Homo sapiens is only 200 000 years old, but in that time we have come so far. A lot of the breakthroughs we have made in this time are amazing. But the things people think are important aren’t always the things that have made a difference. What things have affected EVERYONE? Every human on the planet? Here are 20 things which, together, provide a beautiful map of human progress.
14 Steam Engine (1750)
Although the steam engine has a history that is thousands of years long, it was not used widely until it brought about the industrial revolution. It heralded a new era of mass-production and transportation of goods through the widespread use of engines. It was the first engine to be extensively used around the world, and still today makes up the main power source on Earth: 90% of all the electric power in the world is derived from steam. The steam engine and the large-scale construction and manufacturing it enabled not only reshaped the lives of all in or near the British Empire, but it gave rise to modern capitalism, for which there had been no need by the paltry businesses that had previously existed. Electric lighting, travel by boat and railways, mining, textiles, chemicals, and glass manufacture all increased on a gigantic scale, turning much of the world into a machine of production. Today, even those who live without electricity use products created elsewhere by steam power. The effects of steam power, the Industrial Revolution, and mass-production have become ubiquitous.
15 Fossil Fuels (5,000 years ago)
Fossil fuels had been used by ancient civilizations for a variety of purposes, but never on a large scale. In the middle ages, coal began to be mined extensively for use by smiths and metalworkers. Coal saw its biggest use at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Intimately connected with the use of the steam engine, fossil fuels provided a rich source of energy. Coal is the most widely used fossil fuel on the planet, although other forms such as liquid oil and various gases are also used. Coal provides much more energy when burnt than an equivalent mass of wood, and when a large quantity of fuel is needed, fossil fuels are more economical and less wasteful. Fossil fuels allowed the steam engine to proliferate and enabled electricity to be given to the world.
16 The Automobile (1885)
The use of steam power and the widespread use of large transport vehicles such as trains and ships gave rise to the natural human desire to refine what they already had to a more delicate scale. A personal transportation machine, a steam-powered carriage, was the dream of many. Several prototypes were produced, but all had various problems and were not suitable for widespread use. When the internal combustion engine, a specialized steam engine, was developed, it began to be adapted for automobiles. The technology developed, but was never entirely successful until Karl Benz created what is acknowledged as the first modern automobile in 1885. Gradually, the usefulness of these cars was seen and production steadily increased. There nearly a billion cars and small trucks being used on roads today, and although most people do not yet own their own car as has always been dreamed, many villages have one car which is shared between all the villagers in case of emergency. Cars are used all over the world when urgent travel is needed. The very layout of every city on earth is dictated by roads for use by cars.