Last week, we at the Seed mother-ship taxed the collective brain-power of the ScienceBloggers with the following question:
If you could cause one invention from the last hundred years never to have been made at all, which would it be, and why?
Their responses have swooped from the sublime to the ridiculous…and back again.
ScienceBloggers’ picks for most despicable invention, below the fold.
Janet Stemwedel, of Adventres in Ethics and Science, fingered “embedded advertising”, like product placements in TV shows and movies, after toying with nominating cell phones and realizing she’s mostly just opposed to the abuse of them.
(Cell phones don’t annoy people; people annoy people. Right?)
RPM at Evolgen picked nuclear weapons, for the destruction they’ve wrought, and the constant, low-grade terror caused by their very existence.
Afarensis, loath to re-nominate nuclear weapons, chose to wish non-existence on calculators, for their wanton destruction of the slide-rule trade.
“They may not be as accurate but who needs precision? A good approximation usually suffices anyway…”
Indeed. Blast calculators.
At Stranger Fruit, John Lynch decides to un-invent landmines. Like Janet, he thought about abolishing cell phones, but then decided that he’s not anti-cell-phone, just anti-idiot. (Idiots, unfortunately, are NOT an invention of the last hundred years.)
Razib of Gene Expression would disinvent nuclear weapons (as opposed to nuclear power). His runner-up was TV.
Over at Pharyngula, PZ questioned the viability of this type of hypothetical question. He writes:
The question is a bit like pointing at a river and asking, “which small patch in the middle of that would you like to see high and dry, with the water flowing around it while leaving it untouched?” It’s not going to happen, and in most cases it’s going to be physically impossible.
Orac at Respectful Insolence is tempted to do away with the internal combustion engine, but like PZ he’s a little nonplussed by the question’s hypothetical nature.
Living the Scientific Life‘s GrrlScientist seconds landmines, sparking a lively discussion in comments.
Cold fusion has got Tim Lambert down at Deltoid. We should all have such problems.
Alex Palazzo at The Daily Transcript would have taken “Le Corbusier’s idea of a city” out of circulation before it ever got in, while
Chad Orzel of Uncertain Principles settles on “the idea that absolutely everything in the world ought to be organized along the lines of short-term market capitalism,” an idea taken up by commenters.
Finally, at Cognitive Daily, Dave Munger calls our attention to a horrible invention that may not have caused untold suffering, but that few would miss if it were gone. First the Ab Lounge, Dave writes, then the rest of the tchotchkes from late-night TV!
Great batch of answers. Personally, I’m a bit surprised that no one said “plastic.” Are its benefits enough to compensate for its drawbacks?
That’s all until next week.
Send your questions for Ask A ScienceBlogger to email@example.com