Let’s agree from the start that in order to narrow mankind’s greatest accomplishments to a list of ten, we should set our parameters. First, this is a list of invention, not discovery, so one shouldn’t expect to find something like electricity among these achievements. Secondly, items have been printed alphabetically in an effort to dispel some of the inevitable argument that accompanies ranking. Finally, the list that follows includes inventions for which a tangible artifact can be named; that is to say, there are scores of intangible ideas invented throughout antiquity that are absent from this article (music and language, for example, along with democracy, agriculture, roads, and other skills and systems). Other controversial omissions are the result of the author either overlooking or disregarding them-let’s face it, only ten are allowed in this article submitted for your discussion and enjoyment. Please discuss, therefore, and enjoy!
It is fair to credit more than one inventor in this case. The calendar has gone through significant changes over time, and is subject to region and culture. From Ancient Egypt to Julius Caesar, versions of the calendar are abundant, but their influence is impossible to deny. Even today, Hollywood and bestsellers are capitalizing on the prophetic Mayan system of marking time. Regardless of how a culture marks the years, however, it is clear that from kings to prisoners, a society is equalized, bound, and governed by its calendar.
Hey, someone invented it! I bet you’re not even standing right now.
Along with the calendar, the timepiece is the great equalizer. Even when humans were reading the sun, we were developing ways to mark the passage of time. Once we had a machine to keep time for us, the world would never be the same. Today, we are all subject to ticking seconds, appointments and deadlines. Even cultures that live without this technology exist in lands governed by people who do understand it and utilize it daily. We post the current time in almost every direction, and if that isn’t enough, we have it on our phones, giant billboards, and strapped to our wrists.
It could be argued that the world’s most lauded explorers might have succeeded without it, but I suspect if you asked the explorers themselves, they would speak to the credit of this navigational tool that led to discoveries of new worlds, and expansion within them.
The television is on its way out. As long as we allow a broad range of technology to be lumped under the term “computer,” it is impossible not to recognize the way computers have changed almost every aspect of human life. Automation, convenience, and precision have exploded exponentially for decades, and we continue to surprise ourselves with each new advancement.
Today’s youth can likely imagine a world without cars and planes easier than they can wrap their brains around what the world was like before the World Wide Web, but there was a time when answers had to be found in books, and messages were sent through the post office. Now, information is only an instant click away, and our culture is moving through an unknown frontier.
One of the best examples of an artifact that is constantly being reinvented, the telephone linked neighbors, family and friends instantly (once it caught on) and continues to find new ways to connect us all. Unfortunately, if you like to “get away from it all,” it’s getting more and more difficult to hide from the world, but if being in touch works for you, you can call, text, email or even transmit photographs and video footage at the touch of a button. Once the phone evolved into its present portable state, other technologies such as cameras and the Internet quickly attached themselves to our pocket communication device, cementing its long future in our lives.
Yeah, I know, it’s not as sexy as the Internet, but in the scope of history, it wasn’t long before civilization addressed the questions of how to best manage waste and water. Thanks to advancements in plumbing, along with toilets, development of toilet paper, etc., society has constructed a system that promotes community health as well as with personal convenience.
The established parameters of this list don’t allow language to be named as one of the greatest inventions, but surely the ability to spread a message to the masses in their own language deserves a place on the roster. Ideas spread like wildfire, sometimes igniting entire continents with passionate viewpoints, and language evolution slowed as stories and native lexicons were captured and recorded.
The center of its own clich for a reason, the wheel is at the base of numerous other life-changing inventions, from the automobile to mechanical innards, even airplanes use the most basic (and one of the oldest) devices attributed to human innovation. Without it, we have no transportation or industry. It is ideal in its simplicity, which is why there is no need to reinvent it.