Why words are the best invention ever
The wheel is one of the best inventions of all time. Photo: Yasin Hosgor/ Unsplash
WHEN YOU REACH PAGE 102 of The Go-Giver Leader by Bob Burg and John David Mann, you find one of the characters agreeing that words are the greatest human invention ever.
As a bit of a word geek, you probably won’t be surprised to learn I agree with that statement.
But, being a fair-minded word geek, at least for the purposes of public perception, I decided to google the words: ‘what are the greatest human inventions ever’.
The top ranked site was from livescience.com. Its list (entitled Top 10 Inventions That Changed The World) consists of:
The printing press
The internal combustion engine
Few would argue that this is a handy bunch of kit, even though it doesn’t actually include words.
Planes, trains and, erm, skateboards…
Where, for example, would we be without the wheel? Cars, trains, planes, bikes, skateboards… however you get around, you’d get around a lot slower if not for that biscuit of metal and rubber we call the wheel. The wheel is definitely a top-notch invention.
The internal combustion engine goes hand-in-hand with the wheel. What, when you come to think of it, would be the point of a powerful chunk of well-constructed metal if there were no wheels to connect it to? Engines and wheels go together like fish and chips.
Best invention of my lifetime
And who in their right mind doesn’t think the internet is a bit spesh? It’s hard to even know where to start when it comes to naming its selling points. Techies love it. Non-techies love it. Businesses and bankers love it. Fit people love showing off their stats on it. Lazy people love looking at cute kittens on it. Kids learn on it and play remote games together online. We all communicate on it. All of which makes me conclude that the internet is probably the best invention of my lifetime. But, in my view, it’s not the best invention of all time.
That’s partly because it wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t invented words.
Words preceded everything on the above list. And, maybe nails and wheels aside, none of them would exist if not for words.
Fire preceded words. You could say that fire has existed as long as that big yellow thing in the sky has been keeping us warm. At some point, our hairy ancestors worked out how to start and how to control little versions of the sun. No doubt they saw lightning striking combustible materials and thought to themselves: ‘hmm, those dancing flames would make a great focal point in our cave’.
How fire sparked inventiveness
In fact, if it wasn’t for fire, we may never have had words. Fire gave us the ability to cook stuff. This meant we could guzzle our way through more food, because it’s easier to eat cooked food than raw food. As we ate more, we took more nutrients on board. And that allowed our brains to get bigger. And bigger brains are what led to the inventions mentioned above. No wonder King Louie in The Jungle Book wants to know the secret of ‘man’s red flower’: it’s what separates us from the apes.
So, fire would probably get my vote if it was a manmade invention. But it’s not really, is it? Even flint, the stuff we used to start fires, isn’t manmade. So, odd though it may sound, we can’t say fire is the hottest invention ever.
If you agree with me that fire’s not really an invention, then surely words win the day.
No Facebook, No Apple, No Google
For starters, you wouldn’t be able to read this hilarious blog if not for words. The internet wouldn’t exist. Big companies wouldn’t exist either, because they are built on contracts, agreements, legal definitions and other communications that allow groups of people to understand one another, follow orders and read instructions, etc. Words are the bones of record-keeping. So, without words we would have no Apple, no Facebook and no Google.
We’d probably still have individual businesses if we hadn’t invented words. Shoemakers, farmers, weavers, stonemasons would probably be okay selling their goods and services to other inn keepers, shepherds and carpenters within their village. But they would struggle to keep track if they tried selling beyond their villages. Indeed, record-keeping is what is thought to have prompted our Sumerian ancestors to invent writing 5,500 years ago. The same ancestors are also thought to have invented the wheel. Which may make Sumerians the most inventive people of all time.
So, let’s hear it for words. All those in favour say ‘aye’. All those against… erm… well, you could go start a fire.
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Thanks for reading.