This is the title of a special report in the New Scientist (October 25-31, 2014). Articles like this are fun, but should not be taken too seriously. However, they do provide food for thought.
10 innovations that have changed history
Cooking. Clearly learning how to start and control fires was a prerequisite, but cooking enable early humans to enjoy a better diet for advancing physical and cognitive health.
Weapons. Weapons enabled hunting, which provided for a better diet that advance physical and cognitive health. They also brought about warfare. The article argues that this enabled the weakest group member to take down the strongest group member of the opposing group. So weapons encouraged early human groups to embrace and egalitarian existence unique among primates. There appears to have been a link between warfare and technological advancement, the most recent example being the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The launch of Sputnik encouraged a giant increase in US funding for technology development and the training and education of scientists and engineers. I was one of the many beneficiaries of this funding. Would man have reached the moon without this funding? What about progress in computers? The internet is a product of defense spending.
Jewelry and Cosmetics. This is certainly an item I would have left off my list, but the authors argue that they hint at dramatic revolutions in the nature of human beliefs and communication. They are indications of symbolic thought and behavior because wearing a particular necklace or form of body paint has meaning beyond the apparent. As well as status, it can signify things like group identify or shared outlook. That generation after generation adorned themselves in this way indicates that these people had language complex enough to establish traditions.
Sewing. It is obvious that without sewing there would be little in the way of clothes to product our bodies and allow us to live outside of highly temperate bodies.
Containers. This is an obvious advancement that is easily overlooked. Groups of humans would have needed to remain small absent containers.
Law. Obviously codified rules are needed for societies to survive. Then, there is the concept of justice. The law and justice need to be better aligned. One might be tempted to argue that currently they are orthogonal dimensions.
Timekeeping. Contemporary could not exist without a system of timekeeping. For much of history, timekeeping systems were local. It was not until the development of the railroads were the different timekeeping systems brought into alignment to keep trains from crashing into each other.
Ploughing. Obviously without agriculture, societies would not have developed, and advanced agriculture requires plumbing.
Sewerage. Absent sewerage, not only would the stench be unbearable, but diseases would be widely spread. I will not step into a time-travel machine and go back to a time before sewerage.
Writing. But of course. If there were not writing, there could be no healthymemory blog.
10 innovations that will change history.
End of aging. This might come to pass, but what will be its ramifications? Will warfare break out between the ages. Will people eventually grown tired of who they have been for so long and opt out?
Aging might end, but can the quality of life be maintained or improved?
Decision Making Machines. Not only do we not like making too many decisions, we are not good at making decisions. Perhaps decision making machines could replace our non-functioning legislative systems.
Customisable Bodies. Well this has already started with plastic surgery. Will the results be improved? How will people choose to customize their bodies. How might this affect athletic competitions?
Cryptocurriences. The bitcoin is provided as an example here. Is it an improvement? Would these currencies constitute an improvement or just another means of speculation?
Virtual Reality. Might virtual reality be seen as better than real reality and virtual living would replace real living?
Brain Uploads. Here we have the singularity with silicon. This is Kurtzweil’s future, one of which I am quite skeptical.
Genetic engineering. I expect great things here to include the end of disease and genetic defects. There might even be substantive genetic improvements to mitigate our many shortcomings.
Space Colonization. Yes, in our solar system. But we need to learn how to break the laws of physics to colonize outside our solar system.
End of Privacy. This might already have occurred. What is needed are laws to prevent abuses of this end of privacy.
And Abundance of Everything. Something to be hoped for. Today we are a minority of our species who enjoy the bnefits of technology and are not suffering from war and atrocities at the hand of fanatics. So why was the end of war and terrorism not on the list of ten advances for the future?
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