The Mother of Invention

7 May, 2004 | HistoryTdpGeneral

For reasons that are beyond me (my brain works in mysterious ways, some people see this as a random, slightly bizarre, often unnerving method of operation, I find it quite useful and very interesting) I recently found myself thinking about the speed of new inventions/breakthroughs that have been made in recent years. Recorded history dates back over 5000 years. In that time, developments were made, inventions came into being, many significant.

Art, politics, culture, philosophy, financial principles, everything that forms the basis of our society today. In terms of technology though, there weren't huge strives forward. Even our understanding of science is relatively recent. If you look back over the last 100 years or so, you can see just how much has appeared from nowhere.

Cars have been invented, refined and have taken over as the most used form of transport in the world, before that, for the better part of 4900 years, the horse was the dominant method, if you could afford one. Powered flight became a reality and planes have come from primitive wood and canvas skeletons to become an integral part of our transport infrastructure and national defence. Computers have changed from room-filling leviathans to handheld devices, changing the entire world in the process. They have revolutionised every aspect of modern living. Rockets that enabled us to step off our planet and into the great cosmos that surrounds us also took shape. We've made breakthroughs in practically every area of medicine and science, too many to list. Moving pictures came into being and have created a billion-dollar industry. Radio and TV were invented and the telephone popularised, changing communications throughout the world. This, linked with rockets, lead to the development of satellites, which opened up not only our communications, but also our ability to look at our planet, enabling everything from better weather prediction to mineral exploration.

100 years is 1/50th of the 5000 that humans have been around in a 'civilised' state. Yet it accounts for some of the most amazing breakthroughs. You could argue that we had to have all of those other discoveries to have happened before we could make many of our leaps forward. The computer, for example, could not operate without electricity, as is true of many of our technological inventions. Another reason might be that we are afforded more leisure time because of developments in production and transport, which in turn means more people can turn their attention to inventing and developing theories in their spare time. The growth in education and universities has meant that there are many more academics with the facilities and time to make discoveries, and more people being educated to a level where they can start to push forward the boundaries. The aforementioned computer may have helped shorten the development cycle, crunching numbers and calculations faster than a team of people ever could.

Invention appears to have sped up considerably of late, and with new findings being announced weekly in some field or other, it doesn't look like it's slowing down. I'm not prepared to make any predictions on what the future will bring, or how fast it will arrive, as history has shown it always takes longer than we think, even at the relatively high pace we currently operate. I'm just looking forward to my rocket car, free energy and enough leisure time to enjoy them.