Two Wrongs

Neat Inventions

Neat Inventions

I have a list in my head of some neat (well, actually, big and important) inventions we have seen throughout history that people don’t always think about. I think they are seriously underappreciated.

But first off, let’s discard the wheel. It’s overrated. It’s not that innovative – it’s been invented by virtually every culture in history – and also not that practical unless there’s a bunch of infrastructure to support it. Many cultures have used wheels in toys, while serious business such as transport happens over water.

On to the good stuff.

What sets these apart is that – unlike e.g. the semiconductor transistor, which merely improved on the vacuum tube by several orders of magnitude – these four represent conceptual leaps. They allow us to do things we could not do before; they expand the human experience to places it would not have been able to go otherwise, even if given infinite time and resources.


I have not forgot about controlled fire and vaccines. Controlled fire belongs on the list but it is neither overrated nor underappreciated, so it’s just not interesting to write about. Vaccines aren’t an invention as much as they are a discovery (people exposed to pathogens become more resistant) and several inventions (all the different shapes vaccines take in practice), so I’m not sure they belong on the same list.

That said, I’m sure I’ve been unfair to some other inventions that also deserve a place on the list. I’d love to hear your strongest contenders!