We live in a fast changing world dominated by advances in technology. But it’s easy to forget how much we benefit from the past. Recently, the Atlantic magazine assembled a panel of experts to rank the top 50 inventions since the wheel. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden discusses the Top 10.
“An absolutely fascinating article. … We tend to — most of us — be focused on right now and what do we have to do for tomorrow and what might make our lives better tomorrow. We don’t really look at the past and see what what has contributed to where we are right now. So this article did that.
“Now, these are all going to be subjective rankings, but the authors of the article did … consult a panel of experts. Anyway to get to the Top 10 inventions of all time. The Top 3 listed by the experts were the printing press, electricity and penicillin.
“Then the next three were the semiconductor (obviously invented very recently), optical lenses and paper. And then rounding out the Top 10, the internal combustion engine, vaccination, the Internet, and the steam engine. And interesting to me as I look at these … it’s really a combination.
“Obviously, there are some items there, like the semiconductor and electricity and the internal combustion engine, that are more industry related, but also, there are items that make our day-to-day life better — optical lenses, for example — who would’ve thought that would be in the Top 10, helping people read better and therefore be more productive. And also some inventions that helped us become more healthy, like penicillin and vaccination. So fascinating article. I recommend anyone go read it in the Atlantic magazine.”