How Writing has changed the World
by Nayab Imran
When life began on earth many a millennia ago, the most intelligent of all creations; the Homo-Sapiens were dwelling in caves, hunting for food and trying to survive one day at a time. Even then, humans communicated with one another, whether it was with the help of grunts, sign language or weapons made out of anything available. As their intelligence evolved, verbal communication came into existence. Somewhere along the line, the idea of sharing their knowledge (however limited it was) with their future generations gave birth to writing.
The basic definition of writing can be explained in very simple terms; it is the medium of communication that humans use representing spoken language or emotion through inscription or recording of signs and symbols.
Historians, as a whole, are of the opinion that history of the world is clearly divided into two categories; Pre-History and Conventional History. Cave paintings and petroglyphs used by pre-historic people can be considered the pre-cursors of writing. When the nomadic humans evolved and settled down into societies, agriculture and animal farming was discovered. With the passage of time, the concept of property was made into a reality and life become a bit more complicated than just scavenging for food and finding a dry, safe shelter for the night. With city states coming into existence; trade being introduced and the complexity of maintaining financial records, keeping track of history and administration far outgrew the power of memory, the method of writing down records on a permanent scale came into being.
And thus, with the advent of writing, the course of history was changed. The Mesopotamians, Egyptians and the Chinese were the most advanced of civilizations that had started using writing as a means of book keeping. We can assume that the oldest form of writing was discovered in Mesopotamia (now known as Iran) dating back to 3600 BC. The Egyptians and the Chinese started the (writing) process in 3200 B.C and 1200 B.C respectively. Pictograms were the first examples of inscription, mostly used by temple officials to keep track of the inflow and outflow of trade. Soon the pictograms, hieroglyphs and the ancient Chinese characters evolved and changed with the needs of the people. Non-glyph writing systems were introduced that represented the sounds of the language currently being spoken in the area.
Centuries passed and with them, people started using the method of writing for various purposes and in different ways. The world was being explored, countries and kingdoms were being conquered and thus the need for long distance communication arose. Stone and clay tablets were left in the past and paper, ink and quills were introduced. In this way, written communication was introduced to the common masses. The Chinese were in fact the first to invent paper and (paper making) in 105 A.D. thanks to an official named Chai Lung.
However, in the past, a lay person’s daily errands and responsibilities didn’t allow him/her the benefit or free time required to learn how to read and write; it was a lengthy process and life being so challenging back then, literacy was a privilege and profession available mostly to the male members of the elite class. They were given respect and the chance to monitor state affairs due to their education.
Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. Today, we don’t have to hammer out our thoughts on stone tablets or wait months for correspondence with people around the world to take place. With a click of a button, we can access all the information in the world and communicate with a person half way around the world in just under a minute. Need to write a 1000 word (research) paper? Just pop open MS Word and get to it. The only thing harder is proof reading that monster.
But can you imagine what would have happened, if our ancestors had not realized the importance of writing? We would all be lost to the wonders of the universe. Technology has made anything possible; where once writing was used merely for record keeping and letter writing, now we use it as a means of self-expression. We write books, publish newspapers, communicate online and gain immeasurable knowledge through it. Writing has paved the path of success for us human beings and truly made us the most intelligent of all creations. And yet, there are one Billion (yes, you read that right) illiterate people in the world according to UNESCO.
Hopefully, we can come together to change that little fact soon. We can do so by helping our fellow countrymen in gaining the highest level of education that they are able to amass (keeping in mind that not all education is taught through school systems). We have achieved great heights with the development of technology; we can help people with their studies while sitting in the comforts of our homes.
Nowadays there are many websites that offer help to anyone who requires guidance with their studies or work, either free of cost or for a small fee. One of the most dedicated ones is a Middle East based online website “Creative Savantz” that helps people from all spheres of life with a little thing that was invented a couple thousand years ago – writing. Go check them out and maybe you’ll soon find yourself a competent writer at par with the best of the best.
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