Evolution of tools and our innate ability to innovate

8,000 BC

2,000 BC

14th Century

Computer Cursor. 21st Century

I stumbled upon an interesting post from NYC-based Designer and Design Strategist, Michael Surtees, in his Design Notes blog where he featured the evolution of tools. From the prehistoric days of our cave-dwelling ancestors to the present time. Mentioning specifically that with the fast-paced technological advancement, the computer cursor that we’ve become so accustomed to will soon be a thing of the past, replaced by touch screens.

Michael’s blog features some enjoyable thought-provoking ideas of his daily observations of human-machine-system interaction, as well as other insights from his experience helping solve his clients’ problems through better design. Michael is the Founder of Gesture Theory Design Firm.

I was drawn to repost it for a number of reasons that I’ll explain in brief and in a simplistic manner:

  1. Innovation is an innate and fundamental human trait > our instinctive capacity to solve problems, triggered by our survival mode in our Reptilian Brains, on how to safeguard ourselves and reproduce our genes. Seeking new and better ways of problem-solving using all the resources around us (both natural and man-made).
  2. We are creatures of habit > we will improve on methods, manners, and solutions that work. We learn from each other, and as social creatures we will pass on the knowledge to the next generation.
  3. We learn and communicate visually > long before the discovery of written language and ergonomics, we’ve learned to communicate visually through signs, symbols and shapes. This explains – for example – why an arrow is used to depict direction on signposts, and why the design of a cursor harks back to cavemen’s stone tools.
  4. Evolution is a constant > and as much as we often voice out our inability to change, or our intention to resist it, we know that it is in our nature to change and forge ahead. This applies in everything we do as individuals, and collectively as groups. Affecting everything we do as communities, organizations (read: Business World); citizens, governments, nations… in short, well… as mankind. And this is what separates us from animals.

There’s an excellent book on this very subject, from Kathleen Gibson & Tim Ingold, “Tools, Language and Cognition in Human Evolution,” that explores it from social sciences perspective.

… how human beings have evolved as creatures who can make and use more complex tools, communicate in more complex ways and engage in more complex forms of social life than any other species in the animal kingdom. Leading researchers from fields as diverse as biological and social anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, psychology, neurology and ethology have come together to present a unique interdisciplinary study of this central question in human evolution.

… include the parallels between speech, manual gesture and other modes of communication; comparisons of the tool-using skills and imitative abilities of humans and non-human primates and the neurological links between the cognitive processes involved in language.

… essential reading for all those interested in human evolution, be they philosophers, humanists or scientists.

Inspiration: Design Notes

About dianhasan

Brand Storyteller, Travel Writer, Speaker, Creative Writer & Thinker - avid observer of randomness in everyday life - Sustainable Business, Eco Matters, Sustainable Urban Issues, Architecture, Heritage Conservation, Innovation & Brand-Strategy, Cross-Cultural Communications, Travel, Tourism & Lifestyle.
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