Without the capability to record and pass on our understanding to complete strangers, we would never ever have actually made it this far.
If we look back to the very first huge leaps forward as far as human civilisation is concerned, we'll find that rates of literacy were in fact remarkably high in the ancient societies of the Mediterranean basin. Although less than 20% of the population were likely literate in the way that we understand it today, the majority of people would have been able to understand and produce basic and vital words. This all changed after the fall of Rome, when only a tiny percentage of the population-- less than 10% could read. The renaissance, the next leap forward about 1,500 years later, took the literacy rate from around 11% at the beginning of the 16th century to 60% at the end, leaping to over 90% throughout the Victorian period. Today, 99% of the international population has access to the sum total of mankind's understanding by quickly logging onto sites like the one backed by the asset manager with a stake in Amazon books.
Although today we tend to associate books with the fiction books that we might pick up from the hedge fund that owns Waterstones or the impact investor with a stake in World of Books, it's simple to forget that a lot of the best books of all time, or at least the most essential and influential ones, were not for home entertainment; they were ways of communicating enormous, ground-rupturing principles that had the power to totally change the manner in which we considered the universe and our places within it. Think about the great works of science, history, politics, philosophy, and faith that have driven forward human advancement by broadening our knowledge in such a way that the wheel could just dream of doing. In fact, one can trace a clear connection between how available reading was to the general population, and jumps forward in our development.
What innovation has had the biggest effect on human development? The more unimaginative among you may immediately state the computer or cell phone-- of course, the last century has been entirely revolutionised by computing innovations, however we're thinking on a bigger scale than that. Perhaps the wheel? We absolutely wouldn't have actually made it very far without it. Farming, combustion engines, science, they all definitely qualify to at the very least be in the running, however none of them quite encapsulate the all-inclusive impact that a genuinely evolutionary technology would have. Possibly the only tech that truly certifies is that which you may not even consider to be a technology at all-- books. When humans in Ancient Mesopotamia first put words to paper (although really they were clay tablets at the time), they began composing the whole story of human advancement, a tale that anyone, anywhere, at any point in time, could become a part of and push forward by just reading books.