This week's roundup of Good Reads includes ranking the greatest innovations in modern life, Boko Haram's toll on Nigeria, a look at the patrol of the South China Sea, growing the world's hottest chili, and Kyrgyzstan's most-wanted man.
What innovation since the wheel – created almost 6,000 years ago – has done the most to shape modern life? Maybe your list would include electricity, or the automobile. But what about sanitation systems, or cement?
In The Atlantic, James Fallows offers 50 answers, which he compiled with input from 12 engineers, technology historians, scientists, and entrepreneurs each giving 25 suggestions. Broad categories of innovation emerged, including innovations that expand human intellect (paper or photography), extend life (penicillin), and allow real-time communication (the Internet) and organizational breakthroughs (the Gregorian calendar and alphabetization), among others.
A majority of the contributors (10 of 12) suggested the top innovation on the list (the printing press), but the rankings are sure to stir debate about the sources and effects of innovation. For Mr. Fallows, he would rank innovations based on which one he would miss more if it didn’t exist. Anesthesia (No. 46 in the list) would be in his top 10, at least higher than the personal computer, which is No. 16.
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