Technology has always played a fundamental role in human evolution, not only as a species, but also in terms of the international system. The three great economic revolutions show its importance, and how politics and social organization changed.
The Agricultural Revolution, which took place in the Fertile Crescent, China, Central America and North-American East, made it so Homo Sapiens would transition from a nomad hunter-gatherer to agricultural production and consequently do sedentary life, a fact that was only made possible due to the geographical conditions of these locations. It was the first great step towards the social evolution that would culminate in what we know today, and will continue in the future. The advent of technology and its propagation takes place in specific geographic locations, precisely for geographical reasons. Technology emerges in two ways, which are innovation or transfer, the latter being the most frequent, when certain conditions are met, as Jared Diamond argues in his book Guns, Germs and Steel, explaining that the key element for innovation is the competition between different groups and that many technologies come about due to observation and acquisition of what emerges in a specific group as a new idea, and , for this reason, he argues that it was the determining factor for Eurasians to take the initiative in the “discovery” of the world.
While the Agricultural Revolution was a significant transition in the political organization of the species, the Industrial Revolution exerted a drastic influence on the geopolitical field, and consequently on the International System.
The First Industrial Revolution, which took place between 1760 and 1840 in the United Kingdom, took place with the invention of the steam engine, new tools, especially in the textile industry, increasing the production capacity and productivity, which had consequences for the lifestyle in the British isles. The change from manufacture to industry and the utilization of machines for production, together with the creation of new jobs, led to a rural exodus to new industrial cities, where this production was run, leading to the main point of this historical landmark, in which quality of life increased exponentially in the United Kingdom, in aggregate terms. Historically, there is a direct relationship between the availability of food and the increase in population, therefore, with the introduction of the steam engine, by the hand of Thomas Savery, who created a water pump to remove water from mines, and later originated the locomotive, transport and new agricultural technology, allowed for an increased production, leading as a consequence to the increase in the British population. Joining these factors, one finds the reason for British domination during this century. It was also during this period that the creation of identities and nationalities initiated the process of nation-building with the french and american revolutions, transitioning from imperial organization of smaller peoples to the social contract in the vein of Rousseau. It’s in the end of the 19th century that the new concept appears, created by Rudolf Kjellen, under the name “Geopolitics”, to describe the change that took place after the industrial revolution, and the creation of the new German Empire.
The Second Industrial Revolution, in the 19th century, brought other technologies which changed the paradigm in society – electricity and the telephone. Mass production became possible, communication technology connected the world and travel became faster with the combustion engine – and it was believed that the new economic interdependence would end wars. Mackinder arises in this context with the idea of Heartland, and two world wars took place in this time.
The third Revolution, which is known as the Digital Revolution and which took place in the mid 20th century, its where computers emerge and in a rapid sequence of small innovations, semiconductors, personal computers, and the internet, as we arrive at the current paradigm. One must not forget that this revolution toko place as capitalism and communism were fighting an ideological battle through the constant nuclear menace, the invention that marked this phase until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
We’ll be exploring the different steps that took place in this direction in part II, which will allow one to understand its importance in the “new” digital geopolitics.