Disruptive thinking: our ancestral heritage

February 6, 2024

In the heart of Africa, where the rhythm of the savannah echoed with laughter, a tribal elder gathered the community and said, “Why did the smartphone go to school in the Serengeti? To improve its antelope algorithms!” And so, amidst the chuckles, this is how the story unfolds; Once upon a time, in the vast landscapes of Africa, where the sun painted the horizon with hues of warmth, there lived our ancestors who carried the ancient legacy of technological brilliance. They were the keepers of the world’s oldest stone tools, passed down through generations, each telling a tale of African innovation.

Our ancestors saw the development of geometrical thinking as they learned to “geometricize” in the context of their labour activities. For example, the hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa learned to track animals, learned to recognize and interpret footprints. They got to know that the shape of the footprint provided information on what animal passed by, how long ago, if it was hungry or not, etc. The knowledge of inoculating oneself against smallpox seems to have been known to West Africans, more specifically the Akan. Iron use, in smelting and forging for tools, appeared in West Africa by 1200 BCE, making it one of the first places for the birth of the Iron Age. Before the 19th century, African methods of extracting iron were employed in Brazil, until more advanced European methods were instituted. African metalworkers were producing their goods at the same or higher levels of productivity as their European counterparts.