We have achieved a great many things as a race. Humans are remarkable creatures who only focus on moving forward, despite the consequences--for better or for worse.

Over the past 100 years the human race has seen unparalleled advances in technology, medicine, communication...things essential for humans to continue exponential growth.

u/musiclover1998 asked:

What is the greatest human achievement of all time?

Here were some of those answers.

Trust Vaccines

We killed smallpox. One of the deadliest diseases in all of human history, which killed 30% of those who caught it, and caused almost 300 million deaths in the 20th century, of which it had less than 80 years and spent a good chunk of those 80 years vastly less deadly than it had been previously because we as a species decided to. And we deliberately hunted it down and killed it everywhere on the planet.

Vaccinations are up there too of course (and are a large part of how we got rid of smallpox for good) but in terms of a single accomplishment, deliberately eradicating smallpox was incredible.


There's A Joke In Here Somewhere

Maybe not the greatest but glass is up there. Glass gives you the microscope, the telescope, glasses to extend your learning with age. It's helped us to look closer and further away for longer.


I honestly believe glass to be one of the most consequential inventions in human history. As you alluded to, our understanding of both medicine and our place in the universe was built upon the optical properties of glass. Think of how many people rely on glasses to see clearly.

But even beyond its use for lenses, it's still incredibly important. Every time you get in a car, you are navigating the world in a bubble of glass. And perhaps most importantly, the screen you're reading this on —and the one I'm typing it on— are made of glass. It plays a huge role in this technological age to rapidly spread information.


Information Superhighway

Came to say writing, especially print. Johannes Gutenberg made writing/reading and therefore knowledge available for many more people and social class than before.

Before, books were super costly because they had to be hand written which usually took a while and made books hella expensive, very few people could afford them.

With the printing machine one could print several copies of a page, newspaper or books in "one go". Books were still expensive, obviously, but it was a huge step forward for society (and religion), culture and science.


Humankind has a really strong propensity for perpetuity, which these achievements really show.

Zoom Zoom Zoom

Reading a book about the history of flight recently, it really is insane the way in which we advance exponentially.

From the Wright brothers making their first flight, which lasted 12 seconds and flew just under 40m, it was only a decade before we were dogfighting in WW1, another 50 or so to build the fastest manned aircraft to date and about another decade after that to land on the moon. The first controlled, powered flight and the moon landing were within the same century.


Documenting Outer Space

This picture. That's a picture of pluto's atmosphere with our sun illuminating it. It was taken by the New Horizons probe after it flew past pluto. In less than 100 years humans went from discovering a planetoid at the far edge of our solar system with a telescope that could barely discern it, to flying a space ship past it while it took high definition photos, and sent those pictures back to earth.

In less than a hundred years we went from this, to this.

Fire, writing, agriculture, they're all just tools that allow us to exercise our curiosity. Our curiosity though, that is our greatest achievement. And the greatest result of our curiosity is space exploration.


A Bit Of Perspective

Sort of two ways to answer, the "foundations" reasoning or the "crowning jewel" reasoning.

Things like agriculture, manipulation of fire, etc are the underpinnings of everything else. Super important but not really crowning jewel achievements. We don't celebrate artists for their doodles or scientists for their school grades.

Something like the discovery of the Higgs boson has built upon so much of humanity's genius and hard work, I find it hard to argue against with regards to the sheer majesty of human endeavour that was necessary. Then again every crowning achievement has fundamental and crucial prerequisites, back and back.

So it depends on perspective. Personally I like the crowning jewel perspective better because it allows room for us to be better than our past selves. Although the contribution of those before should never be forgotten, of course.



Symbolism. Being able to think about things symbolically is what most archeologists think brought about our ability to form language, civilization, and think critically, and cave paintings seem to be the earliest indications of when it happened.

How it happened is a complete and total mystery though (I think the psychedelic theories are fun but nobody knows for sure)


Achievements can take the form of inventions, or concepts, or methods of communication.


Language, because it led to the second greatest achievement: lying, which in turn led to the third greatest achievement: mass cooperation.

Those three things bootstrapped our fairly modest intelligence gap into a ludicrous, completely insurmountable intelligence gap with other species.


Empathy As A Superpower

As cheesy as it sounds, I think the greatest human achievement is empathy. When someone is able to look past themselves and attempt to understand the feelings and needs of someone else, really cool stuff happens.

Looking into the eyes of someone who is hurting and telling them that you are gonna be there for them is one of the most selfless and greatest things I think a person can do.


A Simple Sequence

When Einstein came up with E=mc2. That one equation changed so many things and helped create the atomic bomb.

If you want an ethical "achievement", then probably something like The Buddha gaining enlightenment, or another religious figure, like Jesus doing the same. Since those religions turned people into better people. (when applied properly)


Humans are capable of so much. We are on the brink of a new renaissance, filled with human achievements unparalleled in the realms of science and technology.

We, in just the past 20 years, have advanced so significantly as a society that information is now available in our pockets at a moment's call-up. What will 20 more years bring us?

Nadine Shaabana/Unsplash

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