"•Language/communication (including symbolism, writing, numerals, and measurement)"
Language is NOT an invention - it is innate, a product of evolution. So, perhaps this should read something like "•Communication (including symbolism, writing, numerals, and measurement)"
Then by the same reasoning of the first post, apes, whales and even birds and ants communicate, albeit at a lower level than humans (though even that is open to question sometimes).
I don't reckon any of the others cut it. That only leaves Beer....
You're right, I worded that badly. What I meant was, which category of innovations enabled us to make the leap into more organized civilization. We certainly didn't invent language--however, we did come up with symbols to communicate our thoughts. Though I agree with David--lets vote for beer and be done with it!
Very difficult to say :)
...but as your question is which one among the listed enabled us to become more organized civilization, I think my vote will be for the first one: "Language/communication (writing numeral, symbols etc.)"
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.
Now if we're talking about society - then that is where the technological advancements made huge progress. Tech progress is a group, team, and society effort. Education of children and support for that from adults - this is why progress was made.
Written language is the clear winner in my book. This allowed information to be communicated & stored outside one brain by others, even if the others were located far away in time or distance. This made cumulative knowledge possible, and technological advances took off. Individuals today are no more nor less innovative than cavemen. Written language just allows modern people to leverage all of humanity's brains.
I have to agree that writing is the most important innovation. First, it lets you expand your own memory. I do not have the memory capacity to multiply two ten digit numbers, but I can handle it easily with pencil and paper. I can manipulate very complex algebraic expressions by using pencil and paper. I can share my manipulations across space and time. But wait a minute. Computers have memory. Computers help me calculate 10 digit numbers and manipulate complex algebraic expressions. Whoa! A computer's memory is just another kind of paper; it is like a big tablet with lots of big pages. And the processor is just a convenient device for writing and reading to the big tablet.
I forget where I saw this, but a publication at the change of the last century... 1899... indicated the most influential invention of the previous century was... believe it or not... the "safety match". This had a huge impact on the people of the late 1800's and early 1900's. Today we are so focused on things like communication and information we forget what would have mattered back then. You really need to study history to get a perspective about the present and the future. It has been obvious to me for a long time that access to information is our current paradigm shift. We will never go back to the old days when information and communication was only available to a fortunate few.
You forgot man-made tools (several animals use tools but none of them make them by themselves.)
This invention clearly was necessary to invent the wheel, and to pass on tooling the next generation.
Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day.
Give a man tooling, and he can eat for 100 millenia.
I had to pick beer, because certainly it was the quest to make beer that got people thinking about communicating in first place and then building wheels and all sorts of other technology so they could spend less time manufacturing and more time enjoying.
I also vote for beer---not only it contributed to better communication and agriculture, but also created modern quality control. Did you know that the penalty for spoiling a batch of beer in ancient Babylon was death?
S_S said: "And, I bet the cavemen lived a healthier life."
This is such B.S. common with the “evils of Western life” crowd. 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. Cavemen, while in all likelihood total badasses as far as strength, pain endurance, and survivability, had pathetic lifespans, probably died toothless and in agony from damaged teeth, were riddled with parasites, and could have been killed from something as simple as a bad case of diarrhea.
I agree with what someone said earlier – I think it was written communication, record keeping, and ultimately books, the printing press, and compounding knowledge that catapulted humans into the modern world.
Actually, they did not die toothless. To die toothless was a more modern "invention". Cavemen lived on a diet of meat, and foraged plants all low in carbohydrates. Hence no tooth decay. It really wasn't until we started farming that he had tooth decay.
Paul, this observation is not a borrowed thought. And, I wish you did some basic research like Semiman below. Perhaps, you did not have the opportunity to actually see how much more healthier our own ancestors were, only a couple of generations ago. My own great grandfather could still walk farther and had stronger teeth than some of our generation. And we are looking only less than a century ago. They don't appreciate medical attention and still don't fall sick as often as we do. Does having medicines for all you are suffering from make you a healthy person?
As far as cavemen are concerned, true that life spans were far less and deaths were mostly due to serious injuries or illness. But, I 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. You would be less and less vital. Now, that would be living like a parasite. And btw, would you not love to be a strong, pain enduring bad ass with a natural talent for survival?
Interesting comments, however, I don’t think you are taking the infant mortality rate into account. Your assertions about “more healthy” may simply be a result of the fact that fewer people survived childhood and that those who would have been “less healthy” died early on, thus raising the general health levels of the rest of the population. Some societies did not even name their children until they passed a certain age and celebrated Name Days rather than Birthdays. So, perhaps you should say that you would be willing to trade some of your life-span, provided you made it out of childhood. After all, there is no guarantee you would have been one of the lucky few.
I'll add a vote to "written language." That was a tremendous multiplier. Another one had to be to learn how to control fire. Probably the first major success in controlling one's environment, never mind how it made the eating experience infinitely more pleasant! Also, somewhat related to controlling fire was manufacturing tools. Another big step at reducing the limitations imposed on us by our physical bodies.
I would add religion although its has been a double-edged sword. It tends to impose a code of living (together) yet acts like an exclusive club, which if you do not subscribe, makes you an undesirable.
Double edged sword indeed! Religion brings out either the best or the worst in people. Most religions are more about men trying to control other men than about God. And they've probably caused more wars than anything else.
It's also not a gadget but I once heard that cooking was a key innovation - I guess fire and matches have to do with that.
The point about cooking is that it allows us to digest food far more efficiently. Therefore sudenly our ancestors didn't need to spend so much time grazing, and had time to sit around inventing all of the other things listed above.
Sorry Cooking is too late to be in your poll!
PS: I do worry about our sedentary lifestyle, but cavemen proably had a lot of health problems that we don't know about today, and lived to their 20s if they were lucky. I also read that not so long ago, 1 in 7 people died from complications of dental problems.
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.
So the technologies that help networking are the ones...horseback riding, the wheel, writing...coffee houses...facebook...twitter...newspapers and printing.
Agriculture is the single biggest step forward. A regular supply of surplus food made it possible for people to think about something other than where their next meal was coming from. For the first time specialization became practical and from that came civilation.
The sciences (mathematics, astronomy, civil engineering) and organized warfare are a direct result of agriculture.
Mathematics arose to be able to keep track of food supplies. Astronomy to better predict the correct time to plant and reap. Civil engineering started with canal building.
Warefare as we know it is entirely a product of agriculture. Prior to agriculture, warfare basically consisted of hit and run raids looking for portable loot and wives. Agriculture both motivated wars of conquest and made it worthwhile to resist. Cities grew because they were mroe defensible.
I am going to defer to a litte paleobiology theory that theorizes that the ancestors to humans really started to take off when they developed tools that allowed fishing and other successful hunting and by correlation greatly increased our intake of amino acids fostering brain growth ... which lead to all the other great inventions over time.
Money (real one, no the fiat paper kind we have now), and free market system.
Money made exchange of the fruit of the labor convenient and easy.
Money made division of labor, specialization and as a result huge increase in productivity possible.
Division of labor made all the inventions mentioned in the poll possible. Without it those few of us alive would still be at caveman level.