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    After written language and money, software is only the third major soft technology to appear in human civilization.

    What about numeracy, culture, art, religion? Just to name a few.

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      I would call spoken language a technology, in fact. As well as the ones you’ve listed. :)

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        I agree with you about numeracy. “Culture” and “art” include all technologies, so they aren’t good candidates for inclusion in a list of technologies. “Religion” isn’t a technology; it’s an aspect of human nature, like bipedal locomotion or binocular vision.

        I am pleasantly surprised to learn that we have records of numeracy (in the form of tally sticks) extending back some thirty thousand years, much longer than written language. And maybe oral numeracy is older still.

        What other things would you name?

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          The line between “hard” and “soft” technology, and between “soft technology” and “not a technology” both seem a bit nebulous. For example, are transportation networks a soft technology? Something like the Roman arch bridge seems like a hard technology, and the empire-wide trade network seems like a form of social organization rather than any kind of technology. But the road network seems like a soft technology.

          I might also propose something like “administration” as a soft technology—encompassing things like management, bureaucracy, accounting, organization, etc. These are the technologies on which the modern state, corporation, and economy are built. Arguably money is a special case of this, a form of accounting.

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            The list was for “general purpose” soft technologies.

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          It’s one of those articles that seems plausible on some levels but which glibly uses a series of far too vaguely defined categories. What are other ways I could imagine slicing this stuff up?

          • Written language is a technology for the reproduction of language - a discreet “way to do things” that one person could conceivably use without needing anyone else using it. But it depends on language itself being society wide.
          • Money could be described as a social relationship or a society-wide adaptation. A single person wouldn’t really have any use for money-as-money without a society that used money.
          • The printing press may seem like a “hard” thing but the move type in the printing process was what made it practical and rearranging type is arguably similar to creating software. Printing is very much a technology as such but still dependent on the existence of many readers.
          • Software is even more like a discreet technology - a person could create and use software even if no else in the world understood what they were doing. It’s plausible that the development of software is something altogether new. The argument that algorithm’s rise had a fundamental change in the 2000s in particular is debatable. The rise of Internet overall seem a clearer milepost by far. I recall a friend mentioned how in the late 90’s US railroads finally started using serious software for routing and logistics. Railroads being altogether a huge if barely-visible-now industry, this was a multi-billion dollar step. But life went on as usual generally. Even railroad as far as I know. Software as allowing the Internet seems a bigger step than software as automating railroads - despite the huge savings. The use of computers by banks involved huge steps even earlier. Still, altogether “back office” software, now “big data” has allowed corporate activities at scale with flexibility beyond what would otherwise be possible but just organized more or less the same thing. Even so, it seems like one should date the appearance of software from the 1950s while acknowledging that each decade has allowed steps things that are new and big in some senses.
          • The Internet itself is more like a social relation. People go online individually but they go for the data everyone else produce so an individual Internet wouldn’t be that interesting.

          Another way to look at this process is to see language, writing, printing, mass-media and the Internet as something like a single accelerating strand of communication methods rather than discreet technologies. Where money fits in here is a harder question to answer.