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The History of Technology: From the Earliest Tools to the Modern Age

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Thinking about time and human progress is pretty mind-bending.

The Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago, and single-celled organisms have existed for about 4 billion of them. Yet, modern humans have only been around 50,000 to 200,000 years, depending on how you define “modern”.

About 30,000 years ago, we domesticated the first animals. Thousands of years later, we used metal for the first time.

If the Earth was only 24 hours old, modern humans have been around since 11:59:59pm – for just one second of time.

The History of Technology

Despite this relatively short stint on Earth, our technological progress has been pretty incredible. The following infographic from Futurism tells the story of the history of technology.

It starts with the beginning of life on Earth, and goes until the founding of early modern technologies, such as the first computer and nuclear power.

The History of Technology

Want more infographics on the history of technology?

See the evolution of battery technology, the history of the video games market, or the evolution of wearable technology.

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Data Visualization

Visualizing Internet Suppression Around the World

Freedom of speech on the internet has been on decline for eight consecutive years. We visualize the death spiral to show who limits speech the most.

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Visualizing Internet Suppression Around the World

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here

When people think of freedom, they often think it in the physical sense, such as the ability to act and behave in certain ways without fear of punishment, or freedom of movement within one’s country.

When a nation chooses to restrict freedom in the physical world, the results are often hard to ignore. Protests are met with tear gas and rubber bullets. Road checks pop up along transportation routes. Journalists are detained.

In the digital world, creeping control often appears in more subtle ways. Personal data is accessed without us knowing, and swarms of suspiciously like-minded accounts begin to overwhelm meaningful conversations on social media platforms.

The Freedom on the Net Report, by Freedom House, breaks internet suppression down into a number of elements, from content filtering to detention of online publishers. Here’s how a number of countries around the world stack up:

internet freedom by country

According to the report, internet freedom around the world has been falling steadily for eight consecutive years. Today’s graphic is an international look at the state of internet freedom.

First World Problems

At its best, the internet allows us to seek out information and make choices free from coercion or hidden manipulation. Even in countries with relatively open access to information this is becoming increasingly difficult.

In Western countries, internet suppression often rears its head in the form of misinformation and excessive data collection. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was a potent example of how the vast amounts of data collected by platforms and third parties can be used to manipulate public opinion.

The backlash to this data collection by tech companies also produced one of the most promising developments in the past year – the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While the regulations are not applicable to government and military entities, it does create a pathway to increased transparency and accountability for companies collecting user data.

Control Creep

Around one-third of the people in the world live in countries that are considered “partly free”.

For most users, access to online information may not look too different from the internet experience in Iceland or Estonia, but there are creeping controls in specific areas.

In Turkey, Wikipedia was blocked and social media companies were compelled to censor political commentary. The country had one of the largest declines in internet freedom in recent years.

In Nigeria, data localization requirements have been enacted. This follows the lead of places like China and Vietnam, where servers must be located within the country for “the inspection, storage, and provision of information at the request of competent state management agencies.”

Access Denied

For many people around the world – particularly in Asia – accessing information online is a fundamentally different experience. Content published by an individual can be monitored and censored, and online activity that would be considered benign in Western countries can result in severe real-world consequences such as imprisonment or death.

As today’s data visualization vividly illustrates, China has by far the most restricted internet of the 65 countries covered in the report.

Network operators in the country are obligated to store all user data within the country (which can be accessed by governmental bodies), and are required to immediately stop the transmission of “banned content”. The country is also further cracking down the use of VPNs, which are used to circumvent China’s Great Firewall.

Of course, China is not alone in the desire to implement tight controls over online access. Many places, from Vietnam to Ethiopia, are eager to embrace the “China Model”. The country, which is aggressively ramping up its influence around globe, is more than happy expand its influence through exporting models of governance to new technologies, such as facial recognition.

Meanwhile, in Russia, the popular messaging app, Telegram, was blocked due to its refusal to allow the country’s security service access to encrypted data. This example highlights a growing dilemma faced by tech companies operating internationally – acquiesce to government demands, or lose access to huge markets.

A Tale of Two Internets

Today, there are two prodominant flavors of internet on the menu – the Silicon Valley offering dominated by major tech companies, and the top-down, state-controlled version being spread in earnest by Beijing. It would be a mistake to believe that the former is the clear choice for jurisdictions around the world.

In many countries in Africa, communications infrastructure is still being built out, so assistance from Chinese companies is accepted with open arms.

Our Chinese friends have managed to block such media in their country and replaced them with their homegrown sites that are safe, constructive, and popular.

– Edwin Ngonyani, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication

Even though the internet is now three decades old, its form is still evolving. It remains to be seen whether the divergence between free and not free jurisdictions continues to grow.

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Banks

Visualizing the Future of Banking Talent

Banking talent is undergoing a fundamental shift. This infographic explores how banks are adapting to rapid automation and digitization in the industry.

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Visualizing the Future of Banking Talent

View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here

Many organizations say that their greatest asset is their people. In fact, Richard Branson has famously stated that employees come first at Virgin, ranking ahead of customers and shareholders. So, how do businesses effectively manage this talent to drive success?

This question is top of mind for many bank CEOs. As processes become increasingly automated and digitized, the composition of banking talent is changing – and banks will need to become adept at hitting a moving target.

Six Ways Banks are Becoming Talent-First

Today’s infographic comes from McKinsey & Company, and it explores six ways banks are becoming talent-first organizations:

1. They understand future talent requirements.

43% of all bank working hours can be automated with current technologies.

Consequently, talent requirements are shifting from basic cognitive skills to socio-emotional and technological skills. Banks will need to analyze where they have long-term gaps and develop a plan to close them.

2. They identify critical roles and manage talent accordingly.

It is estimated that just 50 key roles drive 80% of bank business value. Banks will need to identify these roles based on data rather than traditional hierarchy. In fact, 90% of critical talent is missed when organizations only focus at the top.

Then, banks must match the best performers to these roles and actively manage their development.

3. They adopt an agile business model.

Banks will need to shift from a hierarchical structure to an agile one, where leadership enables networks of teams to achieve their missions. As opportunities come and go, teams are reallocated accordingly.

This flexible structure has many potential benefits, including fewer product defects, lower costs, shorter time-to-market, increases in customer satisfaction, and a bump in employee engagement.

4. They use data to make people decisions.

Instead of making decisions based on subjective biases or customary practices, banks will need to rely on the power of data to:

  • Recruit
  • Retain
  • Motivate
  • Promote

For example, company data can be used to develop a heatmap of the roles with the highest attrition rates. Leaders can then focus their retention efforts accordingly.

5. They focus on inclusion and diversity.

Gender and ethnicity diversification leads to higher financial performance, better decision making, higher employee satisfaction, and an enhanced company image.

Industry-leading banks will set measurable diversity goals, and re-evaluate all processes to expose unconscious biases. For example, one organization saw 15% more women pass resume screening when they automated the process.

6. They ensure the board is focused on talent.

Only 5% of corporate directors believe they are effective at developing talent.

To be successful, boards will need to recognize Human Resources (HR) as a strategic partner rather than as a primarily transactional function. The CEO, CFO, and CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) form a group of three that makes major decisions on human and financial capital allocation.

CEOs worldwide see human capital as a top challenge, and yet they rank HR as only the eighth or ninth most important function in a business. Clearly, this is a disconnect that needs to be addressed. To keep up with rapid change, banks will need to bring HR to the forefront – or risk being left behind.

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