Layers of the Civilizational Tech-Stack

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The Consilience Project:

"Consider the categories below as overlapping; this overall model is only a heuristic. There are a variety of comparable stacks proposed in the academic literature, many of which have influenced the model presented here. This is not proposed as definitive, but as a useful set of orienting generalizations.


Human-scale artifacts, found or made, which augment individual and social practices: rocks, axes, forks, writing implements, etc.


The application of complex (scientific) knowledge to solving problems, embedded in intentionally designed artifacts that are complicated enough to require engineering: waterwheel; steam engine; light bulb; refrigerator.

Ecologies of technologies

Sets of technologies that are symbiotically related and co-evolving as nested functional units: e.g., light bulb/lamp/power lines/transformers/power station; and microchip/hard drive/screen/mouse/modem/broadband/server banks.


Multiple different ecologies of technology embedded together to form a basic part of social coordination and material reproduction within a society: supply chains, transportation systems, markets, communication systems.

Technological epochs

A duration of historical time characterized by a specific suite of infrastructures that are interrelated as the foundation of a social system. Epochs are marked by discontinuous breaks from prior infrastructures, and the emergent social dynamics resulting from new ones: e.g. pre-industrial; industrial; post-industrial."