Han vs Roman Attitudes Toward Tech
Kimberly Giron AP World history September 27, 2012 World History DBQ Han society had positive attitude towards technology as some saw it as beneficial to society and others considered it a gift. Roman society had more of a supportive yet demeaning attitude towards technology. There is no doubt that things that benefit people and gift are considered positive.
A Han government official (Document 1) wrote to local officials in order to advise them on how to use their technology to prevent floods, showing his interests in maintaining the empire so that it doesn’t fall.
Not only that, Han Guan, another government official (Document 2) goes against the way the government is monopolizing the making of technology and that technology should be made by the people, since government made technologies are brittle and costing the government more money as not much salt is being produced. It is very interesting that an official would speak against the government, but it may be due to the fact that the scarcity of salt is costing this official money.
Both officials may also be looking to maintain their positions or get higher ones once the emperor sees how well they are looking after the empire, which can only be maintained with the help of technology. Others in Han society consider technology as a gift from enlightened leaders. Huan Tan, an upper-class philosopher (document 3) mentions that Fuxi invented some technology which was efficient and beneficial to society. Fuxi, is said to be a wise enlightened emperor which means that since Fuxi made it, it is no doubt a great gift.
There is also some government sponsored history (Document 4) which characterizes Tu Shih as a just and commoner loving man who developed technology in order lift some of the burden of labor off the people. Technology was Tu Shih’s gift to the people and Tu Shih, was considered a Fuxi. Therefore this government sponsored historian also considers technology a gift. Roman attitude towards technology was that is was necessary but that it didn’t take much intelligence to make such technology, or in other words, a demeaning attitude.
Cicero, an upper-class politician leader (Document 5), considered technology as something for vulgar common folk,not gentlemen. He believed that skill wasn’t required to use such thing but, he never mentioned that technology was useless. Seneca, a philosopher and adviser (Document 7) also believed that it doesn’t take brains to come up with technology but never attacks it’s use in society as he sees that it doesn’t matter who made it, but its use that matters.
Their attitude must be influenced by the fact that technology was made by the lower class and acknowledging lower class work would mean lowering their pride. Other Roman attitudes were that technology was needed to create beauty. Frontius, a Roman general (Document 8) gives a glowing report on how beautiful technology has been able to make the empire’s aqueducts, far more superior than structures in Greece and Egypt. Plutarch, a high official in Rome (Document 6) gives another positive report on the beauty of Roman roads created by Gaius Gracchus which was built with the help of their technology.
Therefore, technology is practical, is essential for making things beautiful, but looked down upon as it is used by the lower class. Despite the different societies, it is clear that in each empire government officials and upper-class philosophers tend to share attitudes towards technology. It would be interesting to see the attitudes of common workers and women towards technology as they are the ones who make more use of it.
Workers may be most affected by technology as they are the ones whom upper-class Romans consider to be the vulgar people who work with it and brainless people who invent it. In Han societies they would be the ones who produce the salt and also need the protection given by technology. The opinions of women would also provide information on how women were involved in technology and how it affected gender roles. The documents above only provide a view for one class in each society therefore not giving a clear overall attitude on technology in each society.