There are many meaningful and moral sayings and proverbs in English language that teach us a lesson, moral, or a value that we remember for all our lives. We learn something valuable from these proverbs, and this knowledge becomes helpful to us. One such proverb is the popular saying, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the proverb ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ simply means that, ‘when the need for something becomes imperative, one is forced to find ways of getting or achieving it.’
What this proverb means is that it is the necessity for something that drives us to make efforts to achieve those things. It is the necessity for that thing that compels humans to find a solution and to invent so that necessity can be fulfilled.
It is the basic nature of a human being to make sure that she survives. During primitive times, all our actions were driven towards survival. Survival, for humans, is the ultimate goal. For this survival, there are various things and conditions which are necessary.
These things might not be readily available. A solution to the unfavourable condition that exists might not be in front of one’s eyes. These solutions may not be direct.
So, to find a solution to the problem of necessity that exists, a human is forced to think, to ponder, to experiment, to innovate. Ultimately, when minds work together, a solution will come forward. Such solution is called as an invention.
Therefore, it is the necessity to solve a particular unfavourable condition that drives a human being to find solution, or in other words, to invent. These inventions enable the human beings to survive and prosper. These inventions are therefore important for the development and the betterment of the human species.
Through these inventions, human beings can also benefit their environment. This can only occur if human beings use their inventions wisely and not become too greedy. Inventions should be used only to the extent which is necessary.
A human mind is complex. It has the ability to think and ponder. This ability is what makes us different from all the other species of animals, birds, insects, etc. According to the learned philosopher Karl Marx, human beings are the Species Being. Species Being are different from other animals.
Both a human and an animal belonging to another species want to survive. But, the animal will only look for ways to survive that are on front of it. It will not try to perceive its environment, to find solutions that are not direct, that are innovative.
In other words, animals belong to other species do not have the ability to think and innovate. They only work according to systems that are engraved in them. On the other hand, human beings are different. When they see a necessity, a problem or an unfavourable situation they will perceive their surroundings, they will think, they will innovate and experiment until they find a solution.
Therefore, it is the basic desire of a human being to reach her full potential. This potential can only be reached if a human being is allowed to think, to innovate and to invent. If a human being is not given this opportunity, naturally, she will not be able to innovate and will only become a machine that works according to what others want.
The basic desire of human beings, that is, to reach their full potential will not be fulfilled. Therefore, they will be alienated. Thus, according to Karl Marx, innovation, invention, necessity, and reaching one’s full potential are all related concepts and thus one affects the other.
So a conclusion can be drawn. Human beings want to survive. There are certain necessities that need to be fulfilled to enable the human beings to survive. To fulfil these necessities, human beings will naturally try to find a solution through innovation and thinking.
This will ultimately lead to the finding of the solution or invention. Inventions will ultimately lead to development and prosperity of the human beings. Thus, all these processes are interrelated and dependent on each other. Necessity can be said to be the mother of invention and innovation.
This is also advantageous to human beings. Necessity encourages progress and thus benefits human beings. Let’s take the example of Britain. Britain is an island in Europe. But, it is cut off from Europe because of the sea. Britain therefore needed to trade with other countries with food and other necessities.
It has sea surrounding it, so, to facilitate trade, Britain started developing its maritime industry. With a strong maritime industry and navy, Britain could afford to explore and travel in the sea more. Thus, it managed to gain the power of the sea.
This was a major factor that allowed Britain to become a major power and dominate over countries that were twice its size. There, a simple necessity of Britain led to its prosperity.
In primitive society, it is necessity that facilitated invention and forced primitive humans to think. Primitive humans needed to shield themselves from harsh weather, so they innovated and perceived their surroundings for solutions. This ultimately resulted in the invention of clothes form the skin of the animals they hunted.
Primitive humans needed to hunt to eat and survive. It was difficult to fight ferocious animals with bare hands. Therefore to ease hunting, primitive humans invented weapons and tools. Later, to take care of their food, they innovated and invented settled farming.
Humans needed to travel, and all of it could not be by foot. There is, after all, a limit to human strength. Humans observed animals and invented the use of animals as the means of transportation. They observed nature, and later invented wheel.
The invention of wheel itself later led to many other inventions and innovations. Present day motor vehicles could not be possible without the invention of wheels. In primitive times, human needed shelter to shield themselves, have a place to rest and protection from unfavourable weather.
This resulted in humans using materials to build primitive houses. These primitive houses and tents were innovated over time, and present day houses came into being. Thus, it is necessity that results in invention, prosperity and innovation.
With these inventions, a new moral took birth. Humans realized that ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. This enabled human beings to strive for development and not give up in the face of loss or failure. This had made possible the development of the whole human race.
Necessity also forces human beings to engage in activities. Without this compulsion, human beings would become complacent. They would not think about innovating and developing. They would become lazy and weak. Development would not take place and human race would become stagnant.
This is quite dangerous. Stagnancy can ultimately result in adverse effects and is never good. Change should be the only thing that’ is permanent. Human beings should always move forward.
Over the centuries, what is a ‘necessity’ for a human being has also changed. In primitive period, human beings had simple necessities, like food, shelter, clothing, etc. This is different now. Including these simple needs, with time, humans have move complex necessities too.
For example, schools. To survive, human beings need knowledge. To spread and share this knowledge, human beings needed a system, a structure. This ultimately resulted in the invention of schools. Another example is the invention of the very organisation of the state itself.
With the growth of population and to survive human beings needed protection. They needed rules, and to protect these rules, they needed an entity. This ultimately resulted in the invention of law and government.
Primitive times or modern, the proverb ‘Necessity is the mother of inventions’ holds true in all cases. Though no one knows where this proverb originated, whoever said it has rightly said so.