A quick way to start an argument is to ask what were the most important innovations in human history. Lots of opinions have been published. I recently found an interesting take on this in the June 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine. In a short article entitled “Big Advances”, U.S. librarian of Congress Carla Hayden lists ten inventions and innovations she considers the most meaningful in our modern lives. They are —
- Printing press
- Light Bulb
- Personal computer
Lists like this are easy to criticize. Many would include the Internet and GPS. When I was in high school in the 1960s, we speculated on how our formative years would be remembered. Would they be known as the Space Age or the Nuclear Age? Now it seems the most far-reaching impacts were made by the transistor and the birth-control pill.
And this list only applies to the modern era. If you begin at the beginning, you would probably start with the wheel, agriculture, and the domestication of animals. In the category of “Often Overlooked”, one of the most important military inventions was the stirrup, which provided a more stable platform for shooting arrows and swinging swords.
It will be interesting to see what the list will include in the next hundred years. Maybe 3D Printing? Hydroponic agriculture? Solar cells?
Or maybe we will have advanced all the way to teleportation. That would really change things.