The Rifle of Course! - FORBES POLL


July 31, 2005, 10:19 AM
FORBES is running a poll and asking the question Which tool had the biggest impact on human civilization?

Im grateful their calling it a "tool". :D


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July 31, 2005, 10:44 AM
I voted sword.

Without the centuries of metallurgical experimentation that went into crafting the sword, the rifle wouldn't have been possible.

July 31, 2005, 10:46 AM
I want to vote for the remote control.

July 31, 2005, 11:02 AM
I voted pencil. Without writing, where would we be?

July 31, 2005, 11:31 AM
If "watch" generically refers to portable clocks, then that's what I vote for. Where would we be without longitude?

I too respect Forbes for calling a rifle a tool.

Edited to add:: I also agree with those who said this poll is too limited (or at least doesn't include better stuff). Going beyond the poll, I too have to vote for agricultural implements mainly because of the free time we gained to think about stuff other than "where's my next meal coming from?"

July 31, 2005, 11:43 AM
Torn between long bow and rifle. Before adaquate ranged weapons, the sword wielders ruled the lands, iron clad and invincable by ordinary peasants. The Welsh long bow changed tht, and the rifle put the final nail in the coffin of the armored knights, thus changing the landscape from fuedalism to the Rennaisance, (spelling?).
My take. The tool that truly moved a people from substinance living, to having enough food to branch out into studies of what made life better was none of the above - it was the horse collar. A horse harnessed with straps couldn't work much more than two or three humans, and ate the same. With a proper collar, a horse could do far more work, thus cultivating more, and freeing up people for other things, like developing looms, forges, etc.

July 31, 2005, 11:51 AM
Actually, I would have to vote for the knife in its original form, the flake of stone. With this first implement, we were able to process meat, hides, fibers and move up and out. Other primitives of the time might have had fang and claw, but neither is as useful as the sharp edge of a piece of obsidian.

But, for the sake of our modern society and its unreasonable fear of firearms, I voted for the rifle. Accurate time-pieces made the difference in exploration and general management, but people need to see the rifle as a useful tool and not a weapon of mass killing like the libs would prefer.

July 31, 2005, 12:07 PM
I voted for the rifle (for solidarity's sake)....

This is something that could be debated endlessly....and I love it! :neener: What about:

The Microcomputer?
Air Conditioning?
The Plow?
The Wheel?
The Printing Press?


Of course the poll does say "tool" so perhaps an invention like the air conditioner doesn't belong on the list. :D

July 31, 2005, 01:04 PM
Stupid list...

Didn't list the wheel or the printing press. And looking forward in a thousand years I'd bet that the electronic computer may very well be on the top of the list or real close and that's not listed either.

Nothing on that list had the biggest impact on civilization. Hell, the impact of most was minimal at best. The watch impacted navigation I guess - if they replaced rifle with firearms then that was a big impact other than that - well most of the stuff impacted civ but in tiny incremental amounts not the big evolutionary changes brought about by the likes of the wheel or the printing press.

AND then of course the list completely ignores that which impacted Western Civ more than any other single event - the Black Plague. That event in Europe essentially gave birth to capitalism and the merchant class.

July 31, 2005, 01:08 PM
Yeah, but Werewolf, the Black Plague isn't a tool.

Much as it pains me to say it, the knife is probably the most important. It's one of the very few human implements that doesn't have a very narrow focus.

July 31, 2005, 01:09 PM
The correct answer, the plow, isn't on the list, so I went with the rifle.

July 31, 2005, 01:10 PM
Lol I'm going for pottery. Just like in the Civilization type games... Pottery was one of the first technologies you could research. Pottery lets you store food, you don't have to eat things right away and you can make graineries to store food for communities.

Without pottery everyone would still be nomads or live in small subsistence-farming villages.

At least I hope pottery is what that poll is referring to... It just says 'pot'. Maybe they want to see what the dopeheads think.

July 31, 2005, 01:11 PM
Call me a geek, but I personally vote the silicon age. Purification, growing of, and manufacture of electronic grade silicon monocrystalline from the Czochralski method and processing them into microchips.

The technology is nothing short of incredible. We can literally grow perfect single-grain crystal structures a dozen feet tall weighing hundreds of pounds at 99.999999999%-99.9999999999% in one billionths to ten billionths percent of contamination , the most pure and perfect substance in the known universe. Nothing like this even exists in nature. That's damn pure! We then turn what is essentially a small lump of doped silicon and use them to do anything from figuring out your tax returns to flying to the Moon. If you would have repeated what I said a hundred years ago, they'd think it as stupid as getting gold to dance and sing.

The exponential growth of human technology made a monumental jump from the Industrial Revolution, but nothing can touch the silicon age. With our computing power doubling every 18 months (unheard of rate of advancement in any other time in history), there is no other time in history where technology has advanced so quickly as it has during the last 50 years.

Since we're living in the silicon age, we're not likely going to realize nor appreciate it's impact until many decades or centuries later when someone looks back into a history book and sees the huge plateau in technological leap during this time.

July 31, 2005, 01:45 PM
Yeah, but Werewolf, the Black Plague isn't a tool. Well - not a tool of man anyway.

Or maybe it is...

Didn't Genghis Khan launch the dead bodies of plague carriers via catapault into and over the walls of cities that chose, however unwisely, to defy him? :evil:

July 31, 2005, 02:06 PM
The knife is included, which is good. The knowledge & skill of knapping an edge out of fine grained stone turned us from a scavenging annoyance to dangerous predators.

The plow is omitted, which is bad. The plow and organized agricultural methods allowed us to accumulate food enough for free time, development of cities, city states and armies.

W/o those two tools, we'd all still be running about in small bands, hiding in the weeds from lions, tigers and bears.

July 31, 2005, 03:04 PM
The knife WAS the first tool man made, aside from sticks or stone hammers, that caused early man to control his environment and start learning to use other tools. I think the plow is another pretty good argument, because agriculture probably had a greater influence on groups of people organizing and actually forming civilizations.

Gunpowder really was invented before rifles, and I think would have played a similar role in shaping wars and human history, even if the rifle was never invented.

July 31, 2005, 03:11 PM
I personally have always thought that fire was man's most important invention. Without fire we would still be using stone tools, and those would be limited to only the stones we could find laying around on the ground and eating raw meat. We wouldn't be able to clear land as effeciently either.

July 31, 2005, 03:14 PM
"The Plow" wasn't listed so I picked the scythe. I was torn between that and the harness. As much as I like swords and firearms, they have impacted human history for a very short time. And they would hardly have been possible had it not been for the move from nomadic to agricultural life.

July 31, 2005, 03:34 PM
which this absurd poll did not even mention. Of course, without the harness, there would be no plow; without a plow, there would be little need for a scythe.

Second GLARING omission: The wheel. Note that watches (as opposed to certain other timepeices, such as candles and buckets) utilize wheels...

Printing presses made the wide dissemination of knowledge practical; mass writing was the internet of its era. Without printing, it is unlikely there would be a computer or space age - at least not in OUR lifetimes.... :scrutiny:

July 31, 2005, 03:39 PM
The wheel is the most important invention even more so than the plow.

The plow allowed for agriculture but the wheel allowed for the fast movement of the products of agriculture to areas where it was needed - thus trade and commerce. Along with the movement of goods went the movement of knowledge.

The Inca, Aztecs and Mayans as advanced as they were (especially in mathematics) never developed the wheel and thus their civilizations ground to a halt eventually and faded away.

July 31, 2005, 03:47 PM
I think speech is a tool. That would be my answer. It was invented, right?

July 31, 2005, 03:54 PM
Not a tool, but soap was the most important invention.

Tool? Knife or plow.

Weapon? Crossbow/bow. It was the start of true stand-off weapons.

July 31, 2005, 03:55 PM
The chisel seems pretty important, since it was probably used to make the wheel and all.

July 31, 2005, 04:49 PM
This poll is like trying to pick your favorite Hitchcock film: Aggrandizing one as the champion implicitly demeans all the others, and you know in your heart of hearts that there's no justice in that.

It's like asking, "If you could only teach children one thing in school, what would it be?" One thing isn't enough. Same here. The significance of these achievements mounted and built upon past accomplishments. The internal combustion engine has transformed the world, but it'd be useless without the wheel. Telecommunications and microprocessing technologies combine to be exponentially more powerful than either of them would be alone.

Ultimately, the human capacity to make tools is the critical element here, and so I cast my vote for the oldest tool: The Macintosh Performa. :neener:

July 31, 2005, 04:49 PM
The gunpowder revolution, baby. It's what helped the West rise above everybody else.

July 31, 2005, 07:58 PM
The knife. And by extension, all other material shaping tools. That is the beginning of our rise to our present place.

It's not exactly a tool as it would probably be defined in this poll but an important major step was domestication of animals (along with farming). Without that wheels, plows etc would be of limited use.

Ala Dan
July 31, 2005, 08:11 PM
I didn't see Handgun, so I voted for the Rifle. :D

July 31, 2005, 10:24 PM
Another problem is that many of those qualify as "inventions" only under the loosest definition of the word. I'd prefer to take a line from the patent office, and require that things be non-obvious. The broom? Pretty obvious. Ditto with the knife--even though it was highly influential, in all its various forms (including swords), it undoubtedly occurred naturally in its first form as a sharp rock, and everything else was just experimentation. The needle and the spoon are similarly obvious.

Personally, I'd go with lysander's printing press. Particularly given why it was invented: Gutenberg invented it to duplicate the Bible and bring religion to the common man. That not only made possible the Protestant revolution (see: Martin Luther), but also went a long way toward instilling the idea that the people could have power, and could work on their own, rather than being commanded from on high. Bringing the source of religious knowledge directly to the people removes the power from the Church in a highly religious society (as we had in the middle ages), and gives it to the people. (The idea can be extended to secular knowledge, but in history, it was religion.) It also allowed the people to see for the first time the tremendous corruption in the leadership (in this case, the Catholic power structure), thus producing the catalyst for change. This has been a recurring theme throughout history; for instance, look at the American Revolution. Without the printing press, the ability of the revolutionaries to spread the news of the Crown's abuses, what are the odds we'd have had a revolution at all, or that it would have turned out the way it did? Further, that egalitarian spirit formed the basis of our government; what kind of government do you think we'd have if the people had never been introduced to the idea of reading the data and making their own decisions?

July 31, 2005, 10:54 PM
What? No bites on Air Conditioning? :p

AC Rules!!! (

It made long work days in the hot city office buildings possible in the summer...amongst other things....

Without AC we couldn't have turned Phoenix into a giant sprawl of fancy McMansions, cause it gets hot in Arizona. :fire:

July 31, 2005, 10:59 PM
The most important aspect of A/C is probably the hauling of very perishable goods that would otherwise spoil. Though, A/C (and in parallel the concept of the heat exchanger used in items like fridges) put the iceman out of business!

Dave R
July 31, 2005, 11:08 PM
Lame list. I didn't see what I wanted to vote for. Printing press.

Pen is mightier than the sword, and all that.

Standing Wolf
July 31, 2005, 11:25 PM
The Lewis lead remover.

August 1, 2005, 08:23 AM
"The Inca, Aztecs and Mayans as advanced as they were (especially in mathematics) never developed the wheel and thus their civilizations ground to a halt eventually and faded away."

And in what way, shape, manner or form did the absence of the wheel cause this? :scrutiny:

First, the Mayans HAD the wheel - they just did not use it for transportation.

Second, note that the Inca were invaded by the Spanish, armed with guns, horses and disease. Think THOSE might have been factors?

Third, there were EXTENSIVE road networks and trade that ran from Central America into what is now Arizona and New Mexico - all without the wheel.

Ever consider plague, weather (drought-caused famine) or the general population abandoning a corrupt and failed ruler as reasons for the end of these civilizations? Any of those dependent upon the wheel?

The Greeks under Phillip and Alexander had wheels; those empires fell. Rome had wheels - it fell. Do did Babylon, Persia and the Ottoman Turks.

So how did the mere absence of the wheel single-handledly cause the collapse of THREE separate cultures? :uhoh:

August 1, 2005, 08:34 AM
All civilizations have created the knife in one form or aonther. I do think the rifle was the most important invention in the field of warfare and hunting.

August 1, 2005, 08:39 AM
Yes A/C helps make life easier, but also remember it made it easier for Congress to stay in session. Before that, the CongressCritters would scurry home like cockroaches when the light comes on.
I wonder if we could outlaw A/C in the Capitol, perhaps in all government buildings inside the beltway. Some of the "civial masters" are worse than those CongressCritters :evil:
Now for our friend CWS, a portable/personal unit would be ok :)

August 1, 2005, 09:58 AM
So how did the mere absence of the wheel single-handledly cause the collapse of THREE separate cultures? The Aztec and Mayan cultures essentially collapsed because they destroyed their agricultural base and could not feed their populations.

Yes they had extensive road networks but moved everything by foot. With the wheel they could have moved large quantities of food from where it was to where it was needed. They couldn't do that and the population centers where the ruling classes lived just faded away.

The same applies to a lesser extent to the Inca though I will agree as you pointed out that the Spanish were the primary influence.

As an aside: It is quite possible that had the pre-columbian central and south american civs developed the wheel that when the Spanish arrived they could easily have had civilizations that stood on an equal footing with those of Europe. The wheel is one of the 3 basic machines (wheel, screw, lever) from which all other machines trace their development. Without the wheel no civ can go very far (in a technological sense).

Don't Tread On Me
August 1, 2005, 10:13 AM
Abacus-Helped in doing calculations, there were other counting methods. Not that important in the greater scheme of things.

Barometer: I don't understand how this can compete with the othe selections. Knowing the pressure outside?

Broom: This isn't the exclusive method of keeping clean.

Candle: This wasn't the exclusive method of producing light. Light at night wasn't that critical before the advent of electricity. If anything, night time didn't become the part of life that it is today until electricity/lightbulb.

Chisel: This helped man to build monuments. Monuments usually for Gods. It didn't help innovate anything else. Gave us a new way to write or do record keeping.

Compass: Great for navigation obviously. Too bad that most discovery occured without one (comparatively).

Condom: Impact on humanity? Birth Control has been around a long time before this. For STD prevention...well ok. But STD's aren't mandatory.

Corkscrew: Not even close.

Eyeglasses: This is a great invention, but it doesn't impact humanity since people with good vision would have progressed the world regardless.

Fishhook: Net fishing existed. This isn't that big.

Floppy disk: Gimme a break.

Gas Chromatograph: Naaa

Harness: Nope

Knife: Now this is a good one. Knife came in handy.

Lathe: No.

Level: Like the chisel, it was handy in building monuments and structures. And these were often not involved in innovating other things. Perhaps certain structures like aqeducts etc...still, not major impact on humanity.

Longbow: This has been in my opinion, detrimental to human civilization. This was another innovation and weapon of war that allowed monarchies and aristocracies to maintain power.

Mouse: Like the floppy disk, nope.

Needle: This was big in for the world of sowing. We could then make garments to wear. But this is secondary to the invention of rope/thread.

Paper clip: Not even close. This must be a filler item.

Pencil: Writing existed in many forms. Chisel, painting, quill pen. Cavement painted with blood on cave walls. That is a form of communication.

Pot: As in weed? ***?

Remote control: No impact, except it made our society more coutch potatos.

Rifle: This is the item that has the single most greatest impact on human civilization. The entire concept of human rights does NOT exist without the rifle. That is more important than anything else. Democracy doesn't exist without the rifle. Our entire way of life today rests almost soley on the rifle. Prior to the rifle, it was impossible for the poor, the weak, and the unskilled to overthrow tyrannical rule. Kings, Emporers, and such all ceased to exist. Aristocracies ceased to exist because of the rifle.

This empowered ANY man to be able to physically fight any other man. This brough parity to all of human kind. Prior to this, swords, armor, and the skills were kept the domain of the rich and powerful. This ended the monopoly of power, which changed mankind from its reduntant cycle of tyrant after tyrant.

Saw: This increased and improved our building capability. Pretty big.

Scale: Measurement tool, like the abacus, it helped form early "markets".

Scythe: mmmm, not that big imo. Different parts of the world lived on without farming. This isn't that big.

Spoon: People used to eat with their hands. While it did impact humanity, a lot of people still don't use these.

Sword: This, like the long-bow, hurt mankind. This is a weapon of great skill and power. It is a weapon that is only effective when used in groups, like militaries. As such, it had no usefulness for the poor, the minorities.

It did one good thing. Without it, like another noted above, we wouldn't have gained the knowledge in metal working and materials to then develop the firearm.

Syringe: Very good, but there are more than one way to take medicines.

Telescope: This is huge. This impacted humanity by changing our world view, and how we see ourselves in the "bigger" picture. It has raised new questions, and that has effected who we are.

Toothbrush: Good thing, not an impact.

Watch: If they mean "time keeping", that is huge. It is critical to the modernizing of our society. The progress of business. The progress of some innovation etc...However, strict timekeeping wasn't absolutely critical up until 150 years ago. Maybe more recently.

August 1, 2005, 10:50 AM
"Democracy doesn't exist without the rifle."

Really. Care to explain ancient Greece and Republican Rome? :scrutiny:

"Our entire way of life today rests almost soley [sic] on the rifle."

Yeah, credit, computers and mass communication have so little to do with our daily lives and our rifles so much.....

"Prior to the rifle, it was impossible for the poor, the weak, and the unskilled to overthrow tyrannical rule."

News to Julius Caesar and Phillip of Macedon, each of whom were assassinated without your wonder weapon. Ever hear of Spartacus? Boudicca? The Mongols, Vandals, or Goths? Do you know ANY history?

Note that rifles also ALLOW dictators to:

1. TAKE power; and

2. KEEP power.

Every solution creates a problem....

"Aristocracies ceased to exist because of the rifle."

Great news to people in China, North Korea, Indonesia......... :rolleyes: And the major fall of European aristocracies was the social upheaval and ruin from WWI; NOT general armed uprisings against heads of state. The Tsar was ARRESTED during a period of paralysis with the Duma; he was not murdered until Lenin seized power. Kaiser Wilhelm ABDICATED and died in his dotage.

August 1, 2005, 11:21 AM
If by "civilization" you mean a society with cities and associated infrastructure, then the civil-engineering tools (e.g. chisle and level) are going to be very importent, at least if you want anything like good roads, aquaducts, large, durable buildings, etc...

If you mean the whole of Human development, I'd say the Knife (starting with the stone version), and Fire (not on the list). Enabled us to go from being naked apes to the most devestatingly effective predator on the planet.

In the more modern age, I think I'd go for the Printing Press (again, not on the list). A rifle may allow you to fight for... something. But the printing press allows everyone to have the idea to fight, and the ideals to fight for in the first place.

August 1, 2005, 12:18 PM
Sorry I vote knife not rifle. The knife was developed into myriad cutting tools including weapons. It was no doubt the inspiration for the wedge and hence the lever. Just my take, it no longer really matters.

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