Of Lists and Being Seduced by Technology

The Atlantic, November 2013


There are many ways to reconsider a year that’s nearly at its end, and The Atlantic makes a unique stab at it this month by using this the Technology Issue to consider the 50 greatest inventions since the wheel. It might be fun to make your own list and compare, but here are a couple of hints: the Internet isn’t #1 and neither is the personal computer. So scratch your head with this poser and have fun.

Bookending this listing is Nicole Allan’s “The Inventors.” The interesting thing here is not various simple widgets invented, or even the more complex ones, such as the airplane or the PC. Instead we find in this list corporate twists to invention, such as Amazon.com and Minecraft.

Since the Internet version of this mag is drifting toward Power Point type displays, Joe Pinsker’s “Die Another Day” chart only follows. In it we discover that over the past century and a half, U.S. life expectancy has almost doubled. How? Take a look at the diseases prominent in each decade.

There’s also an apocalyptic article by Nicholas Carr, “The Great Forgetting,” which reminds us of how dependent we’re becoming on our various technologies.

With the emphasis here on technology, the editors seemed to find it necessary to do some serious grounding and give us Robert Wright’s article, “Why We Fight – and Can We Stop?” In this article, easily the issue’s most provocative, we come to understand that human emotions are eclipsing reason to a greater degree than since the Enlightenment, with a consequent assemblage of neo-tribes based in their members’ emotional components to underscore the point.

This issue gives us yet one more reason to believe that The Atlantic will be around for quite a while yet.


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