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Great inventions

Is The Pill the greatest one?
  (+2, -3)
(+2, -3)
  [vote for,

I belong to an inventors club so I know that when writers run out of ideas they often fall back on the theme of inventors and inventions ... and expect instant interviews from our members.

Last week for example a trainee movie-scripter was referred to me by another member “too busy” or too cunning to be interviewed.

With breathless excitement the young fellow explained this novel theme he had thought up.

“What do you think is the greatest invention of the last 2000 years?”, he was going to ask, “... a lot of important people like you”.

Of course I was flattered enough not to tell him he’d pinched the idea from the Net where 100 v.i.p. had been asked the same question just before Y2K, and answered it, mostly in Halfbakery style, i.e. answers soft in the middle.

Worse still, when I told him my choice was The Pill, I didn’t tell him I in turn had pinched that choice from the Net too, it being my favoured invention of the 100.

Why was it my choice? Because nobody else was game to name The Bomb as the “best” way of solving the problem of problems : i.e. the world population graph going vertical soon. Nor am I, was I, game.

Which leaves The Pill as the best invention, its future even then halfbaked, because allegedly the well-educated people that democracy needs are becoming fewer while poorly educated ones that dictators love are, in spite of AIDS and The Pill and condoms, becoming rapidly more numerous.

My interviewer departed red-faced. I think he must have been R.C. I refrained from telling him not to worry; Italians, paradoxically close to the very centre of Catholicism, will soon die out completely, according to some gloomy [half-baked] predictions. The Pill has been “blamed”. How half-baked was my choice?

rayfo, May 04 2001

What others have to say http://abcnews.go.c...Hard/dye990106.html
Susen will be happy to know that hay and the venerable horse are mentioned. [PotatoStew, May 04 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Archimedes' Lever http://www.halfbake...chimedes_27_20Lever
a halfbaked home for this discussion [beauxeault, May 04 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

National Masturbation Month http://www.goodvibes.com/nmm/
waugsqueke: here are some PSAs [wiml, May 04 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       While I hesitate at being the first to disagree with the revered rayfo, I must say that I do not consider either the pill or the bomb as the greatest invention of the last 2000 years. However, this is most probably due to a cultural/regional/generational difference in that I am not concerned ---- or am not confronted --- with the overpopulation problem as a daily concern. I have always believed that war, famine, and disease will keep the population at a reasonable level (Malthus?). I also tend to be a bit of an agoraphobic and therefore, leave my farm as little as possible. In any given week, the average number of people I actually see/come in contact with is about 50.   

       I find instead that I am drawn to name the internet as the greatest invention. Within my life, I have gone from a TRS 80 to this whatever the heck it is superpower in front of me that allows me to communicate and become friends with people on different continents whom I would have never encountered otherwise. Cars? No. Planes? No. Through the internet, I have the luxury of visiting my friends without ever leaving the safety of my own little world.   

       Furthermore, as I also am an "expert" of sorts in my field, I am also an internet "employee" that departs wisdom and advice to people in my field who, again, I most probably never would have "met" otherwise. The gift of being able to help those that want information and want to learn is very satisfying....better than the time I actually stood in front of a classroom trying to teach students who only were there because they had to be.   

       Long distance education, cultural exchanges, etc. Yes, I think I must say that the internet has been the greatest invention.
Susen, May 04 2001

       my .02: The Pill... eh. Maybe. It's definitely changed some things, but I don't know that it qualifies. Sorry Susen, but I'll have to disagree with you as well... the Internet is great and all, but not the greatest invention. Cultural exchanges have been done for a long time in the form of travel and pen pals. Plus, the Internet probably directly affects only a very limited population... only those people who actually have a connection. I don't know figures, but I would guess that it's a relatively small percentage of the world's population.   

       I would say the automobile. It has completely changed the landscape. It's given us the ability to quickly travel long distances and to move large quantities of goods and services. You don't even need to own an automobile to benefit from them: even if you're poor and have no need of travel, chances are that something you use was moved to an accessible location by a truck.   

       Think about how different your life would be without the internet. Probably not a whole lot different. Then think about how different it would be if there were no cars, trucks or buses. Most likely very different. There would be no suburbs. No way to quickly move goods around; the economy would probably be completely changed.
PotatoStew, May 04 2001

       yet, the horse supplied this service for thousands of years and could (hypothetically) still supply such service. The car merely replaced/upgraded one form of transportation. OTOH, the internet is truly a new development in that it "upgraded" a multitude of things.... mail, phone, travel, shopping, education. I guess, because of the scope it covers, it has to be my choice.   

       My life without the internet: Very different. Without cars....hmmmm, not too different. Again, this is cultural/regional as I live in a very rural area and have Amish people with their horse and buggys all around. Gardens for food, the neighbors for beef, home canning and curing.....   

       I do agree that long distance transport is important...but trains could cover that (as they did for so many years).   

       Don't really want to turn this into a debate. I think everyone will have a different opinion based on their life experience.
Susen, May 04 2001

       //the neighbors for beef//   

       Uh, Susen... I hate to tell you this, but the flesh of your neighbors is _not_ beef. *shudder* I'm glad I don't live nextdoor to you...   

       Actually, I might have to vote for the printing press as well. There's a lot that would not have come about if not for the printing press.
PotatoStew, May 04 2001

       ....they keep letting their children wander onto my property.......
Susen, May 04 2001

       I wonder if the greatest invention isn't soap. Or toothpaste... deodorant...
globaltourniquet, May 04 2001

       gt: Soap, toothpaste, deodorant all pre-date 2000 years ago.   

       RT: YES! electrical signal networks....I'll vote for that!
Susen, May 04 2001

       Perhaps I wrapped my point in too much verbiage. I wanted to contend that any discussion of inventions made before this minute is irrelevant, even dangerous, self-deludingly so.   

       The human race is facing extinction because there are too many of us already and increasing in number at an ever-increasing rate.   

       So far we have only two inventions that are relevant, The Bomb and The Pill.
rayfo, May 04 2001

       Well, that changes everything. I'll have to think about that (and I really do need some sleep...so I'm signing off for the night).
Susen, May 04 2001

       The scientific method --- that is, the idea of checking your beliefs against the real world, in a repeatable way --- is much more frequently used now than 2000 years ago. The Greek philosphers famously didn't bother. I don't know when it became more popular, but I suspect it didn't reach its current popluarity until after the end of the Middle Ages.   

       Or, if that's not acceptable, how about mass production and the increased specialization of labor? Most of the inventions proposed here wouldn't have been possible without those two.   

       Or the idea of innate human rights? Or, possibly, sweetened chocolate?
wiml, May 04 2001

       Printing press.
iuvare, May 04 2001

       This is another example of the kind of discussion that would take place on the Archimedes' Lever forum, if there were one (see link).
beauxeault, May 04 2001

Aristotle, May 04 2001

       The horse-drawn plough.
How else would we have moved from hunter-gatherers to community-minded social animals?
Wait a minute, was the plough invented in the last 2000 years?
hippo, May 04 2001

       Actually, hippo, the contribution of the horse wasn't the fact that they could draw a plow (domesticated cattle and oxen drawing a plow began approx. 2200 BCE) but the fact that they could be ridden and travel great distances at a fairly good pace. The first record of horses being ridden was about 1600 BCE or 3600 years ago.   

       The horse enabled people to become mobile, wage wars, seek better lands, and hunt over a wider area. Civilization owes much to the horse.
Susen, May 04 2001

       I think the best invention in the last 2000 years would have to gunpowder. It has paved the way to epic wars and space travel.
salmon, May 04 2001

       right...rayfo has asked us to "solve" the population issue. Re-release anthrax?
Susen, May 04 2001

       There are those who contend that overpopulation is an illusion. Gaia takes care of herself.   

       My problem with that is, if it's true, it will be at our --and our adorable little culture's -- expense. call me humanocentric, but if all the diseases you all have listed are "nature's population control" then I think maybe rayfo is right. Like the child who is better off controlling his behavior than facing the consequence, we should try to control the population ourselves by the means we have instead. It will be far more pleasant.   

       As for the greatest invention (2000 years) I am with UB (although I would call it a discovery, like other principles of numeracy). Digitization. And chocolate (is that within CE?).   

       And what about Penicillin?
globaltourniquet, May 04 2001

       Chocolate was a sacred drink for royalty in ancient times. I'm confident that the delights of chocolate was known to man for longer for 2,000 years. Why do you think the ancient Americans never came over to Europe to invade us ...
Aristotle, May 04 2001

       hmm a good example of a world with no internet[that i could see] but many cars is on akira
technobadger, May 04 2001

       car no: combustion engine, it was already happenning, flammable things catching fire and goin bang, its just been put in metal box and harnessed, i not sure of gr8est invention???
edski, May 04 2001

       penicillin no: it was found by accident, sorry to be picky
edski, May 04 2001

       The personal teleportation device. Made automobiles, trains, planes, space shuttles all obsolete. In fact, it's hard to imagine life in the 22nd century without them. Oops.. almost forgot I was still visiting the year 2001. In that case, forget what I just said.
VeXaR, May 05 2001

       As addressed by our distinguished, most senior and in my eyes - most wizened halfbaker- rayfro... The Problem of Problems being Overpopulation and in actuality also Sexually Transmitted Diseases would warrant that the Latex Condom is the greatest invention. It is not necessary to have a prescription, you can buy it over the counter, in fact - in the 'civilized' world they are oftentimes given away. In lesser developed nations, the likelihood of regular supply of Birth Control Pills at the pharmacy - if it exists at all in anyones neighborhood is far less than that of availability of Condoms. The Birth Control Pill also has no protective properties within the realm of spread of STD's. Regardless of race, culture or status, it also puts some of the burden of responsibility on the shoulders of the male in the male/female sexual relationship. Male to Male contact with use of the pill would not only be superfluous, it would prevent no disease, while Condom has protective qualities. Regardless of Sexual Preference, if there is going to be a population at all, it shouldn't be suffering from disease whether fatal or nonfatal due to fulfillment of pleasure or vows.
thumbwax, May 05 2001

       Don't forget how many intrepid volunteers were ripped to shreds by the early prototypes VeXaR. By the way, where did you leave the time machine?
globaltourniquet, May 05 2001

       I sure got a good whopping though most of the whops didn't hurt because I had Malthus's writings tucked into my boxers.

       If over-population, soon to double annually, is the single greatest threat to a happy future, then all the great inventions of the past must have brought us to this situation. [except contraception and war] What else has?

       It's the Titanic syndrome. Quick, Rearrange the deckchairs to get a better view of the iceberg.

       [Chatting with fellow-passngers from my deckchair, I would have named the principle of the alphabet as the greatest invention, occurring once only in human history and largely responsible for - ooh look at that! - the iceberg.]
rayfo, May 07 2001

       The grand piano gets a strong, albeit biased, vote from me. Beyond that, I go with UnaBubba and the atomization of information.

Prior to 2000 years ago, I'd go with language, followed by music.
bristolz, May 08 2001

       My first instinct was to vote for the CAR!!! OK, maybe it's not the "greatest" invention, but darn it, life would be such a drag without a car.   

       Waugs... regarding more frequent masturbation: didn't someone already nominate the INTERNET?   

       If I were feeling particularly ornery, I'd say the most impactful "invention" is the concept of HELL or GOD.   

       But the greatest has to be... the ZERO.
danrue, May 09 2001

       Although you wouldn't know it by the unwise number scheme they identified for the latest year BCE and the earliest year CE (1 and 1 respectively) the ZERO was invented long before that transition. That's why last January marked the first month of the new millenium.   

       ASIDE: It must have been annoying having to talk about "last year" that year (1 CE):   

       "Yes, I was in Antioch in 1."
"Dummy, this is 1."
"I mean 1 BCE, you nitwit."

       (or, were they still calling it BC and AD back then? It's all so confusing...)
globaltourniquet, May 09 2001

       "Don't forget how many intrepid volunteers were ripped to shreds by the early prototypes VeXaR. By the way, where did you leave the time machine?"   

       Oh no, I'm not making that mistake again.
VeXaR, May 09 2001

       The semiconductor junction. Without it we wouldn't even know that there *was* an overpopulation problem, and wouldn't have a clue as to how to start solving it.
angel, May 15 2001

       Distillation of alcohol.
pottedstu, Oct 05 2001

       Chia Pet.
bristolz, May 12 2002

       I'd vote for the HalfBakery, but I don't want to encourage the thought of this post as an idea.
phoenix, May 12 2002

       too late. I vote for the road cones.
RayfordSteele, May 12 2002

       THE HOLODECK. Never leave home (without one).
mr2560, Nov 02 2003


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