Friday, October 22, 2010

Inventions that Shaped Mankind

A very intriguing conversation began at dinner last night of the top inventions of all time. The conversation continued into the night, where my family and I googled other top invention lists. Not finding one that satisfied what we collectively thought to be the inventions that shaped mankind, we decided to comprise our own list (complete with my sarcasm, personality and quirkiness since this list is being posted on my blog). We ended up coming up with 30 things, though we could only agree on the exact placement, importance-wise, of the top 10. After that, the other 20 were met with, 'No, no, that's not more important than this', or 'Please, are you high? That should be at the bottom of the list', and even once 'Why is that on the list at all?'. So, please note that our top 10 is in order of how important we feel the invention is, of how much it molded the world into what we are today. The last 20 are in random order.

1. The Wheel. Seriously people, where would we be without the wheel? So many other blogs and internet articles I came across that either didn't have the wheel listed at all, or listed the wheel below some of our other options, had me growing quite angry by the end of the evening, and more confused than ever. OK, so yes, there are naturally occurring 'wheels' in nature. But, would you really want to get up in the morning, go out to your 'car' which is comprised of 2 logs, and Fred Flintstone paddle yourself to work? Please. Without the wheel we would have no cars, no bikes, no motorcycles, no planes, no trains, no carriages to be pulled by horses, no form of modern transportation whatsoever. So, unless you lived by a river and could take your boat to work each day, give it up for the wheel as the greatest invention ever, for without it, you'd still be riding a horse to the grocery store (and where exactly are the groceries gonna go???).

2. Electricity/ Light Bulb. Easy one, really. Without electricity, we'd have no TVs, no modern appliances, no central heating and air. The light bulb made it amazingly easy to harbor the electricity, so that's why it's thrown in here. So, picture your life now with no electricity- candlelight dinners are romantic and all, but every night? That middle of the night bathroom run gets a little complicated when you have to find the lantern, light it, stumble your way.... awww, too late, that's gonna be a mess to clean up in the morning when the sun comes up. And yes, electricity itself is present in nature (lightning), so therefore it's more of a discovery than an invention. But, all of the scientists who threw themselves into figuring a way to harbor electricity and produce it without needing a thunderstorm, you are the reason for Electricity making our number 2 spot. So, thank you, Benjamin Franklin, for flying your kite in a thunderstorm, and to Humphry Davy for inventing the first electric light bulb which Thomas Alva Edison would soon improve upon (learn something new everyday), and to all the others that helped me have lights to switch on and off, a TV to watch, and central air in the hot summers.

3. Internal Combustion Engine. So, we agree that the wheel is number one, right? Take that wheel, and you can make bicycles, unicycles, tricycles, horse drawn carriages.... and long trips to family members who don't live next door. The invention of the internal combustion engine made cars, planes, motorcycles, heck even lawnmowers, possible. So now, when that shiny new car you want boasts 300 horsepower, think of what that would mean without the internal combustion engine. Where would you keep 300 horses anyway?

4. Pulleys/Levers. Again, I was surprised to not see pulley and lever systems on very many lists of the greatest inventions of all time. Though we may not know exactly how the pyramids or Stonehenge were built, we have a pretty good idea that pulley and lever systems were apart of the construction process (or aliens- there's a huge debate). Without pulley systems themselves, we couldn't run our cars, most industrial machines, even our vacuum cleaner, much less hoist sails or massive equipment to an unnatural height during construction. And, just like pulleys, levers make it much easier to get work done with much less effort on our end. Who doesn't like that? And see saws- think of a childhood without see saws. Depressing.

5. Firearms. Yet another invention that seemed to be left off of just about every other list out there of the greatest inventions of all time. I personally, am not a big fan of guns, but, when you look at the world today and think what it would be like if the gun was never invented, wow. Yeah, the world might be a safer place (completely arguable, by the way) but we'd still be hunting with bows and arrows and knives. If someone broke into your house, you'd be grabbing that samurai sword off the bedside table to protect yourself (while high on the style points scale, not too efficient for the job). And the changes to the history of the world in terms of wars- I don't even think my brain can begin to imagine what things would be like now. A highly controversial object, yes, but guns help the military protect your country,  your family and home, help provide food on your table (or on the table of your ancestors), have changed the world forever, and have had one of the largest impacts on society as a whole. So, like them or not, they are one of the greatest inventions that have shaped who you are today.

6. Printing Press. Most definitely an invention that shaped the world. If books, magazines, newspapers, all had to still be handwritten, education, intelligence, learning-as we know it- would be lessened tremendously. There would be no libraries, no way to get information to the masses of people, being an author wouldn't be a desirable job, and learning wouldn't be entirely uniform as far as the information. Owning books, magazines, etc, would be a luxury that only the rich could afford. 'Hey man, have you read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn yet?' 'No, that was only written a little over 100 years ago- haven't gotten my hands on a copy of it yet.' Or, 'Do you own a copy of the Bible I can borrow?' 'Hahaha, that's a good one, I'm not rich.' Yeah, that's how the world would be now....

7. Vaccinations & Antibiotics. There's no arguing that with the invention of vaccinations and antibiotics that the human life span has lengthened. Hundreds of years ago, attending the funeral of someone in their 40s, you'd overhear 'Wow, he lived a good, long, life.' Nowadays people are living well into their 100s. So, it should be no surprise that vaccinations and antibiotics made our top 10 list. If it wasn't for them, we'd still have millions of deaths from smallpox and tuberculosis every year, and a simple infected hangnail could mean death.

8. Airplane. Yes, after much debate, we decided to put the airplane a little further down on our list than we saw on other lists. It is one of the greatest inventions ever, made it possible to see the world, to promote overseas business, to move away from that crazy cousin that can't seem to stop coming by your house unannounced. But, I can't say it's better than modern medicine, or a machine that brought literature to the masses. It's definitely an invention that has shaped mankind as we know it, and to be quite honest, one that completely confuses me. How does a mass of metal weighing possibly several hundred tons, even get into the air and stay there? I've seen a not-so-strong breeze blow a bird off course, and they were heavenly designed to fly. What the hell?

9. Telephone. Above television and computers? Blasphemy, I know. Without the invention of telephones, though, communication as we know it would be horrible. Getting information from one side of the country to the next, or even a few blocks away, quickly in the event of an emergency, would be impossible. And still to this day, even 911 is telephone operated (yes, I know some bigger cities have online reporting, but the telephone is the primary method). Cell phones do need note here, as well, and my opinion is the cell phone is one of the greatest inventions of modern times. And, I'm pretty sure that's an unbiased statement that has nothing to do with the fact that I am perpetually glued to my cell phone- I can check my facebook, text, talk, google movies for the evening, play Family Feud- all without leaving the couch- amazing. But, with that said, we wouldn't have the cell phone if it wasn't for the telephone, so here's to keeping people miles apart closer than ever, and for finding a much more useful form of communication than smoke signals- the message is always misinterpreted that way.

10. Calendar. I think, arguably, the calendar could be a bit higher on the list, but as we all disagreed as to exactly where, we decided it at least needed to be in our top ten. This, though, was another one that didn't make it onto any other lists we found floating on the internet. The modern calendar unified the world. No longer did we have to rely on guesses or seasonal fluctuations to do everyday things in our lives. With the introduction of the calendar, we, as humans, could plan and execute things in a more unified manner. Yes, it got us a little more out of touch with nature, but now, things are clear, concise and organized in a way everyone, no matter what country you live in, understand. Now, your family vacation will be scheduled for the week of July 23rd, not 4 moon cycles from the time the first flower blooms. And, how many of us countdown to the weekend, you know, those days off work? With no calendar, how do you explain to your boss that you need a day (what's that?) off of work because you've worked a week (huh?) straight and have only had 2 days (?) off in the last month (you're crazy, get back to work)? Exactly.

Now, like I said above, the next 20 are in no particular order. I will say, though, that the Clock, Radio, Computers, TV and Internet should be 11-15, just not sure of the order. Besides those, our list of top inventions that shaped Mankind includes Plastic, Steel, Modern Appliances (Fridge, Microwave, Washer/Dryer, etc), the Abacus, Birth Control (The Pill and Condoms), Camera, Battery, Compass, Satellite, Dynamite, Paper, Microscopes/Telescopes and the Zipper. Without these items, we wouldn't have the buildings we do, the everyday conveniences, photographs for memories, direction, books, magazines, advances in modern medicine and an understanding of existance beyond earth, easily movable power, modern counting machines, tunnels through mountains, the world of information at our fingertips, easy entertainment, there would be 17 kids to each family, we'd have sundials as wrist watches ('Could you give me the time?' 'Sure, oh wait, there's a shadow in the way.') and we'd be fumbling with buttons all day. Life would just be a lot more difficult.

Please, note, too, that the iPhone did not make our list. The fact that the iPhone is now being considered as the #8 greatest invention of all time saddens me. I love my cell phone, yes, (and it's not an iPhone), but life as we know it would not cease to exist if the iPhone was never invented. I live my life perfectly fine with no iPhone. And head to a third world country with a case of iPhones or a case full of antibiotics and vaccinations and tell me which would help them out more. The iPhone even beat out the automobile, the calendar (ironically found as an app on the iPhone) and hot water in this particular list. Yeah, okay, please try to ride your iPhone to work, or have it clean you as a nice, warm shower would.

1 comment:

  1. That's a pretty good list, don't think I'd shake up the top ten at all.