Evolution and techological evolution

I ve been thinking about this. How come some tribes in far lands like Africa etc have not evolved technologically as the rest of humanity did? I mean some tribes havent even been discoverd im sure and of some that have been discovered their technology is very primitive. So whats the deal?

Many would say it’s luck of the draw. Technological advancement depends on access to resources, and those who have that access have historically used it to control and decimate populations who weren’t as fortunate (colonialism, etc.).

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond is a book I have sitting on my “to-read table” and plan to dive into soon. It looks like that is the general idea he puts forth – that some cultures simply were positioned more favorably due to geography (and disease plays a role too).


I disagree. Some groups even migrated . So i don’t think thats the case

Migration can be very limited, and again still depends on geography and who is more capable of defending their geographical location based on the types of weapons they could make, which was also influenced by geography.

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Yeah but the mind is the same. Just as the iron age man could think that the iron can be used as tools and weapons so these tribes can think that choping down trees can provide them a house of some sort and not only huts. Or put their mind to actually migrate.

Gun Germs and Steel is a must read for this issue. When Domestication of animals took place the animals could travel east-west but not north or south because the environmental issues made it take a long time for an animal to adjust to a different climate, and that limited the movement south of domesticated animals into Africa.

Culture also plays a large role. Russia with their lack of freedom and the single government deciding what would be invested in, was not as creative as the US during communist times because we could test multiple ideas at once and they could only do one idea at once.

This same idea was used by a famous geologist, Kenneth Hsu when he wrote his article, “Why the Chinese didn’t discover America”. Unlike Europe, China had one king within a couple of thousand miles. If he said no to your idea, your idea was dead. But Europe is all busted up by mountain chains with small kingdoms all over the place, so Columbus could go from kingdom to kingdoms until some monarch said yes. Zheng He, the famous Chinese Admiral did travel to Africa and may have traveled to western North America, but the king who arose late in his life when Zheng He was asking for money for ships for more exploration said ‘no’, well, Chinese exploration was at its end.

Furthermore inventive ideas in Stone Age cultures are risky because if it doesn’t work out, the entire tribe will die out. Thus inventiveness in Stone Age cultures is not encouraged.

Finally, population size—the intellectual area has to be large enough for there to be significant ideas bouncing off other people. The Tasmanians numbered 4000 people and during their isolation, they lost the ability to fish, stopped making bone tools and lost the ability to make fire. 4000 people isn’t enough people to even maintain the Aboriginal technology they started with at 10000 BC. Their technology degenerated to the point that anthropologist Wm McGrew compared their technology to that of Chimpanzees. The tasmanians barely won.


Hello Nickolaos,

Gracious greetings! Colossians 4:6

Glad to join you here. I find the topic fascinating, yet wonder if there’s a danger of civilizational discrimination speaking about “tribes” rather than peoples or communities. The terms “primitive” and “savage races” were used by Charles Darwin, but they are considered politically incorrect nowadays.

Thus, while the question how technology impacts human development is a cogent and contested one, calling technology primitive seems a small leap to suggesting people with primitive technology are also themselves primitive. Thinking here for example of Aboriginals, Indigenous peoples, American Indians, Native Americans, or First Nations. In no way do I consider them, among whom I have friends, as being primitive or in any way less human than people of European descent. They are equal children of God as anyone.

Also, while some people do write about technological evolution, e.g. George Basalla and W. Bryan Arthur, since technology is not technically organic or natural, a different term for advanced technology and how it changes over time might be required or simply preferred. And while Jared Diamond’s book was popular, I can’t help remember the law suits that have been filed against him for his dehumanizing relationships and behaviors with Indigenous peoples. Frankly, I don’t accept the “evolutionary” story that Diamond tells as being one that uplifts humanity, much like that of Yuval Noah Harari, with whom Diamond shares a similar non-theistic worldview. Thus, a word of caution against recommending his works.

Hopefuly these links help for context,



Dear Nikolai. In no way i was trying to dehumanize these people bu saying that they use primitive technology and as english is not my mother language i didnt find a better way to put it.

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Hi Nikolai,
Welcome to the forum, and thanks for sharing your perspective. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that there will be differing views on Diamond, especially as popular as he is. I do hope to read his book soon but should probably be careful about recommending things I have yet to read.

Amen to that! (and welcome to the forum, Nikolai!)

I read the review you posted with considerable interest since I number myself among the beneficiaries of Diamond’s writings (or at least the two of his works I’ve read: “Guns, germs …” and “Collapse”. And, @Laura, I’ll put in a plug that you should read it - it won’t let you down, though there is plenty of material to make one mad (not at Diamond, but at the history he is describing). It isn’t that Diamond is perfect, of course - this isn’t the first I’ve heard of professional anthropologists being exasperated by some intruding “pop star” grabbing lots of attention [and perhaps over-simplifying things for a lay audience] in their own field. Nor does one read the book to glean spiritual or theological truth - which definitely is not Diamond’s focus - either for any romanticized affirmation of anything, but nor for general opprobrium either apart from the bare facts of what the prominent Catholic actors of the time did in South America, or what Europeans in general did in the new world. That all speaks for itself, of course. But if you want some highly plausible theories for how things developed as they did (exactly what Nick is asking in the OP), then I have to chime in with @gbob, that Diamond is a must read.

I did note, Nikolai, that even the critical reviewer you linked was not entirely down on Diamond. She was willing to pay him dues where she thought they were due toward the end of her review. Much of her expressed objections at the beginning seemed to involve more short dismissals of distaste on the part of so many who find Diamond’s attitude, or alleged arrogance objectionable. Perhaps it was / is at points, but his anthropological, geographical, and history lessons seemed quite sound to me. I have not read this most recent work of his, though.

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And yet they survived for 8,000 years without that technology. Is it possible that the lack of need for the technology explains why it was lost? Based on Wikipedia it appears it was contact advanced technology that wiped the people out.

Yeah - I do know what you meant, and that it isn’t intended as an insult. The word “primitive” in the mouths of those who deem themselves “progressed” beyond the group so described is generally (understandably) seen as condescending or pejorative.

But as far as your general question goes as to "why some cultures don’t ‘have it’ " while other cultures do, I think it is healthy to recognize (as I believe Diamond usually does and continues to do if his latest book Title is any indicator) that those cultures who did “develop technologically”, (at least that that is commonly understood today) are the singular and still small exception of human history; making the question more: “why did we?” rather than “why haven’t others?” It is also important to note that there is no stark division of “haves” and “have nots” when it comes to technology. The Amish have and use technology. Lot’s of it. In fact one could argue (very much contra Dawkins) that folks like the Amish demonstrate much more mastery of technology than most of the rest of us because they still have considerable remnants of the self-cultivated cultural discipline almost entirely missing from the rest of the ‘developed’ affluent world: They actually ask the question: “what would this technology do for or to our communities and families if we accepted it?” And it is not a foregone conclusion for them that they will find it acceptable. [nor is it a foregone conclusion that this or that Amish community will reject it, either.] For the rest of us … it wouldn’t even occur to us that such a question could or should even be asked, even at an individual level, much less on a community level! For us the default dogma of society is: “if we can do it, we will do it.” We’re kinda stupid that way, and much more the slaves of technology, than the masters of anything.

Reading this fresh BBC article about the Nicoya in Costa Rica really helps drive home this point. The article isn’t about technology - it’s about life. The average “developed” westerner reading about these folks would probably not have the word “primitive” in mind so much as “envy” or “admiration”.


I think technology makes our life easier. So its a vital point in human history.

I liked that thought. I really did . Thanks mervin

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And the mother of invention is?

As others I’ve essentially stated it’s a combination of being lucky to live in a place with the right resources to academically pursue continuing technology by building upon it in theory and eventually practice. A few especially talented people will meet those with higher resources to draw upon and commercialize a product and drive civilization ahead. If you miss out on one of those steps it makes the next less practical. So internet and smart tvs won’t do a isolated tribe much good.

But at the same time they draw upon technology and information that’s relevant to them. Most people can’t even start a fire from scratch or can name 200 native edible plants. I could give most people a tent, a gun, and matches and drop them off in the lower Alabama and Florida deltas and two months later they would already be long dead while another I could give them nothing and they would thrive. There technology is based on what tree makes the best shelter wood and what tree makes the best spread and what tree makes the best bow and so on.

Urbanization tends to grow in specific directions within communities. Some places just never feel into that path and are on the fringes of it. You can see that even in USA when you go from a big city to a small mountain village. It goes even more so for places that are isolated without roads, large rivers, and surrounded by a hundred miles of wilderness.

Probably what cost them those technologies was changing belief systems of the society. Every society gets into self-destructive group think and then does some reallly stupid things occasionally. Here is a case from another polynesian Island where they banned all the pigs.

The only interpretation that makes sense to me goes as follows. All human societies go through fads in which they temporarily either adopt practices of little use or else abandon practices of considerable use. For example, there are several instances of people on Pacific islands suddenly deciding to taboo and kill off all of their pigs, even though pigs are their only big edible land mammal! Eventually, those Pacific islanders realize that pigs are useful after all, and they import a new breeding stock from another island.” Jared Diamond, “The Evolution of Guns and Germs,” in Evolution: Society, Science and the Universe, ed by A. C. Fabian, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 60

Tikopia survived without pigs, but some islands couldn’t have. The fishing was bad around their island

"A momentous decision taken consciously around A.D. 1600, and recorded in oral traditions but also attested archaeologically, was the killing of every pig on the island, to be replaced as protein sources by an increase in consumption of fish, shellfish, and turtles. According to Tikopians’ accounts, their ancestors had made that decision because pigs raided and rooted up gardens, competed with humans for food, were an inefficient means to feed humans (it takes about 10 pounds of vegetables edible to humans to produce just one pound of pork), and had become a luxury food for the chiefs. With that elimination of pigs, and the transformation of Tikopia’s bay into a brackish lake around the same time, Tikopia’s economy achieved essentially the form in which it existed when Europeans first began to take up residence in the 1800s. Thus, until colonial government and Christian mission influence became important in the 20th century, Tikopians had been virtually self-supporting on their micromanaged remote little speck of land for three millennia."Jared Diamond, Collapse, (New York: Viking, 2005), p.292-293

I would say Frank Zappa! I think you are old enough to maybe know that reference. lol

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Entitlement is alive and well on planet earth… this is the attitude that if someone has some advantage over others then cannot be luck – they must deserve it and somehow be better than other people. Such is the attitude that has dominated most of human history. If someone invents and creates something then just kill them and take it from them and because you win the battle against them then you deserve whatever you take from them. It is the dominant attitude of the people in most prisons. We are a race of criminals and degenerates frankly, and the more one group of people have the more it is true of them than anyone else. So why do some people have so much more than others? It is because they murdered, raped, and stole more from other people, of course. The idea that Europeans somehow deserve the science they took from the Greeks and Arabs is nothing less than disgusting.

Is this the whole truth and nothing but the truth? No. But it is a part of it.

If we would be Christian then we would understand first more than anything we are sinners and whatever we have is by the grace of God, from whom we are given the charge to be good stewards ready to share and take care of all of our neighbors. Jesus says we should give them the shirt off our back, for if we would be great rather than just criminals then we would discard such attitudes of entitlement and be a servant of servant to others.

The Chinese did discover America. Where do you think the American Indians came from? So the question is… why didn’t the Vikings discover America first? Well they didn’t have a land bridge reaching across the ocean so they had to build boats first to get across.

If you think those who crossed the Bering strait did this so long ago that you don’t want them call them Chinese. Well then there is the simple matter of distance. The Pacific Ocean is so much bigger than the Atlantic, isn’t it?

Well… who developed ships first? The Southeast Asians in the South China Sea and the North Africans in the Mediterranean sea, around 3000 BC. Who developed gunpowder first? The Chinese. It was largely because the orient had so much that the Europeans want to go there for trade and so they built bigger ships to go all that distance around the cape of Africa.

Ummm didnt the vikings stepped first on land in America? Never heard of the China discover it though.

Nick, he is referring to Native Americans, who were in the Americas when the Vikings showed up.


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