Inventions and the Culture of Creativity


Creativity is the capacity for producing a novel product on the basis of cognitive processes that use methodical thinking to reconstitute, reassemble, synthesize, and modify pre-existing ideas in an unprecedented innovative manner. Inventions, based on scientific creativity, laid the foundation for the progress of humanity in several domains, especially that of technology; beginning with the tools used for making fire, hunting, food storage, and grinding.

The introduction of cultivation, c. 10,000 years ago, led to a series of innovations to take advantage of the new opportunities and to overcome difficulties embedded in an agricultural economy. Among the most important inventions were those related to irrigation, such as the waterwheel (Saqqyia), with its use of gears and water energy, which led to further inventions such as water mills and turbines that were of great importance in the advent and development of industry in modern times.

One of the key factors in the enhancement of inventions over the past 200 years in society was Industrialization, which, similar to what commerce did before, stimulated the acquisition and promotion of scientific knowledge and its applications. One of the best examples in Classical Antiquity was the role of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina where theoretical scientific thinking was linked to inventions such as the “Egyptian” screw (tambour).

Inventors who changed the world by linking scientific discoveries to technological applications as in the steam engine, the generation of electric power, industrial machinery, and more recently nuclear power and electronic devices were not isolated or eccentric individuals. Their inventions have been inseparable from a system of knowledge production and a culture of creativity that encouraged critical thinking; sponsored research and development; disseminated scientific knowledge to the public; funded technical universities and scientific high learning institutions; connected scientists in interactive communities through scientific societies and publications; as well as set measures for scientific ethics and methodology, in addition to rewarding excellence on the basis of strict measures of criteria.

The beginnings of this knowledge system were already present in Baghdad in the 9th century. The relative rarity and minor inventions in many “developing” countries today have been primarily due to a lack of effective industrialization and hence the prevalence of a culture that retreats into traditional “un-scientific” thought and learning and eschews rational reasoning.

Cover image by Freepik

The article was first published in print in the PSC Newslertter, 2nd School Semester 2010/2011.

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