These days most of us are safe from big fierce predators, but each of us still
has to get food, water, clothes, and shelter. Yet very few of us grows or kills
our own food. Almost none of us ever has to go down to the river for a drink of
water. Some people build their own house but not many. And the same goes for clothes.
Some of us dabble in doing some of these basic survival tasks for ourselves, but
virtually no one does everything, or comes even close.
More Than You Need
The reason we don't have to do all these basic survival things for ourselves is
because somewhere someone else has made more of them than they need. Somewhere
a farmer raised way more wheat than he could use. He sold all this "excess" wheat
to a bread company somewhere. The employees of the bread company used the wheat
to make way more bread than they could eat in several lifetimes. This excess bread
was put into big trucks that carried way more bread than the driver could ever
eat to lots of stores in lots of towns. The reason all these people can make and
move more of this stuff than they need is because someone somewhere invented methods
and tools that allowed them to be more productive.
This practice of people making more of something than they can use has been going
on for thousands of years. Somewhere, a long time ago, a clever little farmer
invented a way for his or her friends and family to plant a whole lot more seeds
than they used to be able to plant. This meant they could grow a lot more plants
than they used to be able to grow. We now call that clever invention a plow. The
plow caught on. We're still using them but now they're made of stainless steel
and many of them at one time are pulled behind tractors with more power and lots
more speed than several hundred horses.
the Real "Driving Force" of History
The plow was a significant event in the history of mankind. Much more significant
than Hitler or Rome or even Marilyn Monroe (though it helped them to become what
they were). The plow, and many other doo-dads and devices like it, allowed humankind
to become a creator a creator of art, of music, of writing and reading,
of sports, of movies, of airplanes and cars, of organized religions, of governments
and laws, of science and industry, of schools and teachers, of countless other
non-basic-survival related occupations, of efficient weapons, of pollution
in short, a creator of civilization.
The clever inventer of the plow had never heard the word
engineering but that's what he was doing.
New, But We're Better at It Now
It's not new, but in the last couple of centuries we've gotten a whole lot better
at making more than we need. When we're really good at it we say we're "industrialized".
People can now make more things than they can use in many lifetimes. In many factories
they make more things in a day or an hour than they can use in many lifetimes.
In these "modern" times we have invented a specialty called engineering. Now we
pay people money to spend all their time figuring out ways to make ourselves more
and more productive. These modern engineers usually take many years of difficult
college courses to learn to use sophisticated science and math tools to develop
their ideas. As a result progress is fast now, very fast. It only takes a small
portion of our population (in the industrialized countries) to make the basic
survival stuff for the rest of the people. That means the rest of us have to find
something else to do.
Most of us think it's good that most of us don't have to spend all our time acquiring
the survival basics. We choose to do something other than raise crops, make fabric
and sew clothes, or build shelters.
Engineering is the reason musicians and actors don't
have to spend all their time growing or killing their own food. They like to say,
"That's show business!" But they ought to say, "That's civilization!" and
"Thank you very much Mr. or Ms. Engineer for making it possible for me to
spend all my time making music instead of bread".
The clever little inventions of engineer-thinkers are
the reason Mark McGuire can spend his off season weight-lifting and perfecting
his swing instead of storing up food, clothes, and fire-wood. You're welcome Mark.
It is the engineer part of the human brain that has created
civilization. Whether you think that's a good thing, a bad thing, of just a thing,
you should understand what a huge thing it is and how it works. That's what this
section is all about.
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