There are times when I question the fundamental ingenuity of the human race. In a world plagued by guerrila advertising, Dr. Phil-isms, and reality show dreck, I sometimes wonder whether humanity inherently prefers easy, prepackaged answers.
That’s when my three saviors come to the rescue. Just when I’m ready to give up all hope for the creative aptitude of our species, I remember three inventions that required enormous leaps of logic, and without which life — my life, at least — wouldn’t be the same. Let’s celebrate these three crowning achievements, shall we?
#1. Contact lenses
When contact lenses came along, eyeglasses had been around for hundreds of years. And frankly, glasses weren’t such a hot-shit invention; if raindrop ‘lenses’ were around for cavemen to notice, how hard was it to think of looking through one while you’re squinting at the Sunday crossword? Hardly impressive.
But eventually, someone took the bold next step to say:
‘If glasses strapped onto our faces are good, glass embedded into our faces should be even better.‘
“If that reasoning were applied to athletic supporters, for instance, we’d have football players walking around with steel-plated scrotums instead of jock straps.”
Admittedly, such logic does not always hold true. We’re probably lucky that our pioneering friend was interested in the field of optometry, instead of, say, sporting equipment. If such reasoning were applied to athletic supporters, for instance, we’d have football players walking around with steel-plated scrotums instead of jock straps. Clearly, that wouldn’t work out very well. Getting the team through the metal detectors at airports would be a nightmare, just for starters.
I also find it hard to believe that we got contact lenses right the very first time. Or that the first trial wearers were particularly willing. I imagine the
invitation for test subjects running something like this:
‘Volunteers needed for revolutionary vision improvement experiment. Subjects will have glass crammed into their eyeballs to determine whether vision is improved. Great for students needing extra cash!‘
Hopefully, the labs sprang for Braille lessons, after the first round of testing. Or at least eyepatches.
Tragically blinded guinea pigs aside, they finally got contact lenses right, which allows me today to lead a normal, non-blurry, and relatively accident-free existence. All thanks to one brilliant person, many years ago, who was brave enough to stuff shards of glass into other peoples’ eyes to see what would happen. Bravo.
#2. Credit cards
The concept of money is odd enough, if you look at it objectively. What inherent value is there in the little scraps of paper and metal discs that we trade around for goods and services? They can’t feed our families, or shelter us in winter, or take us behind the dumpster at Denny’s for a quickie. So what good are they, really?
Still, money’s been around for thousands of years, in one form or another. However it’s represented — by bits of paper, by livestock, or by Prada handbags — money has always been a convenient and tangible way to know who you’re better than, and by exactly how much.
That’s why credit cards are such sublime genius. As ridiculous as the bits of paper might be, now they’re no longer needed. Instead of waving around our cash wads of varying girth and heft to prove our worthiness, we’ve each got an ID card-sized ticket for more bits of paper than we could ever actually earn. We can buy whatever we want, with only the promise of bits of paper that we never had in the first place.
And now, with fully automated systems like grocery store self-checkout machines, we eliminate the promise, too. We can pick up a carton of milk, scan our card to let a machine know that bits of paper are probably on the way, while we also tell the faceless, soulless corporation that gave us the card that we might, someday, repay them some portion of those bits of paper that don’t actually physically exist in the first place.
To be fair, I’m pretty sure that’s how settlers bought Manhattan from the Native Americans. Still, credit cards? Very creative.
Here’s the thing about beer:
If you, as a farmer from somewhere in the deep annals of history, harvest and eat your grain immediately, it will be fresh and delicious, and you will find yourself strengthened and invigorated by the fiber and nutrients therein.
If, instead, you eat your grain after too many months of substandard storage, it will be soggy and spoiled, and you will find yourself sickened and possibly endeadened by the infection and fungus therein.
It is only by eating your grain after just the right number of months of substandard storage that the grain will be reduced and fermented, and you will find yourself overjoyed and intoxicated by the alcoholic yeast piss within. You still might be endeadened, but it’ll be a much nicer ride.
So, the magic of beer brewing is as much a lesson in bravery and stubbornness as in creativity. You can probably get a nice buzz from drinking juuuust the right amount of turpentine, too, but to keep trying after the last dozen guys have died foaming at the mouth shows real perserverance.
Or stupidity, I guess. Maybe dumb luck and a short memory is all it really takes to be creative. In which case, I think the human race has all the ingenuity it can handle, after all.Permalink | 1 Comment