November 4, 2018

How to invent everything

If you ever travel back in time you’re going to want to bring a book called “How to Invent Everything” by Ryan North.


Because if your time machine breaks and you get stuck in the past, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to recreate civilization from scratch.

Top five technologies to start with on day one?

Once you’ve got these five bases covered, make a kiln.

It turns out that kilns (and their cousins, smelters and forges) are the prerequisite for an astonishing number of inventions, including preserved foods, penicillin, and stream engines.

It’s actually quite shocking how many solutions to common problems were sitting right under people’s noses in the relatively recent past.

The raw materials were often more or less readily available, but folks lacked the knowledge of what to do with them.

It took MILLENNIA to figure out relatively simple things that we take for granted like how to create charcoal or distill alcohol or harness horse power.

Showing up with this book, say 10,000 years ago, would basically make you a god.

It’d be like someone from the future arriving here and showing us how to double human life expectancy, how to create infinitely renewable energy, and how to travel through alternate dimensions. And all using stuff that is more or less readily available to us in the present day.

Here’s the thing...

Our time traveler could be quite average where s/he’s from. But compared with folks who lack even the most basic understanding of future technology, s/he would become the most valuable person on the planet.


Because expertise is relative, not absolute.

Not everyone has what’s in your head. The worse the folks who don’t have it want it, the more they will value access to you. They will pay for this access.

No labor, no timesheets, and no deliverables required.

Just access.