1999 : WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INVENTION IN THE PAST TWO THOUSAND YEA

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Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Author,Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed
Professor of Education at Harvard University

Another good question! My perhaps eccentric but nonetheless heartfelt nomination is Western classical music, as epitomized in the compositions of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and above all Mozart. Music is a free invention of the human spirit, less dependent upon physical or physiological inventions than most other contrivances. Musical compositions in the Western tradition represent an incredible cerebral achievement, one that is not only appreciated but also imitated or elaborated upon wherever it travels. Most inventions — from nuclear energy to antibiotics - can be used for good or ill. Classical music has probably given more pleasure to more individuals, with less negative fallout, than any other human artifact. Finally, while no one can compose like Mozart and few can play like Heifetz or Casals, anyone who works at it can perform in a credible way — and, courtesy of software, even those of us unable to play an instrument or create a score can now add our own fragments to an ever expanding canon.