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10 of the Most Important Things That Happened To Mankind

Updated June 4, 2019 970 votes 243 voters 39.2k views10 items

There's nothing that get's people's goats more than making these kinds of lists. As if you could boil down the more important things... as if it really means anything anyway. But I think its cool anyhow. I love the idea that there were these THINGS that happened to mankind that made us what we are now. That helped or hindered us, that spell out salvation and doom at the same time. Things that, if they had not happened the way they did... would have made the world look very different indeed.

And that's just neat.
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    Domestication of Animals

    Ever since the dog (which, btw, has been our faithful friend for almost 10,000 years now) lots of humans learned pretty quickly that animals were not only delicious treats, but could be used for other stuff, too. Why plow a field by hand when you could let an ox do the job for you? Why bother wandering around in the poison sumac patch with a net and a dream when you could just keep some fat little birds in your own yard and eat them whenever you wanted? Why walk when you could ride your brand new, hardly-any-miles-on-it Camel? There is a direct link to the formation of "successful" (read dominating) civilizations with domesticated animals. How many different kinds you had, how well you were able to get them to do stuff, how many balls you could get them to balance on their noses.

    Eurasians had 11 different kinds of animals capable of being 'tamed', all of which they actually did domesticate. Africa had none. I mean, really how useful would a lion be, anyway? And elephants, while "trainable", have never successfully been domesticated. Once the cow was introduced to Africa from Europe, it was immediately accepted, but the Water Buffalo ... Africa's cow, was never made to bend to human will. Turns out it's super dangerous. Go ahead, try. See how you do. Same with zebra. Anyone ever wonder why no one rides them? Turns out they are meaner than Hades A**hole. They bite. Hard. Making dogs pull sleds and carts and getting horses to submit to having some fat merchant climb on board was a major factor in Humanity's march to Domination.
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    Crude Tools

    Lets face it, Mankind's deep, loving relationship with his tools is pretty much what puts us on top of the foodchain around here. They are ... what's the word? Useful. If you don't have a really long arm and you suck at climbing trees because someone made the decision back down the line that we were moving to two legs, you still need to get the fruit down. How about this long stick? And how does one go about getting a coconut open? Fingernails are just no good in these kinds of situations. And what about that guy you really hate? The one a few caves over? God, that guy. A sharpened rock should do the trick. What about the lever?  Axes? And don't even get me started about long-range weapons. Cro-Magnon learned that a sling was all kinds of awesome for killing stuff you would rather not get too close to. Spears? Even better.

    Oh, and the wheel. I guess that was kind of useful. The plow and... the ... well, you get the point.
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  • 7

    Technology

    Photo: Kuldeeps2105 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    At last we come up to the point we're at now. The Age of Reason, the Enlightenment, the Rennaissance, basically the evolution of the scientfic method and the develpment of scientific theory has ensured our almost complete domination as a species on our ever-sadder, little, browning, still-somewhat-blue ball.

    Observation began early on and developed hand in hand with almost everything else on this list. We would make the nerdy guy eat the weird blue berry and when he died a few minutes later, we crossed that off our list of things to eat. While we were fighting and killing, we were learning better ways to do it. While we were dying from plagues, we were learning why and how not to die the next time. We would try to turn lead into gold and while were doing that, we found out all kinds of other awesome stuff about chemistry. We would watch the planets and stars and find patterns that helped with crops and later brought us to space. 

    This led to a manipulation of the world around us to a scale that our 6 hour-a-day-chewing ancestors could have never comprehended. Harnessing fossil fuels, discovering electricity, inventing manufacturing, cars, computers, x-rays... building trains and spacecraft, satellites and subways. And we are still thinking up new things every day.

    While mortality rates have dropped, vaccines have successfully eliminated some of the deadliest pathogens, food is more abundant and accessible than ever before and life expectancy has gone through the roof, we've also created our own climate emergency from doing too much, too fast, with no real concept of the consequences. I guess the question is, can we think our way out of this one in time? Or will this be the last thing we write in the chapter of Life on Earth titled "Homo Sapien"?

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  • 8

    Climate

    So many things could have gone wrong. Imagine if an asteroid had hit right when we were banging our first rocks together? What if a massive supervolcano like the Siberian Traps had gone off as we were learning how to carefully cultivate the first seeds?  Humanity can thank several lucky climate trends for our rather speedy (in geologic terms) development. As it turned out, a great deal of some of humanity's largest bursts of creativity and breakthroughs happened during a wet, temperate period in the Earth's climate cycle. Would we have been able to do and think and be what we were if we had not had the opportunity to do things other than brutally scrape an existence out of either frozen or drought-try earth? 
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