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

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Psychologist & Computer Scientist; Engines for Education Inc.; Author, Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools
computer scientist and cognitive psychologist

We are using it now. The internet. Of course the internet relies on numerous other inventions (chips, networking, CRTs, telephones, electricity etc). The reason why the internet isn't an obvious choice at first glance (besides the fact that is so present in our lives we can fail to notice it) is that its power has not yet begun to fully manifest itself. We still have schools, offices, the post office, telephone companies, places of entertainment, shopping malls and such, but we won't for long. Information delivery methods affect every aspect of how we live. If we don't have to walk to town to find out what's going on, or to shop, or to learn, or to work, why will we go to town? Schools (which have not been able to change) will completely transform themselves when better course can be built on the internet than could possibly be delivered in a university. Of course, we haven't seen that yet, but when the best physicists in the world combine to deliver a learn by doing simulation that allows students to try things out and discuss what they have done with every important (virtual) physicist who has something to say about what they have done, the only thing universities will have to offer will be football.

Shopping malls aren't gone yet but they will be. Why go to a store to buy music CDs any more? You can listen to samples of whatever you want and click a button for delivery while seated at home. Any object that needn't be felt and perused to be purchased will find no better delivery method than the internet. Newspapers? Not dead yet, but they will be. Pick an aspect of the way we live today and it will change radically in the coming years because of the internet. Life (and human interaction) in fifty years will be so different we will hardly recognize the social structures that will evolve. I don't know if we will be happier, but we will be better informed.