And we're off!
Well, it looks like the debate under way. And it turns to be a much more interesting idea than it first seems – and actually startlingly relevant.
The most ancient idea on the list is the human use of fire. Although it’s hard to be completely sure, it seems our ancestors thought of lighting fires at least 1.9 million years ago. So it’s certainly the most enduring idea.
But is it the greatest? It’s certainly one heck of a powerful idea, and underpins the modern world to an extraordinary degree. So much of our technology, even at the most basic level, hinges on harnessing fire, and though we’re burning oil, gas and coal rather than twigs, the basic idea’s the same.
Fire’s given humankind to the ability unleash and control an incredible amount of power, and it’s hard to imagine a world without that power. Yet on a day when BP announces that it may (or may not) have capped the Deepwater horizon oil leak which threatens the USA’s worst ever environmental disaster, it reminds us just as that there’s no smoke without fire, so there is no fire without fuel.
Could humankind’s most powerful idea also turn out its downfall?