Thursday, July 22, 2010

These Inventions Above all Other Inventions

Note: the subject for this posting came about because of an article in the local paper. A family's home was destroyed by fire and those in this family's neighborhood were being called on to help them in replacing "essentials" that had been lost. When I read the list of items needed I sort of scratched my head, thus this post.

There's a lot of talk around that we all own too many things, and that there are just too many things out there clamoring for us to buy them. There's talk about paring down our lives to the real basics, to only those things that are truly important.

Okay, let's get a start on paring down. But first, how are we going to judge which are the things that are truly important for us to own? Which things are really necessities as opposed to luxuries? Keep in mind that necessities may or may not be societally determined and may or may not be the purview of the individual. Also, the definition of what is a necessity can change over time or from place to place.

There are many items that have been invented and are available for public consumption in roughly the last 50-60 years. If an accident happened and you needed to replace everything that you owned previously, but you were to be limited to having only five of those items replaced first, as being the most important for you, which five would they be? Why? Give it some thought and let us all know. I have a feeling that opinions are going to be widely divergent.

Note: I am excluding medications and medically related items from the choices. I would hope that all would agree that the invention/discovery of antibiotics, of hearing aids etc. would be considered as societal necessities above and beyond the items we can purchase for our own use. I am also excluding a basic stove and refrigerator in a kitchen. I don't believe that anyone in the US would consider those as optional.


Anonymous said...

This should have been really easy but it wasn't. I work from home so for me a computer and a phone would be there. The heat is killing me so I'll add an air conditioner. You can't see in the dark so I'll add at least one lamp even if it wasn't invented in the last 60 years. The last one is really a tough one. I thought about a vacuum cleaner but if all the rugs were gone I wouldn't need it. Beds were invented too far back so they wouldn't count. I'm not sure what the fifth one would be.

Allen said...

If you take away all medical inventions/discoveries then there isn't much left for me but my computer and its accessories. Even a phone isn't first on the list if I have the computer. Maybe I'd add in that air conditioner but it's only hot a few months out of the year so I'm not sure I would say it should come first. Everything else is nice to have but not really necessary.

The things that I would consider necessary aren't recent inventions, things like clothing and shoes and a pot to cook in and a table to eat at.

Mark said...

My number 1 item is the washing machine. I did our laundry by hand for about a year after getting married, and believe me, that's hard work. I can't even imagine doing laundry for 7 by hand - it would be nearly a full-time job!

Others include electricity, computer, internet access, A/C.

JS said...

If truly the last 50-60 years it becomes much harder. It excludes a car or A/C, for example.

I suppose a computer with an internet connection (is that 1 or 2?) and a cell phone. Then again, maybe a cell phone is unnecessary if the computer has skype. If it has a webcam built in, you don't even need a camera. Since I'm finding it hard to find recent inventions, I'll include a microwave for the convenience though a "basic stove" would technically be enough. It's funny because a computer can do so much. I was going to say a TV, but I can always stream TV episodes or movies. If that's separate, I would include Netflix, the entire system is just brilliant in my opinion. I guess "blogs" is another invention so maybe that should be included. It all depends on how inclusive you want to be.

This is difficult because most of the inventions people use personally are luxuries to a certain extent. It excludes, for example, the myriad advances in genetics and medical procedures.

Also, the question is sort of misleading since one "invention" really includes hundreds of inventions sometimes. A "computer" or "the internet" is the work of hundreds and hundreds of people and involve countless advances and inventions. It's mind boggling if you try to count all the parts and pieces necessary to even get a little light bulb in your house to turn on at the flick of a switch.

Ruth said...

I'm with Mark about the washing machine (and my dryer too), although there were such machines earlier than 50-60 years ago. And I'll also say a computer. But if you're saying not to count any medical items I don't really have anything else I'd call must replace. JS is right that a computer can be used instead of a lot of other items like phones and tvs.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this posting is not so much about our naming the 5 most important things we would replace first as it is about showing that a lot of the things we think are so important to own or have wouldn't be all that important if we had to replace everything we own.

Anonymous said...

I thought of refrigerator, washing machine, phone(to let everyone know I was ok), stove, car

Mike S. said...

A few years ago I heard a radio station ask listeners to call in with the most important modern convenience in their lifetimes. Many of the usual suspects were mentioned, and there was some back and forth about their relative merits. Then an old woman called up and offered up "indoor plumbing", which she had grown up without. No one could argue with that choice.