Sorry I have not read all the replies in this interesting post. I did want to add one aspect to the thread "Why do some cultures, despite bad philosophy, still come up with technological advances?"
Daneil Boorstin wrote about the Chinese in "The Discoverers". He described how the Chinese came up with gun powder, mechanical clocks that mimiced the heavens and several other rather practical inventions. He explained that their philosophy included a concept of "Chi" (sorry if I got the name wrong). The idea was that only living things and things that actually existed could have Chi. The models and inventions were developed by man and therefore could not have Chi. As a result, the Chinese did not apply their discoveries to more ambitious achievements.
Mr. Boorstin never did explain why these creations came about in a society that generally did not seek knowledge. He explained how the philosophy prevented man from expanding on these ideas.
So, Is it simply Human nature to discover new ideas regardless of the society they are in? I like to think yes!