28 September 2007

Humanity's "Progress": Creativity, Tools, or Sheer Population?

Picture progress' progress over, say, the past 500 years. Without computers, we did amazing things. With computers, we've done more amazing things. But, how much progress is due to technology, and how much is due to individual creativity, and how much is due to the pure number of humans increasing?

Meaning: Leonardo da Vinci thought, drew, painted, and built amazing things. One guy, without a computer. Radio and television were developed, as well as computers, using vacuum tubes and slide rules. The first successful small computers were built in garages and small, run-down warehouses, by very few people.

But, find things that are coming out now: biotech, software, whatever. In many cases, it's not "just one person" doing it, but a team or a company, or a country. Is that due to sheer numbers of people being thrown at the problem? Are we becoming more stupid because we each, individually, have to give less to have a project succeed when there are multitudes working on it?

Maybe we need to return to slide rules and hand-mixed paints, and using our own minds instead of computers.