Historical differences in technological change by Ester Boserup
Beserup suggests a theory that population density was one of the most influential, if not the most, factors in technological progress. In this respect, civilizations that had increased population density in terms of people in a definite area were doomed to experience technological changes.
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Some technological inventions, even being useful and quite applicable, can remain unrealised until the conditions change in terms of population density, food scarcity, and food supply. In this respect, knowledge can remain unimplemented for a long period of time.
The author claims that the period and timeframe necessary for realisation of some knowledge and its application in life can be predicted with the help of analysis of population density, population growth, and the growth rate. In other words, the historical differences in the speed of technological change can be explained in terms of the interrelations between population needs, demographic situation, and realisation of knowledge.
I think that her explanation is rather convincing because there should be some impulse in society or science to promote and encourage the practical realisation of knowledge and its introduction for the purpose of overcoming some problems faced by society.
Analysis of technological change by Lewis Mumford
Lewis Mumford analyses technology as a scope of machines aimed at promotion of capitalism in human society. Also, this author called religious aspects and warfare strong elements that contributed greatly to the technological change. Besides, Mumford saw ‘technics’, as he called technology, in combination with religious and social values as a one whole or ‘organic mechanism’.
In this respect, Mumford analysed technological progress as the one related to capitalism and social factors: technological changes can restrict people to power or increase potential and exist as a ‘machine’ in combination with social factors.
Differences and similarities
The concept of ‘technics’ by Mumford and ‘technology’ by Boserup
Boserup’s concept of ‘technology’ includes development of agriculture as she analyses the methods of people in overcoming famine and other stresses related to food scarcity, growth of population, or decrease of resources.
Thus, Ester Boserup suggests agriculture and techniques used for intensification of crop growth, development of crop resistance methods, and other tools that can be used to fight the problems related to food scarcity and population growth.
Though Mumford claimed about the use of technology as he called it ‘technics’, he realised the threat of technological progress to the progress of social and religious sectors.
Approaches to technological change
Boserup approaches technological change as means to find an appropriate application of knowledge and overcome famine or other difficulties encountered by population because of increase in population density, decrease in resources, and other factors related to environment, land, and demographic situation. On the other hand, Mumford approaches technological change as the one that can make the human life more convenient or more restricted.
Explanation of ‘Promethean impulse’
Mumford explains the ‘Promethean impulse’ as a shift from the technology as a tool to narrow and restrict human life to power to personal use of technological progress products and methods. For Boserup, an impulse included appropriate conditions in society and environment so that certain knowledge, that could be potentially used to overcome certain difficulty, was realised.
Boserup, Ester, 1981. Population and technology. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Mumford, Lewis, 1967. The myth of the machine: Technics and human development. San Diego, California: Harcourt, Brace & World.