The Greatest Ideas of Humanity

The Greatest Ideas of Humanity

As animals upon the Earth, humanity's chief advantage has been the gift of reason and the ability to create. Truly amazing ideas have sprung from people's minds from the dawn of history to the present day. In the ways of art and music, human creativity knows no bounds. As a word, genius is thrown around today with abandon, but precious few people have great ideas in the same class as the following six.

The Wheel

No one knows the exact date when the wheel came into being. General consensus says that it was during the Neolithic period, which began roughly 12,000 years ago. The earliest depiction of a wheel comes from the fourth millennium BCE. The wheel made labor, transportation, and artisan crafts easier by orders of magnitude and is one of the cornerstones of civilization.

The Curing of Meat

As there was no refrigeration in the ancient world other than winter ice, protein-rich meats would rapidly spoil. From the cradle of humanity in Olduvai Gorge to Mesopotamia, smoking and soaking meat in brine preserved the meat of the ancestors of humanity. Early Paleolithic hominins lived in caves about 3 million years ago, and because these lacked chimneys, they became excessively smoky after the discovery of fire. Early hominins undoubtedly hung their meat to keep vermin and other pests away from it, and they noticed that meat lasted longer and tasted better after hanging in smoke. Using their creativity, they began smoking it on purpose.

The Creation of Zero

The earliest counting was in base 10 because human beings had 10 fingers. Because only very rare people had no fingers at all, there was no concept of zero. In Asia, people counted in base 12 because they could point their thumbs at each of the knuckles on their fingers in succession. The Babylonians used base 60 because of the ability to make lots of fractions, but they, too, had no true zero.

When, in the ninth century, the mathematical genius Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Khwarizmi said that people should draw a little circle at the end of a row of numbers to keep order, zero was born. Zero is exceptionally powerful because it allows successive numbers to have higher weights. Imagine the wonderment in the minds of mathematicians when they discovered that adding two zeros to a collection of numbers increased their value by a factor of 100!


Family Units

In the cradle of humanity millions of years ago, family units existed largely for protection. In a world where promiscuity was "part of the job description" to prevent stagnant endogamy and the continuance of genetic defects that might have doomed the species, males and females bonded together to protect their children. Sometimes, two early males would be fathers to different groups of children begotten with the same female. They might have to fight off rival males to preserve their family group. As family groups grew in size, they would, necessarily, have to mate with other family groups to stave of endogamy. These loose alliances are the first form of political construct.

The Golden Rule

In the Christian faith, Jesus Christ delivered the message of The Golden Rule during the Sermon on the Mount. It is one of Christ's Three Great Commandments, and Matthew notates it as follows: Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

The Golden Rule is not inherent only to Christianity, however.

Buddha had the Golden Rule worked out over five hundred years before Christ. Confucius too, talked about a version of the Golden Rule around the time of Buddha. Every major world religion today contains some variant of it. Among great ideas, this one might have saved humanity from annihilation. Even with it being part of nearly every religion, we have warred upon each other since we have recorded history.

The Printing Press

On this list, the latest of humanity's amazing ideas that shaped the world was the brainchild of Johannes Gutenberg. Through his creativity, he designed a machine that would make large-scale and widespread dissemination of information possible to the masses and not just the elite. Books no longer had to be transcribed by hand. Hundreds of copies could be made in the same time it took to copy one by hand.

The extensions from Gutenberg's 1454 invention include all forms of mass communication, such as the telegraph, radio, television, and even the internet. It's difficult to fathom any of those world-changing examples of human creativity ever coming to fruition if we had to rely on monks copying books by hand for the last 565 years.


Let's keep 'em coming. Let's seek one good idea a day in our lives.

Purveyor of Ideas, 

Sunil Thankamushy, Los Angeles