When we think of technology, our minds usually gravitate towards computers and other hi-tech items, but technology can actually be something as simple as the wheel or fire. Technology, quite simply, makes our lives easier or allows us to accomplish more and different things. At the same time, the innovation brought on by technology has a major impact on cultures. It is often the case that those cultures that utilize and create new technology first, become the most dominant and successful cultures.

Let's take a look at one of the most basic but important elements of technology in the history of humankind. FIRE!!!!!!!

While people certainly didn't invent fire, it took thousands of years for people to learn how to use fire to their advantage. Fire is obviously a great source of heat and light, but it isn't easy to control or utilize effectively and safely.

Before fire: Ancient cultures who feared the destructive and deadly power of fire, failed to use it to their benefit. As a result, they never cooked their food which reduces the nutritional value of food and forces the body to work much harder to digest it. Furthermore, uncooked food is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus which can make a person very sick. Lack of fire also forced people to live in only warm climates which limited the locations where people could live. Fire is also an excellent defense mechanism against animals and other people. The destructive power of fire is legendary and still plagues cultures today. To combat fire, we have fire departments who are ready at a moment's notice to battle an impending blaze. Forgive the pun, but cultures who didn't use fire were really in the dark.

After Fire: Once people began to harness and control fire, it became an essential technological breakthrough that is still quite prevalent in world cultures today. By carrying around a hot ember in animal furs, mud, moss, and other local plants, people could transport fire from one location to the next allowing them to benefit from its energy no matter where they went. As civilizations became more sophisticated, people began using fire to forge iron and other metals. Literally thousands of other technological innovations stemmed from the control and use of fire and its plentiful energy.

Another more familiar example would be the cell phone.

Before the Cell Phone: When the telephone was first invented in 1876, it dramatically changed the manner and speed in which people could communicate over long distances. This innovation had a profound impact on industry, politics, and the spread of knowledge. While the telephone was an incredible innovation, it was limited to use within a home, office, or payphone. One could not just grab a phone whenever. Still, the telephone made the Earth a smaller place by allowing people to talk over enormous distances whenever they pleased. Few pieces of technology have had an equivalent impact.

After the Cell Phone: While most world societies did just fine with regular telephones, nothing could compare to the liberation of the cell phone. Cell phones dramatically changed our society because they allowed us to talk with whomever we wanted from wherever we wanted. The convenience of cell phones allowed us to talk when it was most opportune. Cell phones have ushered in a new world of enhanced communication that make it so that one never has to feel alone. Today, cell phones allow a user to surf the internet, take photos, play videos and music, act as a daily calendar and appointment book, and message board. As the phone matures and becomes more technologically advanced, it enhances our ability to communicate with one another which by itself changes our society.

Key Questions About Technology

1. Think of all of the inventions you can and choose one technological advance that you think has profoundly changed humanity. Be sure to make a good argument for why you chose your particular invention.

2. How are geography and technology connected to one another? How does geography impact the types of technology a given society invents and explores?

3.With improvements in technology come innovations in medicine. How important do you think it is to pursue medical technology?

4. Do you believe that governments and laws should be allowed to interfere with technology and technological innovations? Can you think of a time when the government did intervene with technology either in the past or present?

5. Why is it that those cultures that innovate the quickest are often the most successful? What is the connection between technology and dominance?