The development of technology has usually been socially determined, changing in direction as different social formations have emerged. For example, there are important distinctions to be made between, first, small communities of farmers or dispersed groups of hunters with technologies outstanding chiefly for their adaptation to local environments; second, the larger kingdoms and empires, whose technology tended to be engineering‐centered; and third, trading communities and merchants or entrepreneurs with production‐centered technologies.
An initial problem in discussing technologies of the first kind is nomenclature. Weiner, who has discussed the remarkable protective clothing developed by the Inuit for life in the Arctic, has described these people as “the great pioneers of microclimatological bioengineering.” This tribute to the control of body heat loss achieved by Inuit clothing is well deserved but places the skills of Arctic people within the wrong frame of reference. Their...
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