After two weeks of voting and some more fascinating discussion, we have a clear winner in our vote for the innovation that pushed us beyond the cavemen (grown from the original Greatest Innovation discussion). From among the very broad categories of transportation, power generation, agriculture, medicine, weaponry, and beer, communication was the runaway winner--taking 51% of the 219 total votes. Hasmon's comment sums up my thoughts on the importance of communication, "Heard Fritjof Capra on the radio saying this morning, that what enabled homo sapiens to conquer the planet was not superior weaponry but better networking."
Surprisingly, beer only received 8% of the votes. I'll admit that I expected beer to take the prize with little or no contest. I grossly underestimated our readers' passion for history! Agriculture came in second with 18% of the votes, followed by power generation at 13%. Travel/transportation and weapons tied after beer with 4% of votes, and medicine came in last, receiving a mere 1% of the votes.
Early on in the discussion, jackOfManyTrades pointed out that, though I called the category "Language/communication", language is in fact not an invention -- it is innate. Though David Ashton rode gallantly to my defense, I had to admit to bad wording on my part. I think most everyone cut me some slack and took the category to mean all forms of communication, which I listed as including innovations such as the use of symbolism, writing, and numerals.
Later on in the comments, there raged a pretty darned heated discussion about the relative health and quality of the life of cavemen vs modern man. That discussion started with peralta_mike's comment, "Who said we're more innovative than cavemen? Could you survive with no farm, no home, no car, no technology? The survival skills of the cavemen was astounding! To be able to survive and thrive in such a primitive environment." Silicon_Smith came in strong on the side of cavemen: "All the inventions have done is to make us more comfortable, lethargic and less intelligent and resourceful. And, I bet the cavemen lived a healthier life." But Paul.Pacini, wanting none of that, came back with, "Thinking ancient humans, or even current tribes-people, somehow live/lived this “natural,” balanced life with nature and were healthier, lived longer, were “free of toxins,” or didn’t have any impact on the environment is just political, pseudo-science nonsense. Humans in modern societies live longer and are far healthier than ever in history." Silicon_Smith retorted he would, "...trade 20 years of my lifespan any day if I could live a better life for 50 or 60 years. Protracting one's lifespan is not an indicator of quality of health."
I think this is a discussion worthy of our continued consideration: What constitutes quality of life? Do we measure it by years lived or overall health? And how do both play into our overall happiness? Many literary/radio/tv commentaries on quality of life jump to my mind, including John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey "Rumpole and the Quality of Life" and Douglas Adams' entire Hitchhiker's Guide series. And I must give a nod here to Brian Fuller's ongoing discussion on engineering quality -- because though one is about life and one is about an industry, I think the two discussions are, in some basic way, related.
Ref the math, I realise that a huge increase for the CEO equates to a tiny increase for the staff. The fact of the matter is that Qantas is not doing too well, the CEO has alienated most of the staff, and the share price has not kept up with the major indices. He is already getting an obscene salary. The following from a news items:
"Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has received a 71 per cent increase in his total pay to $5 million, fuelling further union anger over the airline's plans to cut 1000 staff."
With attitudes like this, is it any wonder people have had a gutful? Can you justify the above?
There are some bare facts in play however. I don't know Qantas' stats but of course if you have 10,000 staff you can either give them 2 bucks/week extra apiece (which will just annoy them), or you can offer 1/2 million bucks for a good CEO, with the same again as an incentive.
What would you advise them to do instead?
"...'they' might just lose patience, rise up and take it away from us."
I think it's happening already...."Occupy Wall St"??
When I read about Qantas (the aussie airline) quibbling about a 5% p.a. pay rise for staff when the CEO has just got a 70% increas to his multi-million dollar salary, I know whose side I am on....
You are describing many facts of life for our grandparents generation - and true today for the majority of people on this earth. Losing sight of our privileged position is a good way to lose that position.
It is our responsibility to use our luxurious lifestyle and knowledge to try and improve things for those who are too busy surviving to help themselves. Before you dismiss this with "Let the devil take the hindmost!" consider that 'they' might just lose patience, rise up and take it away from us. Wouldn't you?
For all the above reasons, Darwinian natural selection would have made them a pretty hardy, and smart, race then.
Even though I would be one of the ones who would have been effectively blind (and hence unlikely to last long) I often wonder if the race has not lost as much as we have gained in the interim.
Cold nights, the worry of where your next meal would come from, dangerous childbirth for mom, worry about some minor cut becoming hopelessly infected, simple colds that could easily morph into deadly pneumonia, effective blindness in situations where simple eyeglasses would have solved the problem, and a lifespan of 35 years at best, mostly due to easily preventable injuries or diseases by today's standards. No, no way was their quality of life any better. That's just romanticising what we are lucky enough not to have to experience.
I agree that quality of life can be equated with peace of mind, but how do you know that cavemen actually had peace of mind? They certainly had greater threats to life and limb, and far fewer safety nets to fall back on when one of those threats managed to snare them or their loved ones.
Quality of life is defined in my opinion as peace of mind. At the end of the day can you sleep relaxed or you have so many issues battling inyour mind. We have luxury cars, beautiful malls and comfortable homes but at the end the definition of quality of life is same as for cavemen.
Communications is not the only factor. The independant cultures mixed up by communication. Where as the independant cultures evolved by the natural process. A simple proof is the diferent forms of the GODs and temple architectues and differnet types of food preperations and different types of vegetables fruits and one can prepare a big list including the human facial structural variations from place to place. Defintely communication alone is not changed the quality of life. There is an external power round the globe and from the cosmos also which is highly responsible for this evolution.