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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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Chapter 48

Agriculture and Technology

JOHN R. PORTER AND JESPER RASMUSSEN

Agriculture is the human practice of cultivating the land and domesticating animals to produce food, fiber and energy. In a narrow sense, agriculture refers simply to production of these essential human commodities; in a wider sense, it refers to a human activity system that connects social and natural systems such that it is practically impossible to isolate changes in agriculture from changes in socio-economic and cultural conditions. Agriculture is a uniquely human activity and is perhaps the first activity for which humans developed technology. Technology, understood as the use of farming tools and techniques, is an indispensable component in agriculture. In the most general sense, technology permits humans to increase the capture and efficient utilization of solar radiation that drives primary plant production that is the basis of the human food and fiber chain.

Humans have cultivated the land since about 10,000 years ago when the global population reached 1 million. Before that time, and for the preponderance of human history, humans had hunted and gathered their food, fiber and energy since Homo sapiens diverged from its ancestors about 200,000 years ago (Evans 1998). The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, represented by the Neolithic Revolution, was adopted by various independent prehistoric human societies, in various locations. This transition created major social change, including ...

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