A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a short article for the newsletter about energy resources that generated some positive responses. Encouraged, I decided to write another, hopefully also thought provoking, piece for this week’s newsletter.
At the end of my last article, everyone was asked to make a choice about the most important technological innovation in the history of human race. I wonder what people have chosen? Did the choices made by parents differ from the choices made by their children and how did the technological innovations selected by the students differ depending on for example year level? Perhaps it would have been easier if I had asked for the top 3 innovations instead of only one.
I often ask the students prior to this exercise not to start their list with anything that begins with the letter “i” such as ipad or iphone followed by computer, internet and laptop. However, it is not easy for the younger generation to fully appreciate the significance of technological innovations such as the steam engine or printing press. I introduced the question of technological innovations to my students for the first time about 25 years ago while teaching a “Science and Technology” course in Canada (just a few years after I stopped working at the nuclear reactor). Their answers were certainly quite different at that time when mobile phones, laptops and tablets did not exist yet.
However, the most important element of the discussion that followed 25 years ago and should be addressed today is the importance of these technological innovations in the context of history, society, politics, economy and science. I believe that the education our students receive at TBS provides them with the knowledge and skills needed to understand how the printing press changed the world and why the steam engine affected so many social and economic aspects of life.
Nevertheless, we must remember that human race evolves and so do technological innovations. Remembering and appreciating things from the past is equally important as keeping up with all the new developments. I find this technological growth particularly relevant in medicine (often overlooked by the students when thinking of technology) where new devices allow for better, easier and more accurate diagnosis and treatments. I just had an ultra-precise NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) scan of my knee and my mother will have a laser eye surgery next month, both events demonstrating that we are progressing into a better and technologically more advanced future.
You might be also wondering what technological innovation have I chosen as the most important in the history of the human race? In my humble opinion, it is a mechanical clock as I believe that with no accurate measure of time, many other innovations would simply not be possible. However, I look forward to hearing from anyone who wants to discuss and challenge my choice.