Mankind – overcomplicating products for 1.8 million years

Olduvai stone chopping tool

In the radio series, A History of the World in 100 Objects, Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, described the oldest man-made object in the museum – the Olduvai stone chopping tool. This was made approximately 1.8 million years ago in Tanzania, where the first humans originated.

MacGregor explained the tool has more than six chippings that sharpened this rock into a tool, when it only need two. He said:

“Those chips tell us that right from the beginning, we, unlike other animals, have wanted to make things more complicated than they need to be.”

Complexity, it appears, has been part of product design and manufacture right from the beginning. Did the need for user instructions follow shortly afterwards?

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