Human beings have been exploiting technology and innovation to our advantage for longer than recorded history. Technologies can be survival-based, like the harnessing of fire, or social, such as music. I would like to address what I call:
Intelligence Enhancement Technologies: those innovations which have enabled us to extend our intellectual capabilities both as individuals and societies.
The Development of Language brought about the ability
to share complex information between individuals
as well as increasing the ability of the individual to conceptualize about the world. Obviously a critical step in the evolution of man and society.
Writing (any questions here?) allows the recording
of information so that it can now be shared (between individuals) or maintained
(by an individual) across time and space.
I would also note the effect of luck: The movable-type printing press had much greater social and economic impact in Western Europe, with its phonetically-based alphabets, than it's land of invention, China, where writing is done with a word-based character set. One could argue movable type caused the Enlightenment.
Of course, you know where this is going...
Computers have already undone the way we approach intellectual challenges, and we're merely on the cusp of what will surely be as revolutionary in its impact on the development of consciousness (human and otherwise) as was the harnessing of language.
Next: Critical-Path Technologies
The future history of consciousness