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The Greatest and Worst Inventions of the 20th Century

  • The greatest invention of the 20th century was: the Undo command.
  • It was a conceptual revolution: you are not condemned forever to live with the consequences of your actions, but there are some actions that you can "undo" as if nothing had ever happened. After the "undo" was introduced in computer science, its essence has been replicated in countless fields.
  • Whenever humans start a major project, one of the concerns is "can we undo it if something goes wrong?" The influence of the Undo could be bigger than any other invention and discovery in recent memory.
  • The worst invention of the century was: the "beep".
  • I recently was at a gas station and realized that we were completely surrounded by beeping devices: the gas pumps were beeping to signal that they had done their job or that they were waiting for a credit card or they were ready to dispense gasoline, most cars were beeping because the doors were open or the lights were on or the keys were in the ignition, a couple of cell phones were beeping because they had received text messages of because someone was calling, etc.
  • We are surrounded day and night by an incredible number of beeping devices, from the alarm that wakes you up in the morning to the microwave that warms up your food.
  • The car is becoming a device that beeps and only occasionally also drives: it starts beeping the moment you walk in (to remind you that you have to fasten your seat belt) and sometimes it doesn't stop beeping even after you parked the car in the garage.
  • Someone told me that the future is to have a human voice tell you what is wrong instead of a simple beeping. The beep only signals that your attention is required for some reason, but it doesn't tell you what exactly is going on. A human voice would tell you the "what".
  • But i am not sure that i would like to live in a world in which i will be bombarded by voices repeating "fasten your seat belts - fasten your seat belts - fasten your seat belts..." or "your food is ready - your food is ready - your food is ready..." or "pick up your receipt - pick up your receipt - pick up your receipt...."