Top 10 Inventions in History

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Although humans are not alone as tool using animals, we are definitely the planet’s designated experts in the field. Our use of invention, or the innovation of altering an object or process in new ways, may be what truly defines us as a species. Every once in a long while, something is invented which changes, in some small way, the very nature of our lives. Over time, this has made us unique among the animals. While little inventions come out every day, it is these big ones that move us forward into whatever the destiny of mankind turns out to be.

This list can’t help but be relative and therefore controversial. As always, be kind and appreciate the effort even if you disagree.

10. Alcohol

Near as we can tell, people have been brewing alcoholic drinks for about the last 12,000 years, making booze one of the first human inventions. That is, if you consider it a human invention, as some animals are known to consume fruits that have naturally fermented, and may even become alcoholics. Alcohol has many uses in many fields, but as a drink it is particularly important. The alcohol in wine and beer kills most microorganisms, which historically made it safer to drink than water in the ancient world. And without alcohol, we’d have no excuse to explain why we got caught singing karaoke naked.

9. The Internet

Because of the relatively short time since its birth, the importance of the Internet has still not been fully realized. Starting as several separate communication networks in the 1970’s and 1980’s, what we call the ‘Net is now coalescing into a single mass of all information to which any connected computer has access. No longer is information limited by location, and no longer is it only available the privileged few who can afford it. Imagine my surprise when my research uncovered the fact that it can be used for things other than porn.

8. Birth Control

Although there have been methods of preventing or terminating pregnancy for thousands of years, reliable birth control techniques have only been generally available for about a century, with a great upswing in efficiency and popularity beginning about 50 years ago. This has allowed women to have a more predictable and controllable life, and allowed them to take on roles and occupations previously out of reach. Since this allows our society to draw on a much larger base of expertise for our labor pool, this benefits everyone, not just the men who have learned that the pill reduces the effect of PMS.

7. Antibiotics

Up to the point in the late 1870’s when science began to explore how certain substances inhibited the spread of disease-causing microorganisms, infection and disease were threats for which humanity had little protection. Various diseases could only be treated by keeping a patient comfortable and hoping. A deep-tissue injury might be a minor inconvenience, or it might be a death sentence, depending largely on luck. With antibiotics, we have removed most of the fear of dying from a minor injury or infection.

6. Anesthetic

Combined with antibiotics, the development of substances that can safely and effectively kill pain has allowed all modern surgery to develop. Surgical procedures were once horrific and bloody procedures that were almost as dangerous as the conditions they were aimed at curing, and often far more painful. Now you can just take a nap, and the pain doesn’t set in until you get the bill.

5. Printing Press

Before good old Gutenberg did his thing and built his revolutionary printing press in 1439, books were all hand-written. This meant that not only were they very difficult and time-consuming to create and copy, but that they were very expensive. They were limited to personal notes and to very important texts, generally on religion or science. Like the later invention of the Internet, the printing press allowed information to be spread across the world in a far more efficient and inexpensive process. This allowed for the spread of intellectual achievement and the written arts, followed shortly thereafter by trashy romance novels in supermarket checkout lines.

4. Plumbing

The ancient Romans may be credited with the development of plumbing, but it didn’t really become popular until the 20th century. These days, most people don’t remember a time in their lives when their toilet consisted of an outhouse or, in the city, a bucket. Showers and sinks are a convenience, but a system that allows for us to live in a house that doesn’t smell like poop is the true beginning of civilization. This improvement was naturally trailed by the development of toilet paper, followed closely by the toilet plunger.

3. Tools

Imagine you are stuck in the wilderness with nothing, and you have to survive. What do you do to stay alive? You come from a “highly advanced” civilization, and yet most people have no idea how to take advantage of technology starting from scratch. That’s because we have tools, which are the first technology. A tool is anything you use to build, change, repair, or destroy something, and it’s the first thing you need to create any other technology. A stone knife will help you skin an animal for clothes, or carve wooden weapons. Without tools, we’re just slow, clumsy animals.

2. Cooking

It might be tempting to include fire as an important human invention, but humans didn’t invent fire. Fire happens on its own all the time. What we did was find out what it was good for. Among the most important uses of fire is to sterilize food, allowing us to eat more safely by using the heat to kill parasites. People have been doing this for over a million years, making it an integral part of our evolution. It also is the beginning of the process of turning mere survival into civilization, as the process of cooking allows us to prepare food as an art rather than just a meal.

1. Language

This is the number one innovation of humanity for a very good reason: it is in many ways the definition of humanity. Our ability to communicate, whether via voice or writing, lets us join our minds together so as to go from bands of individuals to become a true culture. All animals communicate somehow, and some are quite sophisticated, but humanity is the king of communication. No one knows how old true language is, but it is old enough that our brains have developed around it and become specialized in its use. No other technology would be able to develop reliably without language to teach it to the next generation.

by Glen Taylor


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        • How can you prove that, how do you know God isn't just the fabrication of someones mind. I also find it hard to believe that one single being could fabricate such a beautiful expanse of nature, not just on Earth but everywhere we look in in the Universe. Explain to me how one being that has shown absolutely no signs of its existence could create our universe.

        • How can you prove he didnt? Science? If God does indeed exist it means he also created science so science cant disprove God.

          Im not even sure if God exists I just cant stand internet atheists screaming there is no God when they cant prove it.

        • by the way God isn’t a being, He’s God
          and everything in the Bible is scientifically and historically proven correct. There is some things we don’t understand but thats why were human.

        • Clapton…Guthrie Govan? No right answer in art or religion. Just perception is enough for me. Whatever your prime mover is, let it move you where you want to go through experience and education. Follow your own path & you will enjoy the journey. Anyone who claims to know the destination is lying to you. Disregard those ppl as the fools they are. To live is a life, not an ending.

        • Critical thinking please? Gutenburg did not invent the printing press. He did not even invent moveable type. That existed in (what is now) China for hundreds of years. TAUGHT history is egocentric & often just lies. Educate yourself .Liberate yourself.

      • You are equal to & just as dangerous as the religious people you exhibit animosity towards. You believe in a dogma based on faith not facts. You have no more proof of atheism than any zealot has of their god. Yet you claim to have the ultimate proof. You belittle & condemn those who think different. You try to convert others to your faith. Sound familiar?

      • David:
        Language, that is speech, is a human invention. Through millions of years pre historic existance, the human predecessor communicated as did all other animals, by make sounds generated by air passing vocal chords. This was a necessity in order to survive the very hazards confronted dring the ages of evolution. Speech on the other hand is a man made product, developed in a much later evolutionary time period. The code which we now call speech uses two different sounds types which are combined in rigid format to fashion meanings which includes time as a key element. Human can now talk about things happening in the past and in the future and well as current happenings. At his point in evolutionary history mankind started to label himself as human to distinguish himself from all the other animals. For the modern researchers, there are no stone artifacts to pinpoint this greatest of acheivments, but the exponential develpment of the homo sapien is a direct result of his ablity in using the speech code.

      • No speech is. Language is an invention. The article’s author needs to learn the difference between invention an and discovery (I.e. alcohol and fire-cooking).

  1. That's some strange response. If you like you could ask "How do you know it wasn't God who invented antibiotics?", but let's see this list in a non-religious way.

      • Wheel is not a shape, circle is. Wheel is only a shape in the way a car is a shape. The wheel is indeed an invention to move things by rolling rather than dragging and made a huge impact on civilization.

  2. I think the wheel could have made this list and I also wonder about television, radio, the telephone, automobiles, planes and computers. A great list though, narrowing down to 10 was superb feat. Love the name, Bob Loblaw. I'm a big Arrested Development fan too.

  3. Electricity ? Plastic ?

    Try to imagine your world without plastic and electricity

    Plastic is always forgotten ! but look around you

    • #1, without a doubt, Synthetic fixation of nitrogen

      This invention benefited more humans than any other invention. Without it, there would be only a fraction of the humans that are alive today.

  4. I can't believe air conditioners didn't make it on this list. It is second only to fire in its ability to control temperature.

    I can't imagine being happy with my food spoiling and sweating my arse off to boot.

    Also that peter guy is so completely brainwashed he believes God uses different languages to punish us as in the story of the tower of Babel (guess what we know we hit outer space before God), but when in reality languages of the past reflect the properties divergent evolution and convergent evolution. It would be hard to say there is proof of a language before a HUMAN used it.

    TV is stupid. The internet pwns it to hell.

    Agriculture isn't an invention.

    Plastic could use a spot on this list, and the other million modern marvels that could be put on this list that make our days easier all pretty much spawn from plastics and the use of petro chemicals.

    I still do not think people are masters of energy sources, and do not really consider our current knowledge of generating deserves a spot. We still burn stuff to get the majority of our electricity, and people think they are better then cavemen how?

    Bo ya.

  5. p.s.

    If you wanted to add cooking instead of fire by being cleaver then I suggest you replace tools with rocks. It is pretty silly to say humans did not invent fire since no animal species on our planet can produce and only a few plants use it, and in any case you could phrase the invention as "applications for fire." In your wise words "We didn't invent the rock, but were just to stupid to pick something up and swing it for awhile.

    p.p.s

    Alcohol is mainly used as a poison, and not as a disinfectant. It kills more people each year then it saves. This invention would have been great if the human race wasn't dumb enough to abuse this drug to the point of death, but they do so this invention is IN FACT a burden on society.

    Bo ya again.

  6. @ runtime: agriculture came from the DELIBERATE sewing of seed. not too(!) cleaver (that's clever) are ye? might need some downtime from yer runtime. go have a drink.

  7. oh, darn it all! the auto corrections of my firefox browser mixed with my poor grammar from a crappy public school education mommy :(. And all this time I was trying to impress you with my vocabulary, hah.

    I would attest that on my side of the world agriculture is an industry and hardly practiced by the common household. While this isn't the case for most of the world as a person with a public school education I have the knowledge to grow a plant on the basis that they require basic chemicals in the soil, water, and sunlight but have never really done so to feed myself. My real point is there is never a food shortage where I live and decent quality control, and it isn't that important to me as opposed to other things that affect my life.

    Im not gonna boo ya again because that was just rude :/. I did have a few drinks, and I got this email this morning, hah. Looking back I still stick by most of my statements as a factoid and not an insult.

    Credit where credit is due he did put birth control, but the condom is actually more practical because if offers some minimal protection against std's. It is just to bad more people don't have access to it.

  8. How about the transistor? It's more important than TV or computers because it is the invention that underlies those sorts of things.

    Gutenberg's important invention was not the printing press, they existed before, but the invention of movable type.

    Both of these fundamentally change the way we communicate.

  9. Alchohol is a great way for humanity to weed out the members of sciciety who are dumb enough to kill themselves with it.

    • What about the millions of innocent lives lost dies to drunk driving, etc?

      Mmmyeah…apparently you didn'y think this one through.

      • Millions? Back away from the kool aid. It’s only propaganda promoting acceptance of tyranny that makes you believe that nonsense. Divide that by a thousand to get a closer assessment.

        Alcohol allowed for the formation of Western Cities. Without it the water born illnesses would have killed most people who tired to live close together. These drinks were only about 1% alcohol, just enough to kill the germs but not enough to impair the drinker. People did not live drunken lives with 1% alcohol in their water.

        Interestingly, in the East, people drank tea made from boiled water and that also allowed them to live in large communities. Generally, Eastern people cannot tolerate alcohol like Western people for this reason.

  10. What about the Calendar? I'd say without time-measurement we'd be in a big pile of poop organization-wise. And you know what they say about organization and advanced societies…

  11. What about polution?

    It's not a good thing… but it's possible it could wipe out civilization as we know it. World leaders meet to discuss it's impact. Surely it deserves a spot on here somewhere.

  12. I think botany is more important than antibiotics. A lot of modern medicine comes from the active ingredients in plants identified by people around the world.

  13. DUH!!!! The single most important invention, My dear people is one very small pill… VIAGRA, or Cialas, or Levitra….

    Okay, its the most important invention to the Male of our species…

    Oh and you with the wheel, GET OVER IT!!! We heard ya!!!!! LOL..

    Thanks people…

  14. CIGARETTES should be #10 instead of Alcohol.

    there are countries that Ban Alcohol but NO country Bans Cigarettes!

    btw: Electricity should be #1…

  15. how about time

    that is, if you believe time is an invention used to prevent chaos and confusion(which it is) .

    what humans perceive as time, is really just matter reacting as the environment around it changes.

    its hard to explain, as almost everything is based on time

    but thats what i believe

    and i believe time is the greatest ever invention

  16. I don't think that many people know what the word "INVENTION" means. Electricity, Botany, Fire, Agriculture are not inventions!!! Some people said the wheel which is great, but the invention that should be #1 and isn't even on the list is ANTISEPTICS –soap– without it there would be no such thing as modern medicine.

  17. The wheel of course! Without it we wouldn’t be moving faster than a horse anywhere. Carriages rolled with it, cars roll with it, trains roll with it and even planes take off with it. So how else would you commute to work if there hadn’t been a wheel invented?

    Think about it Einsteins!

  18. Humans have not been cooking for millions of years, as we have not been around even close to that long.

  19. What about transister ?. It was far more imp then t.v or computeras they may not be invented without it

  20. God doesn’t exist, he didn’t create paper, ink, the wheel, aeroplanes, ships, plastic etc, etc, it was creative people that gave us those!

  21. Also people carry on about God exisiting and asking non-believers to prove that he doesn’t. Well can the believers prove that he does?

  22. David Grosshans on

    The single most important invention was Guttenburgs’ printing press. Every advancement is a direct defendant of said invention. Without it we would all still be ignorant about science, medicine and religion. Which of course some would have liked.

  23. David Grosshans on

    As far as God is concerned I am an atheist however everyone has a right to their own respective faiths. I have a problem with those who feel they must push what they believe on others. Believe as I say or face the consequences and most organized religions still hold to this concept and some to the extreme.

  24. agriculture? agriculture led to a steady source of food (if weather permitted) eventually led to the first civilisations in mesopatamia, the first empires, the first cities and was arguably the most important revolution in human time.

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