Asia alone we now have millions of experts in various fields who can now contribute to technology far easier than they had before. IF technological progress has any correlation with the numbers employed in tech then our advancement in many fields are about to become a whole lot quicker.
 

Fantasus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2012
2,381
Northern part of European lowland
#10
I think the attitudes towards invention and innovation are improving, or are about to improve. The world has moved on tremendously tech wise the past two hundred years. I may be exaggerating but 90% of this tech improvement has been accomplished by Europeans, or those of European descent. These "Europeans" accounted for a small % of the worlds population(5-10%?) for the past two centuries. Today we have included much of Asia to those who are now dedicated to tech progress. Forget the Middle East, Africa etc. If we consider Asia alone we now have millions of experts in various fields who can now contribute to technology far easier than they had before. IF technological progress has any correlation with the numbers employed in tech then our advancement in many fields are about to become a whole lot quicker.
I have to say You are not right about the numbers of the past. About 100 years ago europeans counted up to near 1/3 of global population, though further back they were a lesser part relatively.
I also think it is not completely right to say europeans "invented most", but they, and americans and other of european migrant origin invented almost all of a particular kind of invewntions: those we think of as shaping the modern world. Even not very numerous people of the past and present, without relations to europeans made inventions. Like the inuit/eskimo or whatever name: Kayaks, Anoraks, etcetera. Those people were at any time not numerous, only in the few thousands, so even over millenia only the population of some not big suburb. Still they made inventions, like all humans. The same goes for polynesians and a lot of others, and we would not have myriads of different cultures, languages, accents, and local customs wihout human capabillity for making new ideas, and for creativity.
 

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