职称英语50

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50. The Earth's Learning Curve(人类的学习曲线)

1. Imagine a chart that begins when man first appeared on the planet and tracks the economic growth of societies from then forward. It would be a long, fiat line until the late 16th or early 17th century, when it would start trending upward. Before then the fruits of productive labor were limited to a few elites—princes, merchants and priests. For most of humankind life was as the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously described it in 1651—"solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." But as Hobbes was writing those words, the world around him was changing. Put simply, human beings were getting smarter.

1、想象一下,如果从人类首次在地球上出现开始画一条曲线,追踪在此之后人类社会的经济发展轨迹,那么会发现16世纪晚期或17世纪初期之前,是一条长长的没有多少起伏的线条,之后这条线才开始上扬。在此之前,生产劳动的成果限制在少数上层人士—王子、商人和神职人员—手中。大多数人的生活就像英国哲学家托马斯·霍布斯1651年所作的著名描述那样:“孤独、贫穷、肮脏、粗野、浅薄。”但是就在霍布斯写下这些的时候,他周围的世界正在发生改变。简而言之,人类正变得越来越聪明。

2. People have always sought knowledge, of course, but in Western Europe at that time, men like Galileo, Newton and Descartes began to search systematically for ways to understand and control their environment. The scientific revolution, followed by the Enlightenment, marked a fundamental shift. Humans were no longer searching for ways simply to fit into a natural or divine order; they were seeking to change it. Once people found ways to harness energy—using steam engines—they were able to build machines that harnessed far more power than any human or horse could ever do. And people could work without ever getting tired. The rise of these machines drove the Industrial Revolution, and created a whole new system of life. Today the search for knowledge continues to produce an ongoing revolution in the health and wealth of humankind.

2、当然,人们一直都在探索知识,但是在当时的西欧,像伽利略、牛顿和笛卡尔这样的人开始系统地寻求了解和支配周围环境的方式。科学革命以及随后出现的启蒙运动标志着一次根本性的转变。人类不再只是寻求适应自然法则或神的指示,他们正想方设法改变这一切。人类在找到驾驭能源—使用蒸气机—的方式后,他们便得以制造出机器,而这些机器产生的力量远比任何人或马所产生的力量大。这样一来,人们工作起来就不再觉得累了。这些机器的出现带动了工业革命,创造了一种全新的生活方式。如今,对知识的探寻继续在人类的健康和财富领域带来一场持续不断的革命。

3. If the rise of science marks the first great trend in this story, the second is its diffusion. What was happening in Britain during the Industrial Revolution was not an isolated phenomenon.

A succession of visitors to Britain would go back to report to their countries on the technological and commercial innovations they saw there. Sometimes societies were able to learn extremely fast, as in the United States. Others, like Germany, benefited from starting late , leapfrogging the long-drawn-out process that Britain went through.

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