There’s something that has always puzzled me, even when I was a young lad, working hard to get the marks I needed at school, and chasing balls round cricket or football pitches.
I imagine it’s a question that has occupied much more philosophical minds than mine, men like Hawking, Socrates, Sartre, Dewey and Mary Wollenstonecraft, all great thinkers and leaders in the noble field of philosophy.
Now don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to put myself on a par with these great people, in fact I hardly claim the right to be living on the same planet with them, but I believe we all, in our more lucid moments, are capable of ideas which they would be interested in, even if only in a small way. After all, they don’t spend their whole lives with their heads in the clouds — they think ordinary things as well, just like us though perhaps not quite so often!
Anyway, I seem to have digressed somewhat from my opening sentence, the thing that has puzzled me so, over the many years I’ve been about the place.
Why is it that humans have been on this earth for millions of years, hacking away at the soil for food, the rocks for shelter and the trees to keep warm, but not one of them came up with any of the wonderful things that have happened in the last 150 years? Why didn’t the Egyptians discover electricity? Why didn’t the Greeks have any ideas about the ability to fly? And why were the Romans so ignorant of the possibilities of burning petrol in a confined space, to provide enough energy to power a moving vehicle. What about electronics, atomic energy, gun powder, chemical reactions, illness-curing drugs and mass production?
The strangest thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that all the necessary materials to produce everything we take for granted today were always there, waiting to be discovered and developed into cars, aeroplanes, atomic bombs, space rockets, powerful healing drugs and clothes made from a myriad of artificial fibres, longer lasting and cheaper than the cotton and wool of the previous many millennia!
Was the Industrial Revolution, which many say was the birth of all the amazing developments that followed, just a freak of good luck, an opportunity grabbed by someone who spotted something and had the sense to develop it. If that is the case, what about the discovery of pottery, made from soft, malleable clay, or iron — who was it that thought to apply considerable heat to some brownish coloured rock, which then turned into a wonderful new metal?
Why didn’t these great discoverers go on to try more ideas, like subjecting other rocks to the same treatment as the clay and the iron ore, to see what would happen to them? How many more centuries was it before a person set like to a piece of black, softish rock, only to find it burnt as well as wood, thus starting off the mining industry and filling the air with poisonous gasses and soot, but also providing cheap fuel, both for individuals and, eventually, many industries?
Oh, I know everything must have its place in the chronological order of things, but why did it take so many thousands of years, with virtually no progress made by mankind at all, especially when held back by religious bigotry, only to explode during the 18th and 19th centuries, into a ‘bright new world’ of electric light, cars, space travel, clean food and water and soft toilet paper. Did mankind suddenly become frighteningly more intelligent 150 years ago — if so, why?
It’s all a thought I find very interesting, though I doubt anyone can really give an answer — what I wonder now is, what will happen in the next 100 years (though sadly, I won’t be here to see it happen).
What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think there will be much progress and development in the next 100 years? What would you like to see occur in your lifetime?
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