Thursday, November 13, 2014

Invention of the Day: Wine

In 2007, a team of Armenian and Irish archeologists discovered a 6,100-year-old winery in the Areni cave near a small Armenian village.

The discovery meant that people started producing wines in significant volumes thousands of years ago. More importantly, our ancient ancestors had specifically selected and cultivated grapes because of their high sugar content. That is, since grapes contain up to 20% glucose by volume, when fermented, they produce a large amount of alcohol (ethanol).

Although we know that even wild animals enjoy an occasional doze of alcohol feasting on fermented fruit, wine is different.

The significance of the invention of wine thousands of year ago becomes apparent when we compare it to the invention of large scale food production, e.g. grain cultivation, domestication of animals, irrigation, etc.

It [the invention of wine] completely defies the common wisdom "Necessity is the mother of invention." The proverb implies that people invent or solve problems when they are compelled to do so. But, unlike food, water,  and shelter, wine is not a necessity; one can survive without it. Moreover, certain cultures and religions explicitly forbid alcohol consumption.

Therefore, wine is not a necessary, but, rather, an opportunistic invention; something that makes life more fun (when taken in moderation). Here's how an ancient Greek poet Eubulus (4th century BCE) describes  the effects of wine:
Three bowls do I mix for the temperate: one to health, which they empty first; the second to love and pleasure; the third to sleep. When this bowl is drunk up, wise guests go home. The fourth bowl is ours no longer, but belongs to violence; the fifth to uproar; the sixth to drunken revel; the seventh to black eyes; the eighth is the policeman's; the ninth belongs to biliousness; and the tenth to madness and the hurling of furniture.
Wine is like modern computer games: you can live without it, but life would be less enjoyable.

As human inventors, we create necessities by coming up with novel ideas and making them useful to other humans on a large scale. Based on thousands of years of ever-improving and ever-increasing wine production, I would say that "Invention is the mother of necessity."

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