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Author Topic: Inventions in history  (Read 1145 times)
D.D. Olson
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« on: January 10, 2010, 07:41:17 PM »

I just posted this on my Facebook, and am curious about opinions.   What is the most significant item invented in the history of humanity? 

I can't limit myself to one.  I pick Gutenburg's printing press, or Marconi's radio receiver. 
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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2010, 06:22:56 AM »

To answer that would require more brain cells than i have available this morning.  It is difficult to even come up with one item from my lifetime.  I personally am very happy with the invention of affordable digital cameras, computers, VHS/DVD, and CDs in the "entertainment/hobbies" arena.  I would be blind without my glasses.  I would be greatly inconvenienced without cars and airplanes.  Can you narrow your question down to categories?
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2010, 06:24:55 AM »

I just posted this on my Facebook, and am curious about opinions.   What is the most significant item invented in the history of humanity? 

I can't limit myself to one.  I pick Gutenburg's printing press, or Marconi's radio receiver. 

I can't limit myself to two...  or three...  or, well, we'll see where I stop.

I think it's significant that early eras of human history are named after specific technologies perfected during those eras:

- Stone age: perfection of stone blades.

- Domestication of animals and plants; beginning of agriculture.

- The invention of kilns and glazing: enabled construction of durable objects of arbitrary shape and size (bricks, pottery, etc)

- Sails

- Bronze age, iron age: development of smelting and smithing technologies for said metals and related alloys.  This enabled the development of many other tools.

- The invention of money and monetary trading systems.

- Democratic and representational systems of government.

- In the modern era, the telephone.

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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2010, 10:37:15 PM »

I think that Gutenburg's printing press should be in that list, too. Without the invention of the press and that it made it easier to reproduce and distribute books (information). Without the press, the ordinary person would still be illiterate. There would have been no reason to learn to read. The Church sure wasn't happy with the idea that people were beginning to be able to read the Bible for themselves (the jumping off point).

I do not think that half of the things that have been invented since Gutenberg's press ever would have made it to fruition.

Your most radiant garment is of the other person's weaving;
Your most savory meal is that which you eat at the other person's table;
Your most comfortable bed is in the other person's house.
Now tell me, how can you separate yourself from the other person?

Sand and Foam ~~ Kahlil Gibran
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2010, 09:09:55 AM »

What is the most significant item invented in the history of humanity? 

Some inventions are watershed events, like movable type.  (to be nit-picky, the printing press existed prior to Gutenberg, but it could only print the same thing over and over again, like a wood-block printing.  It was movable type that made it possible to print many different things very easily.  That was Gutenberg's real innovation.)

Other inventions are more gradual or require a synthesis of many lesser inventions along the way, which drive toward accomplishing a particular goal.  I particularly like the first part of Daniel J. Boorstein's "The Discoverers", which traces the history of the measurement of time and how it motivated and enabled so many other inventions along the way from prehistory ("When should I plant my crops?") to the present.  The clock does deserve the moniker "the mother of machines."  (Excellent book, I recommend it)
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2010, 07:41:06 AM »

if meds count, then i'd say meds.  especially anesthesia.
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2010, 07:05:03 PM »

Tools...typesetting...antibiotics...harnessing electricity...computers (in all their many costumes).

My gran, who was born in the 1880s, liked electricity but didn't trust telephones.  My mum, born in the 1920s, liked telephones and television, but didn't trust calculators.  My niece, born in the 1990s, didn't know what to make of a rotary-dial phone or vinyl album--but has no noted distrusts of technology.

I'm not clever enough to trace the genealogy of inventions--what carving on a cave wall would eventually begat the booster rocket. or what unhappy accident in a crude chemistry lab would end up saving millions of lives...or what clever sot would figure out the most efficient way to take millions of lives in one clever bit of fission--or was it fusion--while simultaneously providing a way to power entire cities.

And now we're genetically modifying our food.  THAT terrifies me...even as genetic modification is working to cure some cancers.

It's not just about technological developments...it's about applications.

You've got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.  --Bruce Cockburn
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