“An invention is any recombination of existing cultural elements in such a fashion as to produce something new”-Leslie, Lorman and Gorman. Inventions may be either material (bow and arrow, gun, spacecraft, computer) or social or non- material (constitutional government, corporations, alphabet, dance, drama, literature). All inventions are based on previous knowledge, discoveries, and inventions. Hence, the nature and rate of inventions in a particular society depends on its existing store of knowledge. For the cave-dweller the stored knowledge was, for example, very much limited. The production of bow and arrow was thus a great intellectual achievement of cave dwellers. We, the modern people, are not exceedingly cleverer than the “primitive” ancestors, because we have enough of stored knowledge to make achievements.
As Ralph Linton remarked, “If Einstein had been born into a primitive tribe which was unable to count beyond three, lifelong application to mathematics probably would not have carried him beyond the development of a decimal system based on fingers and toes “. Ian Robertson writes, “Leonardo da Vinci, working in the 15th century, produced plans for many machines that were workable in principle, including helicopters, submarines, machine guns, air-conditioning units, aerial bombs, and hydraulic pumps, but his society lacked the technology necessary to build them”. It could be said that “the more inventions that exist in a culture, the more rapidly further inventions can be made “. The already existing cultural store of knowledge always promotes new inventions. Ogburn listed 150 inventions that were made almost simultaneously by different scientists living in the same or similar cultures. This fact explains as to why the modernisation process spreads far more widely and rapidly in societies in which inventions are taking place at a fast rate than in those societies which merely adopt the inventions of others. ‘Discovery’ – can also be stated here as the third source of socio-cultural change.
Horton and Hunt have said that “A discovery is a shared human perception of an aspect of reality which already exists “. The principle of the level [relating to water], a new continent, the composition of the atmosphere, the power of steam, the circulation of the blood, etc., were already there before their discovery. A new discovery becomes an addition to society’s culture, only if it is shared within the society. It becomes a factor or source of socio-cultural change only when it is put to use.
For example, the ancient Greeks had discovered the principle of steam power long back. In fact, a steam engine was built as a toy in Alexandria around 100 A.D. But the principle was not put to use for nearby 1700- years after it was discovered.