I’ve been musing about this the last week or so. I think the most important invention of humans is this: creation, of durable things, for the benefit of others – in other words, making.
Think about it a little. We humans are not the only species that uses tools, and it’s not just some other species of apes, there are some species of birds (crows come to mind) and I’m sure a few others as well. But as best I understand current investigation, no other species has ever created a tool for future use as opposed to finding something close enough to the needs of the moment and then perhaps modifying it for the moment.
The closest I think other species comes to making are the construction of birds’ nests, or sleeping nests some apes use in the trees, or spider webs, or maybe prairie dog tunnel systems. But they don’t have the same feel of creation and invention that I’m picturing.
And it need not be specific to tools. Cave paintings count as creation too, creation of something that endures past its initial moment of use for the benefit of, or at least observation by, others.
Somewhere along the way in our long history, someone made a figure in the sand to illustrate something, or put together some sticks and foliage to help carry another, or used a dead animal’s stomach to carry water. Who knows? Likely they didn’t even realize they had made something no one had ever made before. Almost certainly, it was made too by others, and somewhere along the way the idea of making took hold.
Without it, we could never be what we are now.
Whoever that person is, certainly now forever unknowable, who first made something, I give thanks. By sharing, she or he enriched us all.
Now, just imagine if that first creation had been patented.