2.1 Toolmaking Humans
In a classic science fiction film from half a century ago, ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’, there is a short scene that captures the essence of the following discussion. It occurs when what may be an early hominid, specifically a hominim, throws a bone into the air in triumph after discovering its usefulness as a weapon. As it spins upwards, it is transformed by the camera into a rotating toroidal space station ‘waltzing’ to the strains of ‘The Blue Danube’. Whether or not the ape‐like creature is a valid representation of early man the imagery is powerful. From the first use of simple primitive tools for weapons, humans have developed the manufacturing technology and culture of today. In fact, some sources suggest the word ‘tool’ comes from the Old Norse ‘tol’ meaning ‘weapon’.
Although this scene is poetically inspiring, it also highlights the fact that humans are unique in the animal kingdom in their ability to design and make tools. Humans progressed from the selective phase of simply picking a natural object from the environment to use as a tool, just as a chimpanzee selects a twig to poke into anthills to catch ants or a fish uses a stone to crack a snail shell. Humans also passed through the adaptive phase where a stone was chipped to create a sharp cutting edge. Now the inventive phase has been reached where an object not found in nature is conceived and manufactured; for example, a bow and arrow or a supersonic aircraft.
An early manlike ...