The Inside Agenda Blog

What's the Greatest Invention of All Time?

by Meredith Martin Wednesday February 6, 2013

I don't know about you, but I do my best thinking in the shower. And it was in the shower that I realized that the greatest invention of all time is, in fact, indoor plumbing. It's difficult to imagine a world without it, nor would I want to. Sure, modern manufacturing and transportation would not have been made possible without the invention of the steam engine, and, sure, smart phones are amazing, but without indoor plumbing, proper hygiene is nearly impossible. It's a quality of life issue, really. 

I understand my selecting indoor plumbing as the greatest invention of all time is highly debatable, so I quickly put a poll together so you, dear reader, can weigh in. What do you think is the greatest invention of all time? Vote below, then continue reading.

Why do I ask? Because on February 19, I'll be producing a discussion about innovation. 

The idea for the program came before Christmas when economist Armine Yalnizyan passed along an article from the Financial Times: "The robot economy and the new rentier class." (Unfortunately, you'll need to have -- or create -- a Financial Times account to read the piece.) It covers a few issues, but the one that stuck out for me was the way companies are doggedly protecting their patents and thus, the article argues, stifling innovation. 

Then, in mid-January, The Economist came out with a very interesting feature article: "Innovation pessimism: Has the ideas machine broken down?" It outlines the history of invention and innovation and gives both sides of the argument: that mankind's most inventive days are behind us, versus the belief that our most inventive days are yet to come.

Personally, I'm hopeful our best days are ahead of us. But even if they aren't, at least we have indoor plumbing, and that's something to celebrate.

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