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I’ve become quite enthusiastic about bicycling in recent years and have come to the conclusion that the invention of the bicycle was one of the top three milestones of human development. The other two were the discovery of how to make fire, and agriculture.
The change brought about by being able to produce fire on demand was clearly a new phenomenon and a profound evolutionary step. Similarly, shifting from reliance on nature to provide through hunting and gathering to systematically gathering the seeds themselves, planting them in an organized fashion, nurturing the fields and then harvesting the more bountiful crop may be the single most significant step in the development of civilization.
I rate the invention of the bicycle in the same class. For the first time in human history, man converted human energy to motive power and then used that power to move the man more efficiently on land than ever before. Incredible.
Anything else I can think of, from the printing press to electricity to refrigeration to computing, has been basically an improvement on an existing technology. Only those top three developments described above were newly created technologies, not advances in existing practices.
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