Invention vs. Intervention

There’s a big difference between invention and intervention.

In my mind, invention is creating something new that adds to what is already there. Intervention is slowing down, coming between or otherwise disrupting the flow of something that is already present. Sometimes intervention is necessary. Sometimes it just gets in the way.

Footwear can serve as a great example of this. For centuries, humans have fitted materials around our feet for protection from the elements and even the ground. Yet, our footwear around running has always been minimal until recently. The invention of the shoe, the sandal, has been supplanted by a philosophy of intervention apparent in the modern running shoe. The modern running shoe is an intervention that is designed to modify the way human beings naturally run. If I were to ask you to take off your shoes and have a footrace on the grass, you would assume a certain stride. You would probably land on the balls of your feet, you would take shorter steps, etcetera. Have that same footrace in a pair of shoes and it’s not the same footrace at all. In one case, you are just responding organically, the other, assuming the conditioning and technique required by the device.

It seems to me that no field lives the dichotomy of invention and intervention more than the field of medicine. For centuries, humans have been discovering remedies and treatments that are naturally available to create healthy tribes and societies. More recently, our discoveries are further and further removed from the realm of invention and have moved to intervention. Rather than plant-based solutions that help augment what the body does naturally, we pipe lab-brewed chemicals into our bloodstream that suppress symptoms, cloud our senses, and come with long list of side-effects. We inspect, slice and dice with precision, yet have so dissected the body and the self that we can lose sight of the whole being and its innate capacity. As an advocate for holistic health cultivation, I’m curious to see what the next invention in the world of medicine will be, and I hope it comes paired with a return to our roots (literally and metaphorically). Without disbanding of what has been gained and learned from interventive techniques and capacities, what steps forward can we take that honor what our bodies do naturally and the power we have within?


There is a place for both invention and intervention, the two are not mutually exclusive. However, the greater need and opportunity lie in the realm of invention.
Benjamin FaderComment