If you could bring one new idea or material thing into pre-industrial times, what would it be and why? If you could bring one new idea or material thing into pre-industrial times, what would it be and why?

When I look at the rate of industrialization of the world throughout the last several thousand years, it appears exponential. That is, after slowly rising for eons, it skyrocketed near the end of the nineteenth century. I'm pondering this. Could there be one invention, just one that set the world on fire? Is it possible that one simple creation by man's hands could be a catalyst to this burning reaction of mechanization? The cotton gin? No, too early. The airplane? No, too late. Hmm.

And then it hit me. The world is full of crackpots, lunatics like Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Newton. People who insisted on being able to do so many things, but without any sort of accreditation. It occurred to me that as soon as society found a way to screen these people early on, to detect them so that they wouldn't discourage a populace that couldn't do everything, society would be able to take great leaps forward, and invent such important devices as the machine gun, the atomic bomb, and television.

But how to do it? What would discourage these subversive mavericks and encourage mediocrity? What great invention was found that did this so swiftly? The method would have to be universally accepted by all, and it must be applied early in a child's life, preferably in his school years. Then it hit me. Standardized testing.

In its infancy during the turn of the century, it came of age in the middle, with its brainchild, the S.A.T. What else could explain nerve agents and the 1040 tax form? By screening out philosophers and artists, the S.A.T. effectively opened the flood gates for millions of more worthy people, who for the betterment of society, were able to go on and create napalm and our current congress. My mind is reeling with the weight of the discovery. If I'm able to bring this test back with me through the millennia, think of the ramifications! "The Dukes of Hazzard" could be in production by early 1287! And maybe "Star wars" satellites will be orbiting the Earth by the 1400's. Salad shooters in every home by 1650? Dare I dream? Just think how idyllic life would be by 1992!

I grab a copy of five S.A.T.'s, and run from the bookstore. I step anxiously into the time machine, excited about the prospect of being able to save the world from its inefficiencies. It's raining. The time machine has dropped me off in a dark street; puddles are gathering between its wide cobblestones. My year-watch reads 1516, Italy.

I didn't expect to get wet, and hadn't dressed accordingly, so I pull my jacket up over my head and run toward the first doorway I find among the wall of buildings which line the street. The doorway, like the street, is narrow, and the rain continues to penetrate my clothing, threatening the pages of five S.A.T.'s. I lean against the door as hard as I can, to get out of the rain as much as possible. It must have been a cheap door. Nevertheless, I'm no longer leaning against it, I've now crashed to the floor, and I'm lying on top of the door inside what appears to be someone's living room. Somewhat dazed, I stagger to my feet, and am rudely accosted by an old man with long white hair who seems to live in the house. He yells at me,

"Perdoni l'interruzione, dov'e la sala da ballo!"

Recalling my years of high school Italian, I quickly take his meaning to be, "Why are you in my living room lying on my front door?" I respond "I'm sorry, I thought this was my aunt's house" in Italian, which is "Mi dia per favore dei francobolli." Having somewhat calmed the man by this remark, I realize that he would be a perfect subject. Reaching into my jacket I pull out the book and decide to test just how smart the average man from Italy really is. I ask, (in perfect Italian), what is wrong with this sentence?

He looks up at me quizzically, then beckons me with his finger to follow him into an adjoining room. I do, asking him to answer the question. He shakes his head and mutters, and we've arrived in a room lit by candlelight and adorned by drawings and notebooks. Opening one of them, he shows me a sketch of his. It shows a naked man with four arms and four legs, each in a different position, standing inside a circle.

"This is ridiculous!" I shout. "He's got twice as many limbs as he should have! How can you do an anatomical drawing when you don't even give the guy the right number of limbs!?"

Disgusted, I hand the notebook back to him and ask him another question.

"He only works eight hours?"

"Yes!" I answer enthusiastically. Maybe this man does have the spark in him to truly create good work! Maybe he could write for `Different Strokes'!

"Eight hours...lazy bum," the man mumbles, flipping through the notebook to show me another drawing. He hands to me a sketch of a rather primitive glider.

"Oh this would never work," I begin. "It doesn't have a motor! And what have you written under it? What is that, backwards? It's gibberish!", I throw the notebook back at him and storm back to the living room.

Hanging on the wall is the painting of a rather homely girl, her hands are crossed in her lap. "This is horrible!" I yell at the man. "You can't tell if she's about to start smiling or about to stop! How can it be art if you can't even tell her emotions?!" Grasping my book, I run out the doorway.

It's sort of sad, some people in this world just have no grasp of what culture really is.

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