Topic 9.1: Advances in Technology and Exchange after 1900

AP Theme

20th century technologies reshaped the world

New 20th-century technologies continued reshaping the world that had begun during the initial stages of the industrial revolution. A few significant impacts were:

  • New communication and transportation technologies increased the flow of information and goods and services.
  • New and cheap energy sources fueled economic growth.
  • Scientific discoveries resulted in medical advances and increased food production, which increased human lifespans.

New communication and transportation technologies

Steamships, railroads, and telegraphs revolutionized communication and transportation in the 19th century. However, those technologies did not impact the daily lives of most people. In contrast, the 20th century saw several new waves of communication and transportation technologies that slowly became accessible to increasing numbers of people. These technologies first spread through the most developed nations before spreading to less developed countries. These technologies included: 

  • Radio communication
  • Cellular communication
  • Internet
  • Air travel
  • Shipping

Positive impacts of new communication and transportation technologies 

  • The speed at which cultures spread increased.
  • Cultures mixed and created new blended cultures.
  • Travel became cheaper and more widely available.
  • Prices of products decreased, making them more affordable for more people.
  • Prices of products decreased, making them more affordable for more people.
  • More diverse viewpoints affected global media, politics, and the economy.
  • Massive economic growth rapidly developed some regions of the world.

Negative impacts of new communication and transportation technologies 

  • Global economic inequality worsened between rich countries that could access new energy sources and poor countries that could not.
  • Increased use of fossil fuels increased environmental pollution, led to deforestation, and contributed to global climate change.

New energy technologies

Coal powered the early industrial revolution. However, coal had its limitations. New energy sources and technologies powered the explosive economic growth of the 20th and early 21st centuries. A few of those technologies include:

  • Oil
  • Natural gas
  • Hydroelectric power
  • Nuclear power

Positive impacts of new communication and transportation technologies 

  • Oil allowed new transportation methods like cars and airplanes, which could not run-on coal-powered steam engines.
  • Oil and gas-powered farming equipment increased agricultural production.
  • Energy prices dropped, allowing people to electrify their homes.
  • Cheap electrification resulted in economic growth as inventors created new electrified consumer products like radios, televisions, water heaters, and home heating.
  • Prices of products decreased, making them more affordable for more people.
  • Petroleum products became the base of many new consumer products like plastic and synthetic fabrics.

Negative impacts of new communication and transportation technologies 

  • Inequalities worsened between rich countries that could access new energy sources and poor countries that could not.
  • Increased use of fossil fuels increased environmental pollution, led to deforestation, and contributed to global climate change.

Medical innovations

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Commercial agriculture and the Green Revolution

The Green Revolution was a series of innovations that increased agricultural production globally, starting in the 1950s and 1960s. The Green Revolution resulted in the following:

  • Increased scientific research related to agriculture.
  • New farming methods that used scientific data and observation.
  • New agricultural technologies such as pesticides, fertilizers, and higher-yield crops.
  • New mechanized and mechanical planting and harvesting tools.

Major Green Revolution innovations included:

  • Genetically engineered plants
  • Synthetic fertilizers (made by people and not naturally occurring)
  • New machines that furthered mechanized agricultural production

Connection across time: Innovations in agriculture reshape the world. When drought-resistant and fast-growing Champa rice arrived in Song China in the 11th century, it fed a rapidly expanding Chinese population, which resulted in the commercialization of China. During the mid-17th century, new agricultural practices in England increased crop yields and provided cheap food for growing urban populations. Increased food supply was a crucial ingredient in the start of the English Industrial Revolution.

Positive impacts of new communication and transportation technologies 

  • Food production increased.
  • Famine and hunger decreased, especially in developing nations.
  • Excess food production slowed the rise in global food prices.
  • Increased agriculture improved rural economies.

Negative impacts of new communication and transportation technologies 

  • Genetically engineered seeds and new fertilizers were too expensive for many small farmers.
  • Environmental pollution from chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollutes land and water supplies. Scientists have also proven links between increased rates of disease and some fertilizers and pesticides.