The Roots of Progress


Far, far from complete! This is a work in progress that I’m adding to as I read.

(Update Dec 2019: I stopped adding to this page and it’s basically obsoleted by my research topics.)


Pre-industrial forms of harnessing motion:

Separately, there was fuel, which could generate heat (whether for heating or for industrial processes such as smelting):

(Was there any pre-industrial harnessing of solar or geothermal energy?)

In the industrial era, these separate lines of technology came together starting with the steam engine. Heat could be turned into motion. Then we had:

There’s also lighting:

Also heat & cooling. Heat, from fire, is one of the most ancient technologies; but I don’t know if there was much in the way of cooling prior to modern air conditioning.


Pre-industrial food preservation:

Industrial food preservation:

Lots more to add here about agricultural processes/technology of course.

I don’t have a category for medicine yet, but maybe that and agriculture should go together under some sort of “biological” heading. Like communication and calculation converged under “information technology”, I suspect that the technologies of food and medicine will converge as overall biotechnology advances.





Manufacturing technology involves creating machines to take over from work that requires muscles and/or dexterity, but it also depends on materials (obviously) and, when machines are used to make things, on energy (to drive the machines).



I’m planning to just combine this with materials, since the two are deeply intertwined.

Also, need a whole section in here for chemicals: fertilizers, solvents, paints, dyes, soaps, etc.





Pre-industrical communication:

Pre-industrial information processing:

The advent of electronics led to industrial communication:

While progress in machine technology led to advances in information processing:

Finally, in the 20th century, these lines of technology converged in electronic computers and then the Internet.


Is finance a “technology”? I’m not sure. But from the basic invention of money (which is pre-historic) through to modern derivatives trading, it seems there is a progression of ideas and inventions here, which were essential to the development of the modern world.