Ultimately, all human development revolves around using things that are rare or hard to do, to create new openings and opportunities that enable further development.
There was a time when horses existed only as weapons of war to be used by the elite. Over time, it became possible to use horses for farm work and they became ubiquitous. Finally, the amount of accumulated food supply made enough specialization and manufacturing and engineering possible to allow the creation of internal combustion engines, at which point the many horses were replaced by something better.
Without a time when there were few horses we could never have had many horses. Without many horses we could never have had tractors. And now, with enough tractors, we can finally take the bulk of humanity off the subsistence farm and hopefully reduce overall drudgery, in a way that our Iron Age ancestors never could no matter how virtuous or charitable they were.
K. A. Pital wrote: ↑
Funny example. The nomads were often dispossessed historical phenomena, but they had horses. A horse as capital, as means of production, is tied with the development of class societies in the feudal and early capitalist period. Its status as luxury now is also a result of our society's structure. Natural resources are now scarce, and most humans live in cities, so horse-keeping costs made it a luxury. Although originally it may have been accessible to non-propertied classes.
If this curve of adoption (totally inaccessible - widely accessible - only accessible for the rich) happens to vital future medtech, we're very fucked
Except, as noted, the third stage of this process only occurred because a horse is a live animal that can feed itself and exist without sustenance in the wild... but which requires labor-intensive and otherwise costly maintenance for a city-dweller while being of little or no practical use in the modern era. It's unrealistic to expect the same effect in all technology.
I mean, steel knives followed a relevant trajectory here too- unthinkably expensive steel to steel common enough to be available as a tool to steel being so ubiquitous that a middle class worker could theoretically throw away a steel knife every week for the rest of their lives and still have enough to live on.