March 25, 2013

The Great Ages of Humanity Past and Future

What are the great ages of humanity that relate to science, technology, intellectual advancement or exploration ?

The Renaissance (Europe, 14th century – 16th century)

The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the rest of Europe by the 16th century, its influence was felt in literature, philosophy, art, music, politics, science, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. Renaissance scholars employed the humanist method in study, and searched for realism and human emotion in art. In all, the Renaissance could be viewed as an attempt by intellectuals to study and improve the secular and worldly, both through the revival of ideas from antiquity, and through novel approaches to thought.

The rediscovery of ancient texts and the invention of printing democratized learning and allowed a faster propagation of ideas. In the first period of Italian Renaissance, humanists favored the study of humanities over natural philosophy or applied mathematics. And their reverence for classical sources further enshrined the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic views of the universe.

The willingness to question previously held truths and search for new answers resulted in a period of major scientific advancements. Some have seen this as a "scientific revolution", heralding the beginning of the modern age. Others as an acceleration of a continuous process stretching from the ancient world to the present day.

One important development was not any specific discovery, but rather the further development of the process for discovery, the scientific method. It focused on empirical evidence, the importance of mathematics, and discarded Aristotelian science. Early and influential proponents of these ideas included Copernicus and Galileo and Francis Bacon. The new scientific method led to great contributions in the fields of astronomy, physics, biology, and anatomy

Age of Discovery (or Exploration) (Europe, 14th century – 17th century)

Colonial Era (1500-1900)

Industrious Revolution, (Europe, 16th - 18th century)

The basic picture painted of the pre-Industrial Revolution is that the Industrial Revolution was the result of a surplus of money and crops, which led to the development of new technology. This new technology eventually developed into factories. The Industrious Revolution addresses this belief, saying instead, that the overwhelming desire for more goods directly preceded the Industrial Revolution. The theory states that during the Industrious Revolution there was an increase in demand for goods, but that supply did not rise as quickly. Eventually some achievements of industry and agriculture, as well as the decisions made by households, helped to increase the supply, as well as the demand for goods. These behaviors, when combined constitute an Industrious Revolution.

The Age of Enlightenment (or Reason) (Europe, 18th century)

The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals in the 17th and 18th centuries, which began first in Europe and later in the American colonies. Its purpose was to reform society using reason, challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thought, skepticism and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition intolerance and some abuses of power by the church and the state.

Industrial Revolution (Europe, United States, elsewhere 18th and 19th centuries)

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes that occurred in the period from about 1760 to some time between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power and development of machine tools. The transition also included the change from wood and other bio-fuels to coal. The Industrial revolution began in Britain and within a few decades spread to Western Europe and the United States. The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. Most notably, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth.

Age of Oil (after 1901)

Atomic Age (after 1945)

Space Age (after 1957)

Possible Future Ages - comparable to or greater than past ages

True Space Age

Beginning with re-usuable rockets that lower the cost of access to space to $10-100 per kilogram.
Orbiting fuel depots and the use of resources and energy in space.
Bigelow inflatable space stations allow for affordable initial colonization.
Spiderfab construction of large structures enable powerful solar sails and space based solar power.
Electric Sails and autonomous robotic ships enable propellentless movement and gathering of resources by harnessing the solar wind.

Age of Space Colonization
Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space stations, robotics, space based construction allow for orbital colonization, lunar colonization, Mars colonization, Lagrange points and asteroids.

Note - temporary colonies that do not last will not count. The Vikings created colonies that did not truly last. The colonies must have follow up and lead to populations in the millions (although it is ok if this can take many decades)

Second Nuclear Age

Development of nuclear fusion (dense plasma focus fusion, iec fusion, general fusion, helion energy and fusion propulsion and power generation by John Slough etc...)
Factory mass produced deep burn fission
Nuclear fusion for space propulsion

Age of Nanotechnology

The Industrial Revolution included steam power developments, scaling up of iron production with coke and steam and water power and textile machines increasing working output by 1000 times. They also had the pre-industrial revolution era with the industrious revolution.

It will be interesting to see if historians split this into two eras.

* The synthetic biology and DNA nanotechnology era
* the nanofactory-diamondoid era

The New Enlightenment

The era of intelligence amplification
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Exobrains and mind brain interfaces
Quantum computing era
Robotics wave

Era of physics reborn / renaissance

Renaissance means rebirth.
One or more things turns out to have radical new physics -

* Mach effect propulsion - super sub-light travel and possible tranversible wormholes
* Eagleworks - Harold White Space warping and propulsion work out
* LENR would need to be proven true and have fundamentally new physics

Age without limits

This would be when radical life extension takes hold.

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