“If you could cause one invention from

posted by Jason Kottke   May 17, 2006

If you could cause one invention from the last hundred years never to have been made at all, which would it be, and why?” Nuclear weapons? Land mines? Internal combustion engine?

Reader comments

Scott MatthewmanMay 17, 2006 at 12:13PM

PowerPoint. Because just because a bullet point can fly in while rotating 360 degrees and changing colour doesn’t mean it should.

BonMay 17, 2006 at 12:19PM

Spam. And I don’t mean the meaty kind.

beep beep beepMay 17, 2006 at 12:32PM

Car alarms

Adam RakunasMay 17, 2006 at 12:33PM

The modern suburb. I’d wish Levittown into the cornfield.

nicholeMay 17, 2006 at 12:35PM

To be a bit snarky, NT would prevent the vibrator? Why? It is because NT is so addicted to their own vibrator and can no longer acceptably socialize, or is it because NY feels they are out-classed by vibrators in terms of bedroom and conversational skills?

Personally, I think Suzanne Sommers was a bad idea to begin with. Anyone who claims they got pregnant by osmosis and then takes part in the creation/promotion of the Thighmaster must be evil. Humanity will suffer none if she and all her wickedness is gone.

BenMay 17, 2006 at 12:44PM

All this free thought and knowledge of god and evil that Eve brought about hasn’t really done much for us. Plus if that was never invented we would all be blogging about this while laying around naked in a garden.

peteMay 17, 2006 at 12:56PM

Enterprise software

OpusMay 17, 2006 at 1:19PM

Boaz took my first choice, so I’ll go with cellphones.

ChloeMay 17, 2006 at 1:30PM

Partially hydrogenated oils. Or high fructose corn syrup. Look at the state of people’s health nowadays.

PatrickMay 17, 2006 at 1:33PM

Note: This post is rambly. Skip to the last sentence if you’re the impatient type.

Jason, I think that you took the best answers right off the bat, (or at least the most obvious ones.)

I suppose that I could name people, but that seems a bit off-topic. Funny - maybe - but off-topic all the same.

This leaves me reaching for answers - e.g.: television, narcotics, processed foods, etc.

However, these answers seem to ignore positive implications of the inventions such as spin-off inventions.

Actually, when I think about it, even the answers that Kottke listed can have very important positive uses. A nuclear bomb could some day avert some disaster on an interplanetary scale.

It seems to me that most of the problems with inventions are a matter of irresponsible use. I would guess that when inventions are used in the right way negative results can be eliminated or minimized, and there can be plenty of positive outcome. (e.g.: Small amounts of internal combustion engine wouldn’t be very bad for the environment, and it can have plenty of positive effects such as spin-off inventions.)

I acknowledge that there are some answers such as “crack cocaine” that don’t seem to have redeeming values to balance out their negative effects (various drugs are all that I can really think of now.) However, in these situations, I feel that there would likely be some other invention to fill the gap created.

I don’t know, I guess that invention has made the world the way that it is today, and I don’t mind the world that much as is. Some things suck, but all in all, I’m not eager risk losing some of what humanity has built.

P.S. - Don’t take away the Internet, please. I like it.

Linus PauliingMay 17, 2006 at 1:49PM

“Science cannot be stopped. Man will gather knowledge no matter what the consequences — and we cannot predict what they will be. Science will go on — whether we are pessimistic, or are optimistic, as I am. I know that great, interesting, and valuable discoveries can be made and will be made… But I know also that still more interesting discoveries will be made that I have not the imagination to describe — and I am awaiting them, full of curiosity and enthusiasm.”

ericMay 17, 2006 at 1:55PM

The modern day Liberal

LaurieMay 17, 2006 at 1:55PM

The chainsaw. Perhaps more rainforests would be intact without it.

janellMay 17, 2006 at 2:04PM

I agree, and additionally, my top ten is:

1. Nuclear Weapons
2. Spyware
3. Spam Advertising
4. Call waiting — I hate when people say, “hold on, I have to take this!” and make me wait 10 minutes for their “more important” conversation.
5. Cell phones — I hate that they make you available every waking moment. On the other hand, I like their mobility and text messaging or the ability to dial 911 wherever I am.
6. Build-a-bear. This idea is just stupid.
7. Those plastic bins to store your stuff in. Great idea gone bad. At this point, it’s just an excuse for me not to buy furniture.
8. Doggy diapers. That’s just gross.
9. Non-military use Hummer. It says, “I’m compensating and I will run you over b/c I’m pissed my life turned out this way.”
10. Figurines. Of any sort. Who the hell cares? I don’t even like the word.

Runners up: Car alarms, any reality show after Survivor (this means you, you addictive American Idol!), dot-matrix printers (what’s with the unnecessary noise?), “Christian science.”

scottMay 17, 2006 at 2:41PM

buses covered in clothes

CMay 17, 2006 at 4:28PM

The mp3 player. Hands down.

CMay 17, 2006 at 4:32PM

And obviously I am need to go to the Derek Zoolander school for people who don’t read good. So I’d have to go with nuclear weapons

BelgandMay 17, 2006 at 4:46PM

Nothing. While there are plenty of things I may dislike (e.g. spam, reality shows) I’m of the opinion that advancement is always good even when something stupid or dangerous is developed.

Then again, the ability to get rid of all religious fundamentalists (or, for that matter, anyone who wants to make someone else follow their religious beliefs) in one fell swoop is pretty damn tempting.

eric panMay 17, 2006 at 6:36PM

Technology is never the problem.

People (and their uneducated educators) are the problem.

I constantly wonder, as people become more and more of the problem, if people will realize that people are the problem, as they try, with all manner of sound, fury, and ever-increasing futility, to solve problems through technology and not education.

Tom FlowersMay 17, 2006 at 11:27PM

Silicon or saline breast implants … what matters is probably not artificial.

Random ActionMay 18, 2006 at 12:34AM

Nipple Clamps hurt more than the disclaimer claimed. So disclaimers.

Paul WatsonMay 18, 2006 at 6:06AM

The land mine is a good one.

Reality T.V. another.

MaaikeMay 18, 2006 at 7:50AM

I don’t mind reality tv, you can choose not to watch, after all.
Nuclear weapons, however… I’m afraid the world is stuck with them forever now they’ve been invented, which is bad. So they have to win.

TodMay 18, 2006 at 10:59AM

Instead of preventing one invention I’d like to kill two birds by going back in time and stopping Mr. Thomas Midgley, Jr. from inventing 1) gasoline lead additives and 2) CFC’s.

Way to go, Tom!

OverwormMay 18, 2006 at 11:26AM

Riding Lawnmowers

Cable Television

24-hour Strip Clubs

meMay 18, 2006 at 11:46AM

Why limit ourselves to the last 100 years?

I would go with God/Allah/Yahweh and Bible/Koran/Torah

In fact, this invention has/will kill many multiples more than nuclear bombs have or will…

BoMay 18, 2006 at 4:46PM

While I agree, in spirit, with the late Mr. Pauling (above), I must say that cell phones solved a problem I enjoyed having.

That's right.May 19, 2006 at 2:18AM

Digital audio.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.