In his book Man Makes Himself, Gordon Childe outlines the history of human progress in the 2,000 years prior to the Egyptian Empire (the first “great civilization”) with the contributions made:
The two millennia immediately preceding 3000 B.C. had witnessed discoveries in applied science that directly or indirectly affected the prosperity of millions of men and demonstrably furthered the biological welfare of our species by facilitating its multiplication. We have mentioned the following applications of science: artificial irrigation using canals and ditches; the plow; the harnessing of animal motive-power; the sailboat; wheeled vehicles; orchard-husbandry; fermentation; the production and use of copper; bricks; the arch; glazing; the seal; and – in the earliest stages of the revolution – a solar calendar, writing, numeral notation, and bronze…
The 2,000 years after the revolution, say from 2600 to 600 BC – the entire span of Egypt – yielded only four contributions: decimal notation; an economic method for smelting iron; truly alphabetic scripts; and aqueducts for supplying water to cities.
In fact, two of those developments – alphabets and iron smelting, were developed in areas on the fringe of empire.
In the period of the rise of the state, mythology and control take over and human progress suffers. Innovation is stifled, scientific discovery is hampered. The wealth created by innovation is diverted from funding further research and progress to the ruling class in the state. The parasite draws from the host in wealth, productivity, and innovation. Mankind suffers.
(H/T to Brett Veinotte at School Sucks Podcast)