Society and Technology Seminar
Organized by the UNAM
Conference by Mr. Carlos Slim Helú

Dr. Gustavo Baz Prada Auditorium, Ancient School of Medicine, Mexico City
February 17th, 2009

  Page 1/ 3 next

Carlos Slim, president of Grupo Carso:  In antiquity, there were numerous paradises, earthly paradises where sedentism was originated and in some way gave rise to Agriculture, sedentism faced with the abundance of fauna and flora in these extraordinary valleys, either in Mesopotamia, in China, in the Nile River or in the Valley of Mexico, places that were plenty of water, therefore plenty of flora, and benign climates, so the groups of nomads started settling in those places.

Thereby, sedentism started giving rise to civilization.  A civilization started with groups of 40 or 50 people, numerous tribes which probably by the end of the classification were estimated to be eight or ten million people, it means that there would be around 200 thousand groups all around basically searching for food, and as the easy way of life came to these paradises, these places, these generous valleys full of flora and fauna, agriculture is discovered; population started growing, and growing, and expanding; then, agricultural civilizations were born during those eight or ten thousand years which came to be so important.

Well, other civilizations had their own paradigms, and technologies were also developing in those civilizations, I would say that much of the technology and of the great advances of humanity begun, probably, they talk about that for example fire has at least 600 thousand years of being dominated.

We can observe the way in which many of our ancestors used to express themselves with cave painting; or like language which doctor Castañeda indicated to be so important in evolution and in the progress of the societies and human beings.

It is believed or it has not been confirmed if the Neanderthal could also use language as we do or surely the fundamental language thing; and more recently we talked about agriculture, but about writing too, and numbers, number handling, the discovery of the zero, which is fundamental too, the development of many other arts, from astronomy to medicine, herbal medicine and surgery are a great leap forward; of course, pottery and other advances until we find the Bronze Age.

Even during the Neolithic, the advances of the ancient society were many.  And this agricultural society used to have its own paradigms too; this primitive or advanced agricultural society had the same paradigms which are very much different from today’s paradigms.  I think that in order to understand this new civilization it would be convenient to see which those paradigms were and which today’s paradigms are; in those days, we can observe that power was monolithic everywhere.

The same character holds religious power, military power, as well as the economic and political power.  It is not casual that the Japanese emperor descends from divinity; European monarchs are also crowned in this same way.

Then, there is a close and monolithic relationship between religious power, political power and of course, economic and military power.  It is also a society that includes social immobility as an important feature, tactically there is social immobility, excepting through wars and sometimes through commerce, where there can be some type of upward mobility.

More spaces, land and slave labor were required, and slavery took part of its paradigms, as social immobility did, the economy tried to produce more and consume less.

So it is a society that evolved and made very much progress.  It had great advances in every field, not only military, political or economic, but basically a development, for example, in arts, science, knowledge philosophy; since Greece, the Phoenicians, the Renascent or the theoretical stage, I mean civilization in all the knowledge fields, and curiously it also had this characteristic that it often bloomed and developed in small towns where very few people lived in, and those people were like the heart of the world of those developments, as Greece, or Athens, Florence or Rome, or some others could have been… or as it is today or as it could have been recently Silicon Valley for the technological part, or science in England or music in Germany, etc.

It would be interesting that you individually or in group could review which the technological advancements were in these ten thousand years that had contributed so much today for the advancement of the civilization.

And all those technological advancements, you realize that they imply a better efficacy in the operation of the society, a greater productivity, with less effort, and a lesser need of so many people doing something, a reduction in the efforts on the society tasks.

And we started since the agricultural society back when those paradises were found, and lets say that back then, 50 people, exception made for maybe just a few, were completely dedicated to hunt and get the food.  When they get to a place where there is plenty of food, they probably thought: “hey, let’s keep being nomads, because we will be unemployed and with nothing to do”, didn’t they?

It was such a primitive and elemental society that they quickly settle and instead of 40 people searching for food, maybe that job was done by 10 or 15 and the other ones started some other type of activities not related with food, and that was what made society and civilization to progress.

This was the step from being a nomad society to a sedentary or agricultural society.  It was so evident because it was a very simple society, it turns very complex when we talk about industrial or technological society, but I think that if we reduce it to the elemental, they are very similar, the only thing we need to do is to conduct the changes.

Good part of this agricultural society quickly started other activities, they started organizing; they maybe started making clothes or houses, and they started organizing in some way.  Maybe, before that, the leader was the best hunter or the strongest man, by this time, the leader started to be the wisest and most experienced one, they even started to make a general counsel, they changed the way to operate.

And it was later organized with this social immobility we already talked about, when the agricultural society is more advanced and the conditions we mentioned before come along.  It was very important to have fertile land back then, to conquer this land and to have servants.  Slavery was of course one of the main characteristics and so was differenced social classes, which was essential in this society in order to have enough people working on the fields, that was primary agricultural production.

This society kept progressing; it advanced very much without question, from plow, irrigation, to writing.  Knowledge continued its advancement, there is a great advancement in Greece, and then engineering advanced very much in Rome, with the arch and dome and the great construction and infrastructure works that developed tremendous monuments and the advances continued everywhere, with science, knowledge, arts, etc., everything advanced very much, but it also kept the same monolithic characteristic of social immobility as well.

If we observe the way these civilizations were progressing and technology also advanced in those civilizations, the way they worked with constructions, architecture, roads, and of course, one of the great advancements of that time that was fundamental for the development of the occidental man, which is navigation.

Navigation and trade which were started by the Phoenicians more than three thousand years ago, globalized the whole Mediterranean. It was an enormous globalization that allowed the exchange of knowledge and merchandise and a better organization, as well as the opportunity to have the impulse and development they had afterwards.

There is no doubt that communications have always been what makes regions or the world to globalize.  In fact, if we observe the change in the 20th century, it was a change of a society that was moving at the speed of the horse or steam, to other one moving at the speed of light and sound.  So those were the great transformations that were originated by globalizations.

The next one with this same characteristic was America, even though we were still in the Neolithic, we did not know or worked with metals, not to mention steel, the society was very advanced also, it was organized in the same structure, there were empires that were created to control their neighbors and that was what allowed this society to grow.  And so, we are talking maybe about eight million people, nobody knows how many people, we don’t know.

Well, besides that, it is important to mention that recent investigations tell us that there were various subspecies, or at least two that lived at the same time, the Neanderthal and the Cro-Magnon, but they have found remains of many others and surely in 15 years, the advancement will be noticeable, mostly about our ancestors or those who lived or are related within the whole development of the human society.

But, as it is also said, by those who dare to, they say that in the time during which life has been on Earth, 90 percent of the species have disappeared and many of them were to give birth to mammals, the group we all come from.

So, back to the agricultural society, it was a society in which exploitation of Man by Man was usual, the sole idea was usual; conquering, sacking, and such, form part of its characteristics.

Then, a civilization gets to change when technological advancements, which are a sort of mutation, take place.  It is not only evolution, but there are mutations that provoke great technological changes, that provoke great increases in production and productivity.

It was with the steam engine when there first was a breakthrough; there was a sort of mutation, a little slow at first, but that mutation became enormous when electricity and the combustion engine appeared by the end of the 19th century, beginnings of the 20th.

It was the enormous mutation, the change, what created the industrial societies; societies stopped being agricultural and rural to turn into urban and industrial societies.

And it is interesting because from that agricultural society, the population, or the world, or the possibility of fertility and the way of production, allowed passing from eight or ten million to a thousand or 800 million people.

And when the industrial society came, the ease of production, distribution, health, child mortality is lowered, as well as maternal mortality, etc. it allowed the society to grow and reach the present levels of six thousand 500 million people.

So the result of the technological advancement is that we can be so many.

But again with industrial society, this industrial society came to provoke great changes in society, really great changes, in which, as I was saying before, the population stopped being rural and became urban, stopped being agricultural and started being industrial; they stopped performing primary activities and started with the secondary; primary products started transforming and most of the population started little by little to be more into the industrial production, manufacture, non agricultural or primary activities, that was when they became industrial in the 20th century.

These technological developments in the 20th century are sustained with science that was developed in the 19th, which allowed these advancements.

Today, things go faster, scientific advancements are more rapidly linked with technological advancements.

Just by the way, let’s think about the press.  There is no doubt that among the many discoveries that Man has done, the press has been formidable.

It has been ascribed to Gutenberg, although the Chinese already handled it, but whosever invention it was, it was formidable, unfortunately it did not have much effect over societies.

And why didn’t the press have much impact effects?  That was because the people were illiterate until the 20th century.  There were just a few people who knew how to read until the 19th century, just a few knew how to read, and nobody in the rural areas knew how to read, for that reason the edicts had to be read and dictated and there was a spokesman so everybody could know what was being regulated.  So the press did not have much effect because of that and because of the social immobility.

Nowadays, on the contrary, anything, any advancement is more on hand, within the reach of many thousands of millions of people; what in the past, maybe five million people could read in the Middle Age, I don’t know how many, in the Renascent, maybe ten.  Now, each one of the advances is within the reach of many more.

After this industrial society which was still dragging from the agricultural society.  A civilizing change is a cultural collision, it is a change in the paradigms, it has many other transformations and many times very difficult situations are maintained, and they provoke some or many problems, or some serious problems.

And well, this industrial society was progressing little by little and along came what was called post modernity, the advanced industry, etc. and society was already more benign, it needed more well-prepared people, not so much the strength, but someone who knew how to use the machine.

Productivity in the countryside with the help of a tractor rises up 25 times, then they had to produce 25 times more and it was done with less people.  That is why many people switched to the industrial sector or else.

The interesting matter here is that as technology and productivity advances, it is easier to create wealth, to produce goods and to generate services.

  Page 1/ 3 next
Official Site. Copyright © 2011