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Humanity's Greatest Technological Revolutions

Updated on May 12, 2016
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

We Are Learning Exponentially Faster

The more we know, the faster we learn. This seems to be the trend as we look at the wonders of human revolutions. We seem to be encountering them faster and faster. There have only been three revolutions in human history that have dramatically altered the way humans live, but we are already on the cusp of a couple more. To be included on the following list, each revolution of humanity must

  1. be as important as the next
  2. dramatically change the way humans live in general
  3. eliminate at least one industry while creating at least one more

Here is a list of human revolutions that fit the criteria I just set, beginning with the first:

Revolution #1 - Farming [~6000 BC]

Mainstream scientists believe agriculture was invented around 8,000 years ago, just after the last ice age. This is the only revolution that didn’t eliminate another industry, but that is also what qualifies it to be on this list – it created industry. With the invention of farming roughly 8,000 years ago, humans were finally able to focus on other things besides constant survival. With food aplenty, they could barter, create cities, and specialize in brand new skills.

Revolution #2 - Electricity [~1880]

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when electricity was discovered, but it didn't really start to get widespread use until around the 1880s with the invention of the light bulb. Thomas Edison needed to set up power stations all over so that people could use his latest invention - and this started the electrical revolution (side note: we are all glad the greater Nikola Tesla was around to bring us ac power, even if we didn't accept him right away).

One previously huge industry this revolution eliminated was candles. It also eliminated simple, mechanical machines; and led us to create the computer where we could store vast amounts of information in a previously inconceivably tiny space. With power on tap whenever we needed it, humanity went from riding horses and farming to much more sedentary lives in offices and cars.

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Revolution #3 - The Internet [~1992]

The internet was technically invented back around the 1960s, but didn't become the internet as we know it today until around 1992. This revolution dramatically changed the way humans communicate, share information, and do business. The entire planet became connected instantaneously, and information became immediately available. Atlases, Mail, newspapers, and brick-and-mortar stores are some of the industries being phased out by google maps, email, websites, and online shops. Internet marketing, website developers, and social media gurus are some of the industries created by this revolution.

Revolution #4 - DNA [1953 - today]

Although the double helix structure of DNA was discovered in 1953 by James Watson and Francis Crick, we are just now being able to really understand and manipulate it, so this revolution is still in the making. If it weren't one of my rules for each revolution to be no less important than the next, I would say this discovery could possibly be the most impactful of all.

The first living organism's DNA was sequenced in 1995 (the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae). Since then, we have learned leaps and bounds about what makes life tick, and how to adjust it (not to mention mapping out humanity's history and evolution). Just four years ago in 2012, CRISPR was first shown to be a legit DNA editing tool. The possibilities with this are incredible.

Being able to look at an individual's DNA will allow for much more personal health care. Scientists will be able to alter your DNA and fix the source of the problem, rather than prescribing pills that often cause more problems than they fix. This will completely alter or eliminate the health care and pharmaceutical industries as we know them today. We may likely one day have eliminated cancer and other diseases, discovered better sources of energy, and possibly even slowed or reversed aging.

Most of these things are still in the development stage, but are all very likely going to happen. Since it is still in the process, it is not included as one of the three revolutions that has happened, but rather the first one we can see is on the horizon.

Revolution #5 - Sustainable, Renewable Energy [????]

I’m not even sure how, when, or if this will happen yet. It could be that we finally invent cold fusion, or maybe unlock the secret powers of photosynthesis. However we find this continuous energy source, it will change the world completely. We will be able to consume obscene amounts of energy, as much as we will ever want. The biggest implications this might have will be in space. We will be able to travel much faster (modern rockets only go up to around 40,000 mph), in excess of 1,000,000 mph. This will be the biggest obstacle that we overcome to allow us to travel through interstellar space. Not to mention every little thing we do that requires energy will be very inexpensive if not free – driving your car, flying, cooling your house, etc.

Do you think quantum computing should be somewhere on this list?

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