OTHER HUMBLE TECHNOLOGIES. The article by James Fallows that I referred to in yesterday’s post about the top 50 technology breakthroughs since the wheel contains some surprises. The printing press is first on the list, but Number 6 is paper with the comment that you couldn’t have printing without paper. Just as Ha-Joon Chang traced enormous ripple effects from the invention of washing machines, the ripple effects on society put printing and paper at the top of the list. Ripple effects make optical lenses Number 5 on the list with the comment by Fallows that: “the adoption of corrective lenses amounted to the largest onetime IQ boost in human history, by expanding the pool of potentially literate people.”
Fallows discusses Robert Gordon’s argument that I posted on here that the technological changes that so dramatically raised our standard of living have consisted of only three industrial revolutions, and—alarmingly—that there is no reason to believe that there will ever be another. For me, the enormous variety of innovations on the list cast some doubt on Gordon’s grouping of innovations into three industrial revolutions.