Technology After Culture? Not in a Million Years

August 12, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Fun, social software | 2 Comments

The Wall St. Journal reported today that technology began 3.4 million years ago, which is one million years older than previously thought (“Researchers Say Fossils Uncovered in Ethiopia Push Back the Beginnings of Technology by Almost One Million Years” ).  I predict they will also soon find the remains of the first technology industry analyst to be 3.39 million years old.  Because as soon as that first, shiny new V-shaped rock showed up for cutting hides, I’m sure someone was there to give the same advice I find myself repeating:

  • Sure, the tool is cool, but think about whether you really need it first
  • Don’t just let everyone start using this tool on their collaboration sites – er, carcasses.  Plan out what it will be used for and guide its usage
  • If your need isn’t urgent, consider waiting until V-shaped rock service pack 1 comes out (there may be bugs in the original rock.  I mean real ones – you could get bitten)
  • And most important of all: The majority of problems with aren’t due to the tool, they are due to people, cultural, and organizational issues that need to be dealt with first

The article sheds some light on the origins of that last bullet – the tendency to think about the technology before culture:

An international research team working in Ethiopia has unearthed what it considers the earliest known traces of the use of stone tools, a discovery that could push back the advent of technology by nearly a million years to a time before the evolution of the human family. (emphasis added)

So basic technology evolved before the basic social construct – the family?  No wonder I still encounter people spending all their time optimizing technology only to find that organizational structure and culture sink their projects.  Well, give it another 500,000 years and I’m sure we’ll catch up.

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2 Comments »

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  1. I think the WSJ talsk of “human family” in the sense of “the genus homo”, as opposed to apes; not the evolution of the family group (Dad, mom, two kids and a house in the suburbs :-)

    And they seem to be fuzzy about the timing of the genus homo too…

  2. The thing is you would expect that in this day and time organizational structure and culture should not hinder the use of technology to better the individuals expertise. That way the organization also benefits as there will be an increased level of efficiency hence providing a better service for the community. As I said culture should not be a barrier to the optimization of technology


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