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Andrew Vang

You are writing a paper on a topic that you have presented. You remember all the other
papers you have written in your life and how you have changed or improved to make the papers
you have written better. This is a small scale example of the question of how has humanity
learned from its past? This question is very broad so the key viewpoints will be narrowed down
to three main points: environment/agriculture, technology, and human interaction.
First up is about environment and agriculture and how we have learned from the past to
constantly improve and become better at farming and preserving the world we live in. The
present nature and complexity of socioecological systems are heavily contingent on the past, we
cannot fully appreciate the present condition without going back decades, centuries, or even
millennia (Costanza, et al.). There have been many advances in the way we approach
agriculture and farming to improve production and maintenance of the land we grow them on.
There have been many implementations such as better irrigation systems, improved planting
techniques such as crop rotating to help the ground replenish nutrients, and better things to use
on plants such as new fertilizers and planting tools. With these improvements to agriculture also
comes concern for the environment and all that it encompasses. There are a lot of people who are
concerned with the way crops and livestock are raised now and they raise many questions on
what is exactly in our food that we eat. A lot of people fear the idea of chemical additives or
genetically modified food. Although many people are skeptical of these things; the additives and
modified foods are generally harmless. Food additives are chemicals that keep food fresh or
enhance its color, flavor, or texture. Some people are sensitive to food additives, but this is rare
(Better Health Channel). Agriculture has improved by great leaps and bounds and any mishaps

in it are always learned from and quickly corrected to make a better more efficient agricultural
structure and better and improved food for the population.
Many people also argue that humanity is destroying and polluting the environment and
hurting everyone that resides in it. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the
U.S.s most effective environmental action group, states Outdoor air pollution is associated with
over one million deaths and countless illnesses each year across the globe. They also go on to
talk about important issues such as how we treat the environment, safe drinking water. Others
also like to argue on the issues of pollution on the environment and lack of care for it.
Although there are many who speak out saying we dont take enough care of the
environment we have done a lot of things improve and reduce pollution. Even in the past
hundred or so years we have done many things to improve the environment. Examples of this
include preserving certain endangered wildlife and plants and replanting trees in areas where we
have harvested trees for lumber. Humanity has also learned the harmful ways of acting and
many, even some governments, have taken action to reduce pollution or destruction of the
environment in many ways. A prime example of this is the Clean Air Act. The EPA
(Environmental Protection Agency) states Clean Air Act programs have lowered the levels of
six common pollutants particles, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur
dioxide as well as numerous toxic pollutants. Now there are many things such as regulations
and procedures that many have to follow to keep within guidelines of these laws that protect the
environment. If you look back a bit further you would see that few of these things were
practiced if at all. The views of the agriculture/environment has greatly changed since the past
and we are constantly learning to improve and better understand the environment.

Technology is probably one of the biggest things we have been able to learn from and
advance from by looking at our past. There are so many cases of this that has happened already
and so many more cases going on even now. In the past, societies have benefited from many
great technological advancements that today most wouldnt even consider as technology. The
invention of the wheel is one. The oldest known wheel found in an archaeological excavation is
from Mesopotamia and dates to around 3500 BC. It seems it was a potters wheel (AncientOrigins). Over the years the wheel has been used to make the lives of everyone easier, especially
when it came to transportation. It was later improved by many different methods such as making
the wheels smaller or bigger and even changing the material a wheel is made out of from wood
to rubber has made the wheel much better as a better developed tech. The wheel was not only
used in transportation, but it was also used in various places such as mills or as gears to help
quicken the process and make it easier for things to run smoothly.
Everything we own or use on a daily basis has been an innovation that was touched on
and improved so that it would make our lives easier. Examples of these is how we have evolved
over the years to use more electricity instead of fire and using computers and web more to save
on paper usage and waste or how we went from walking to cart and horse to riding cars that are
self-powered and does not rely on manpower to move. Even in the past century we have seen
many technological improvements such as better cars, computers, phones, and even television. A
major example would be the object that no one cannot not have nowadays, the phone. The phone
has undergone many changes and continues to go through many changes even as speak. The
phone as we all know used to be a big receiver with dials that was hung around your home. Then
it became mobile but was still too big to effectively carry around. In 1983, the Motorola
DynaTAC 8000x arrived on the market. Though huge by todays standards, it was considered the

first truly mobile phone because it was small enough to carry (The Art Institutes). Then later it
was improved upon and the purpose of the phone changed completely. What once was just a
device used for talking could now take pictures and send messages too. We further learned from
this and now we have today the modern phone that can surf the net, play games, as well as talk
and text people. The phone was improved so much that it became a tool in our daily lives that is
irreplaceable. Some people even joke (or maybe they are serious) about having their entire lives
on their phone. These are essential reasons why we must also look back on history and try to be
better than it, especially when it comes to technology because we constantly must improve so
that we can be one step ahead of how we were before. We have to learn from the past to improve
otherwise we will get complacent and stop being one step better than our predecessors.
There are however, some people who are against the advancement of technology. Kevin
Kelly, Senior Maverick at Wired magazine, wrote an article that compiled a list of all the reasons
many are against the advancement of technology. Kelly states,
I think there are four basic arguments against technology with many sub-reasons. In summary:
Technology should be reduced as much as possible because it is contrary to nature and/or
humanity, and/or technology itself and finally, because it is a type of evil and thus is contrary to
Kelly then goes into detail about these topics like how we are destroying the environment with
things such as pollution, how we are destroying ourselves by eroding human character, how
technology is destroying itself by advancing too fast, and how technology is evil because it can
be created solely for the purpose of killing humans such as weaponry or failed products that
cause harm. He talks about how technology greatly improved especially during wartime where
research and technology are greatly boosted but more at the cost of the world acquiring more

deadly weapons that are more efficient at mass killing. Albert Einstein once said I fear the day
that technology will surpass our human interaction. Many argue that nowadays people are
losing the ability the talks and converse with others because they are too engrossed in the use of
Many like to argue that humans are becoming more detached from others due to this
virtual distance. Karen Sobel Lojeski, a writer for The Conversation, states Virtual distance is
a psychological and emotional sense of detachment that accumulates little by little, at the subconscious level. Many are unsatisfied by how technology has taken over. Karehka Ramey, a
writer for Use of Technology, goes through a list a pros and cons on the use of technology. He
states Today businesses who have embraced technology have gained an advantage in the
market, but it may cut down the number of manual labor which will put many out of businesses.
The debate over whether technology is better or worse for us is a controversial topic that is
argued on both sides.
These arguments are valid in their own respect but others have their own say in it on how
technology is good and more beneficial for us than it is harmful. A website called
allows users to post up their thoughts and over 70% of reviewers think that technology is good
for our society due to various reasons like ease of access to various sources of information or the
ability to do things at a faster rate and pace than we would without technology. I believe that
technology is more helpful than it is destructive to us. An example of this is how technology has
increased everyones global presence and given us easier ways to access other countries. Another
example is how quickly we are able to access information and keep up with current events.
Anything that happens is instantly broadcasted or uploaded to the internet for people to read over
or watch. Even though there are things that are a bit disheartening about technological

development, like virtual distancing; I think it will never become anything major that will
drastically affect the way behave. With proper management and use of it, technology can help to
further our growth and learning.
The social or human interaction aspect of learning from our past has also been very
beneficial to us. Smith, a writer for the Journal of International Studies, says Imagery has
always played a crucial role in politics and nowhere more so than in our understanding of
nationalism. He talks about how we as a society learn to view nations and have pride for where
we live. This is a big difference from the age where everything was either city-states or empires
ruled by a few people. He also talks about how humans have come to have a better appreciation
and love for their country of residence too. This point is to show that as a society we have been
able to grow and learn and become cohesive superpowers compared to being tiny bands of small
civilizations. As a society that has to interact with others learning from and doing better than the
past is a must to improve relations with all those that you meet and talk to on a regular day basis.
Examples of social changes can include everything from how nations have developed, how
economies sprung up, and even how we treat others. Another social aspect that we have changed
over the course of time is on the treatment of others. We have come a long way from the way
things were in the past. Of course there is still things such as discrimination in the world, but it is
not as blatant or evident in many parts of the world. This topic like all the others is debatable but
almost everyone would agree that discrimination is still present in some way, shape or form. The
thing most people debate on is if it is getting worse or better in the world. On the one hand many
argue that discrimination is prevalent and is getting worse as the years go by. Many people
believe that discrimination is worse than ever before and almost everyone agrees that something
needs to be done. Harry Alford, co-founder and CEO/President of the National Black Chamber

of Commerce states Why is there still discrimination even though we have all these safeguards?
Its because we really dont enforce it as we should. He talks about how because of our inability
to enforce these laws and rules discrimination exists still. On an overwhelming 95%
of people still believe that discrimination is still prevalent and rampaging about in this country.
Mychal Denzel Smith says Yes, America has gotten better about racism and discrimination, but
that really doesnt matter. He goes on to say that better isnt going to help those who are still
oppressed by both racism and discrimination. In my opinion yes, we have learned to better
improve relations with everyone but we still have a long way to go. I feel that the battle to
improve and learn from our past regarding how we treat others is an upward battle. Although it is
an upward battle I feel that we are slowly (and when I say slowly I mean REAL SLOW) closing
that gap to the top. I think it is only a matter of time and further improvement of ourselves and
our descendants before we are able to do away with these undesirable issues and work towards a
way to unite and eventually face bigger and harder challenges and then learn from those later
In conclusion human society has come a long way from what it used to be. Whether that
be improvements to agriculture, technology and human interactions. There is still many things to
learn from the past though and we have to constantly learn from our mistakes and successes and
those of our predecessors. This thesis has only scratched the surface of learning from the past.
The area is of study is very broad and hard to put into one piece of writing. Hopefully you are
aware that we have to learn from the past to improve the future and will take steps to learn or
research yourself.

Works Cited
Alford, Harry. "So Why Is There Still Discrimination?" So Why Is There Still Discrimination?
Web. 28 Apr. 2015.
Anthony Smith.The Nation: Invented, Imagined, Reconstructed. Millennium Journal of
International Studies Vol. 20 no. 3.(1991) March 2015.
"Food Additives - Better Health Channel." Better Health Channel. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.
"Environment and Health." Pollution, Toxic Chemicals & Your Health. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.
Kelly, Kevin. "4 Arguments Against Technology." Harvard Business Review. N.p., 17 Apr. 2009.
Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

"Is Technology Good for Our Society." ? N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Lojeski, Karen. "Technology Is Rewriting the Rulebook for Human Interaction." Technology Is
Rewriting the Rulebook for Human Interaction. 13 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Pimentel, David.Agrodiversity: Learning from Farmers across the World Review. BioScience,
Vol. 55, No. 5 (May 2005), pp. 452-253. Web. 23 March 2015.

"Progress Cleaning the Air and Improving People's Health." EPA. Environmental Protection
Agency. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Ramey, Karehka. "Pros and Cons of Using Technology." Use of Technology. 15 Oct. 2012. Web.
28 Apr. 2015.

Ray, Amanda. "The History and Evolution of Cell Phones." The Art Institutes Blog. Web. 28 Apr.

Smith, Mychal. "Yes, America Has Gotten Better About Racism, but It Really Doesn't Matter."
Yes, America Has Gotten Better About Racism, but It Really Doesn't Matter. 22 Nov. 2013. Web.
28 Apr. 2015.

Sustainability or Collapse: What Can We Learn from Integrating the History of Humans and the
Rest of Nature?
Robert Costanza, Lisa Graumlich, Will Steffen, Carole Crumley, John Dearing, Kathy Hibbard,
Rik Leemans, Charles Redman and David Schimel
Ambio, Vol. 36, No. 7 (Nov., 2007), pp. 522-527. Web. 16 March 2015.

"The Revolutionary Invention of the Wheel." Ancient Origins. 2 June 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.