Culture Magazine

Milestones in the Utilization of Energy from Prehistory to Present

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
This is another post using material from David Hays, The Evolution of Technology Through Four Cognitive Ranks. New York, Metagram Press, 1995. The third chapter is entitled “Energetics” and discusses the history of humankind’s energy use. The table below is redrawn from Hays’s Figure 3.1 and lists “technological innovations in conversion and application of energy”.
The innovations are listed in order from most recent to oldest and according to the date when the main event occurred, rather than the earliest. I’ve colored the rows according to the highest rank where the innovation appears. It’s possible that if Hays were alive (he died in 1995) there would be rows for contemporary wind power, solar, and perhaps other renewables. Hays's chapter 3 of course has discussions of these innovations
If you are not yet familiar with the ranks concept, roughly speaking Rank 1 societies are preliterate, Rank 2 are literate, Rank 3 is post-Renaissance West up through industrial and Rank 4 started emerging in the 20th century. This post gives a brief introduction to the concept: Cognitive evolution over the longue durée: Ranks, cities, and rankshift. Here’s a general guide to our publications on rank theory (New Savanna post, downloadable PDF).
Milestones in human energy use and conversation
Milestones in the utilization of energy from prehistory to present

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