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What is the most important invention by humans?

If you ask 10 different people that question, you’re very unlikely to get the same answer twice.

Some might say the printing press, an invention generally attributed to a 15th-century goldsmith called Johannes Gutenberg, which made it possible to produce books on a vast scale and disseminate information across the world.

There’s a strong case for giving fire the number one spot because it enabled early humans to meet some of their most basic needs, warmth and protection, and led to all manner of other inventions including cooking.

The wheel revolutionised transport and commerce, while electricity, discovered thousands of years later, has profoundly shaped our lives since the 18th century.

The point is, there isn’t a right answer, which is what makes it a great exercise for developing critical thinking skills. 

It’s the sort of question your child might get asked as an essay question, in an interview, in a debating context or just as part of a general discussion, and it’s a fun one to chat about. 

The key is not necessarily to come up with the most historically accurate or best researched answer, though if you do happen to be an expert on the Industrial Revolution you’ll have quite a head start. What the people reading or listening to your response really want to know is that you’ve thought about the question critically and from a variety of perspectives.

Try it out in your family. 

And, if your child can come up with a convincing argument why chocolate or ice cream – relatively low-cost items that bring great pleasure on a daily basis all around the world and are therefore life-enhancing across a huge socio-economic spectrum – are the greatest inventions of all time, then they have every right to have their views considered!

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