The 10 Most Important Technologies of Modern World HistoryBy Jared Newman
Technology, for the most part, exists to make life easier. By that definition, we’ve got it pretty good thanks to the hard work of our fellow humans. In weighing the world’s most important technologies, we ruled out the nitty gritty that led to some of the creations below — transistors, electricity and the combustion engine, to name a few — and focused on products that changed the world forever. Here are the 10 technologies, in our mind, that have shaped the world in a way we could never go back.
The Light Bulb
No disrespect to candles, but light bulbs made it easier to burn the midnight oil (despite making that expression obsolete). That meant people could work late and party later, and stores could stay open for business to keep society functioning. High five to Mr. Edison and crew, this bright idea has made our lives all the more clear.
The Printing Press
Anyone who’s played a game of telephone knows how unreliable verbal messages can be. The printing press allowed information to be spread quickly and accurately. This was particularly useful for communication between scientists, and it also gave authors more prominence and boosted literacy rates by making the printed word ubiquitous. That’s why, even as the printing press gives way to new technologies, its impact on society can’t be ignored.
E-mails are more efficient and video chats are more personal, but no means of remote communication hits the sweet spot more than the telephone. And neither of those other technologies so easily get your attention when you’re focused on something else.
The Personal Automobile
Say what you will about their environmental impact; cars just make life easier (take it from someone who dealt with New York City subways for three years). When you can travel on your own terms to specific businesses or homes, it changes the social and economic landscape. Our need for gasoline may taper off, but cars are going nowhere.
Words only go so far, but pictures let people see things with their own eyes. Even after the advent of Photoshop, photographs still carry a certain weight when proving something happened. Now, we can’t resist the impulse to snap photos during the most important moments in our lives, as if we won’t remember them on our own.
The ways we get our entertainment may be changing, but one thing’s certain: The television is king of the living room. Watching movies and playing video games just aren’t the same on a laptop, and, well, no one gathers around the radio anymore.
While the automobile connected states and countries, the airplane brought the entire world within reach. Families can now scatter to different parts of the globe and still visit each other in a matter of hours. Until someone invents the teleporter, the airplane will remain the fastest way to get around.
The Atom Bomb
We needed at least one destructive force on this list, and faced with a decision between guns and the A-bomb, only the latter was powerful enough to end a war (or humanity as we know it). Despite the fact that only two nukes have been used in battle, nuclear weapons continue to shape foreign policy the world over. And it can’t be uninvented.
The Personal Computer
Being able to perform billions of calculations per second has its advantages, and the personal computer made that kind of processing power accessible to all. Aside from games, music and other diversions; word processing alone makes the computer worthwhile. How else would I fuss over the last sentence in this blurb?
The big one. I’d argue that this technology is up there with the light bulb, and we’re living to see how it changes everything, from personal communication to mass media. No business model is safe from the effects of an interconnected world, and it’s never quite felt like anything is possible. Forget the flying car; I’ll take a series of tubes any day of the week…
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Thanks for reading, GadgetCravers. So, what do you think is the most important technology on this list? Did we miss a technology that is more important than any of these listed above? Share your thoughts in the comments, we’ve love to hear what you think. Funny, noting that most of these advancements occured in the last hundred or so years…