Evolution and innovation

The Rosetta Stone sat buried in the sand, forgotten and unloved, for nearly 2,000 years. There were no markers or maps that led Napoleon's army to find it on that day in July.[32] There was plenty of time for someone else to destroy, deface, chop it into pretty sculptures, or hide it where it could never be found. [33] Of course, we're fortunate that events turned out as they did, but back then, when the past was the present, there was every possibility for it to turn out differently. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone was not inevitable.

Yet, when we look at any history timeline, we're encouraged to believe, by their omission, that other outcomes were impossible. Because the events on timelines happened, regardless of how bizarre or unlikely, we treat them today as preordained. It's not our fault, and it's not the fault of timeline makers (as that's a tough job). The simple fact is that these simplifications make history easier to explain. That said, it's also deceptive: at every point in every timeline in every book that will ever be published, there was as much uncertainty and possibility for change as there is today.

Consider how technology is taught in ages: first there was stone, then bronze, then iron; or, in the computer world, it's the ages of mainframes, personal computers, and the Internet. We label periods of time around discoveries/inventions, projecting onto the past an orderly map to what was, normal, average, everyday confusion. The earlier ...

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