Great inventions in my lifetime: have there been any?

On Sunday the MSF and I were at lunch to celebrate a family birthday, and at the next table was a birthday party for a man who’d hit 90. They had a video camera and I heard one asking him “what would you say was the greatest invention of your lifetime?” I didn’t hear the answer, but I mused on this. While he missed the airplane, there’s been television, computing, the internet, penicillin… Which would you choose?

What about since 1972?

I was born in 1972, and frankly I can’t think of a major world changing invention since then. You could argue the internet wasn’t really invented until 1989 with Berners Lee and the worldwide web, but it’s generally accepted that in the late 1960s the first computers were networked together, so I discounted that.

Barring medical inventions, which help prolong life rather than change the world, I can’t think of that much. Even test tube babies have enabled children for childless couples, but that’s a change for individuals rather than something that’s changed the world we live in. When I put this to the group, all we could come up with was the Sat Nav, but I wouldn’t exactly call that a seismic invention.

It seems to me that the change in my life span has been far more about innovating existing inventions for modern life rather than beginning anything groundbreaking. Then again, perhaps it’s simply because we don’t yet realise which inventions will go on to change things substantially.

Still, I’m pretty sure we missed something obvious, so please do add your thoughts and suggestions to the discussion below.

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