The Top 5 Technologies that Changed the Course of Social Evolution

From graphite pencils to supercomputers, everything is technology. Not every technology has a noticeable impact on the course of human evolution. Based on one definition, technology is the “machinery and equipment developed from the application of scientific knowledge.”

It’s not just about computers. Though computers make the list, there are other technologies that have altered the course of social evolution. Here are my top five in no particular order:

Horseless Carriages

It’s not just about cars. It is about everything with a motor that enabled both people and packages to move rapidly from one place to another. This type of technology effectively shrank the world down to a manageable size. Today, it takes hours rather than weeks to move physical items from one part of the world to another. It would require a transporter for us to do better.

Perhaps more impactful is the automobile enabling people to travel across what was once considered a vast land mass in minutes rather than hours, or even days. That allowed us to form different kinds of cities where a person could make his living miles away from where he actually lived, or shopped, or went to church.

To accomplish this rapid transit, we went from killing horses, to destroying other natural resources. Now, our mission is to refine the horseless carriage to be more environmentally friendly.

Industrial PCs

While the industrial revolution was not powered by PCs, industrial revolution 2.0 most certainly was. Consider all the mature industries into which the industrial PC has created:

  • Avionics
  • Communication
  • Energy
  • Automation
  • Infotainment
  • Medical
  • Defense
  • Transportation

None of these industries are anything like what they were originally. The industrial PC has particularly changed the nature of war. Thanks to computer-guided drones, we can wage ware with fewer civilian casualties. On the other end of the spectrum, medical technology saves more lives with lower risk, and quicker recovery times. Industrial PCs gave us a second chance at the industrial revolution.

The Internet

I’m not going to enter the debate about who invented the Internet. Let’s just say it wasn’t Al Gore. We can confidently say who benefited from the Internet, though. That would be just about everyone, even the people who cannot directly access it.

The collective knowledge of humanity, past and present, can be accessed by anyone with a smartphone and a data connection. The Washington Post lists 36 ways the Internet has changed us. While #36: cats, is a questionable inclusion, it is a good list that highlights huge advancements in culture that simply would not have been possible without it.


When we think of a PC, we generally think of a beige box running Windows, or something considerably more elegant running MacOS. However, both types of boxes are often shared by family members or coworkers. I contend that the smartphone is the ultimate, personal computer. It lives in our pockets, and is used from the palm of our hands. In some cases, our biometric data secures them. They are our wallets and banks. We send our most private data through them. Nothing could be more personal.

Beyond their impact on how we live our lives, is their availability to the furthest reaches of the world, into the hands of the least affluent. We have review roundups of smartphones under Rs 10,000: around $157.00 U.S. Microsoft sells a number of devices at half that price. They are not only more personal than the PC, they are changing the world at a much faster clip.

“?” The Next Technology

As a society, we have seen both times of stagnation and great invention. But never before have we lived in a time of such anticipation for what is just around the corner. Whatever the next technology is, we are certain it will change the world as we know it.