The modern world is an amazing place, but it was just about 5,000 years ago that humans figured out how to use circular objects to get around more efficiently. Considering the modern human evolved some 200,000 years ago, this is a fairly recent discovery. Since then we've only accelerated in making groundbreaking innovations, especially within the last 200 years or so. So why the relatively sudden ramp up in cool stuff that makes our lives easier? The earliest forms of written communication date back to around 3500 B.C., around the time when we started to really pick up the pace in developing new ideas. Barring MANY separate factors, the development of written records allowed for advances to spread not only from area to area, but from generation to generation. In fact, in the last 100 years, world literacy has increased from about 20% to 80%, positively correlating to a similar massive increase in the rate at which technological and scientific advances are made. But written documentation has its shortcomings.
“This bolt goes here, right?” is a pretty typical thing to wonder while struggling to reassemble a 4-stroke engine or other complicated system. Of course, this dilemma could have easily been avoided by taking pictures while disassembling the system, labeling groups of components, and noting any nuances encountered during disassembly. However, without pictures to help distinguish parts and sections of a complicated device, even the most meticulous of hand written notes would probably fail at effectively describing the appropriate location of components.
Thankfully, although many pieces of previously simple technology have become highly intricate, we have new and better ways of recording information in the modern world. We're no longer dependent on handwritten records or depictions to convey information to ourselves and others. We now have tools such as pictures and videos (and memes) that greatly expand our capacity to quickly record and portray information. Expanding the concept further, short of the big data applications, we're not even limited to physical space when storing information. What would have previously taken an entire building filled with books (known as the archaic 'library'), can now fit in someone's pocket in the form of a hard drive.
So if you're reading this on your laptop or phone, thank whoever first developed written communication. This initial innovation then warranted and enabled the creation of complex depictions, which in turn aided in the invention of photographs and videos. This begged the development of technologies to collect and store complex data, such as videos and EEG signals. And that ultimately allowed us to develop KnightCap (had to thread that in somehow), supported by the program allowing me to post this hopefully entertaining and informative innovation rant.
What are you creating today thanks to the innovators before you? What do you hope the next generation can build from your work? Join HFA in our commitment to keeping the cycle of innovation endless (and enjoying some solid memes in the process).