Eli5 why does animals not innovate like humans?


So humans have made many innovations and new technology over the past thousand years but animals never do?

In: 0

Life is about survival, evolutionary point of view. So we humans develop things because it helps our chances of survival, we’re capable of it because otherwise we would probably die easily. Other animals don’t necessarily need innovations, they already have years long established defence mechanisms, attack mechanisms. They have shells, claws, sharp teeth, eyes that can see things human eyes can’t see etc etc, and that helps them in their survival. We have glasses 🤓, tech toys, weapons etc

Humans are combination of several key evolutionary adaptions that exist in other animals but not in the same combination.

We have very high intelligence, but so do Dolphins and Elephants

We can use tools, but so can Chimps and Crows

We are capable of complex speech able to pass on information, but so can bees, and arguably some birds

We work in groups but so do countless other animals

Combining all of these factors and the ability to pass knowledge onto the next generation so that we don’t have to start from zero every time has led us to have technology.

Humans differ from (most) animals in two important ways: tool use and language. Other animals have limited versions of each of these, but there’s very limited evidence of animals fashioning tools (rather than just using natural objects) and none for communicating abstract ideas.

These two traits together are great for technology and innovation. When you are a young caveperson, your parents use *language* to explain how to use *tools* like flint or kindling to build a fire. From this, humans can abstract (something animals also struggle with) to understand the basic things that are needed for a fire: heat and dry fuel. You keep track of those needs in your daily life to see if there are other ways to meet them. This could lead to experimenting with different sources of fuel or heat (e.g. friction or the sun) to spark a fire. What you learn gets passed down to your children, and so on until anyone can buy a lighter for a few bucks.

In animals, there is less tool use, so that means fewer avenues for experimentation. There is also no language that can handle abstract concepts, so even if a given animal learns something interesting, that knowledge dies with them.

Because humans are REALLY really smart and animals aren’t. Although animals DO innovate and adapt.

Humans have an ideal mix of several traits. TierZoo does a [hilariously excellent](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImYu9dJM4kQ) breakdown of it, but your core question of “why can’t (other) animals innovate” can already be summarized as “because they can’t pass on knowledge the way humans can”. Parenting behaviour is a big thing in the animal world but that’s limited to fulfilling basic needs like food & safety and teaching some behaviours.