One day, Ug was sitting outside his cave, cracking snail shells with his hammer. He was wondering whether he should invent Frenchness.
He heard a tap-tapping sound. In a tree nearby, there was a crow. The crow was bashing at a similar snail with a pebble that it held in its beak.
Man looked at bird. Bird looked at man. Two snails looked rather worried.
Ug called his children over – Ug, Ug and little Ug. He showed them how to crack snail shells using a hammer. The children delighted in the slaughter and the lovely popping sound that the shells made as they cracked. Although, it has to be said that they would have been happier if he had invented the happy meal.
One person teaching.
The crow hopped onto its nest and demonstrated shell cracking to its chicks. Beak-pebble-snail-yum. Repeat.
One bird teaching.
The bird stuck its tongue out at Ug.
Ug invented cave painting. Now he could teach many children how to crack shells even when there were no shells nearby. This meant that his children could learn more quickly. Which in turn meant that they had time left over to invent a better hammer.
One person teaching several
Then he invented writing. Now he could teach people without seeing them. He could even teach them after he had died. Even more exciting, his children could learn from other people’s writing.
Several people teaching many.
The printing press meant that he make copies of his writing.
Many people teaching hundreds.
The telegraph, radio and television carried his words across great distance.
Teaching thousands from afar.
The internet meant that everyone in the whole world could share learning with each other and all at the same time.
Many teaching many simultaneously.
Ug marvelled at his newfound power to teach. What fantastic inventions could mankind make, what discoveries, what new knowledge? Why, with this technology he could map the human genome, search the Universe for extra-terrestrial life, see the entire planet, share an encyclopaedia that anyone could edit, watch every back episode of Monty Python.
Ug looked over at the bird with a smug smile on his face. But the bird and the tree were not there any more. The tree had been chopped down to make pulp for his printing press, telegraph poles for his telegrams and energy to ooch his emails along.
So Ug switched on his I-pad and watched a video about kittens falling over.