Saturday, November 22, 2008

Scalzi's got a post up on the question of whether inventions every really change human beings. It's an interesting comment thread, and I was inspired to chime in with a list of inventions I think have fundamentally changed humanity:

Basic tools: knife, string, pottery
agriculture (I added this one after talking about the idea with Christie)
intentional fermentation
the written word
abstract math
sailing ships
the compass
reliable clocks
telecommunications (from telegraph to PC)
personal computers

I’ve tried to eliminate from this list anything that simply allows us to do what we were already doing, but faster. At first I was going to eliminate photography from the list, on the grounds that it's just a fast way of drawing, but decided to keep it in because it introduces the concept of true objectivity.

Anybody got anything else they think belongs on the list? Or objections to what is there?


Rita said...


Anonymous said...

Allopathic medical developments like antibiotics and other drugs, surgery etc. There are pros and cons to this one, of course, and we could have a great converstion about it, but for now I'd suggest it for your "has changed humanity" category.


Rita said...

To which I would also add airplanes. Both have changed humanity in significant ways. (Not necessarily for the better sometimes but what would we do without them?)

Mike said...

Antibiotics and mechanized power of all strips definitely belong on the list.

Heather Piper said...