What’s more important: electricity or the internet?

With the passing of Steve Jobs yesterday, the web is filled with remembrances of a pioneer and industry legend. It’s a sad day indeed. But it’s also a good day to look back and consider the history of innovation. And how all the inventions and creations of the last 100 years have impacted us. How would you compare the importance of electricity with the invention of the internet? or the cell phone? Can this kind of comparison be made? If you had to lose one of these inventions, which would you keep? And why?

The greatest thing about human beings (besides opposable thumbs) is out ability to think, be creative, solve problems and invent things.

Last year I wrote a paper about how the internet has impacted out ability to form social connections. I did not attempt to draw a positive or negative conclusion, I simply wanted to explore the notion that the internet has not impacted out social world, that it simply changed the dynamic.

Consider this question: how life changing was electricity in it’s first decade or two? I don’t think we’ll see the full impact of the internet for another generation. History is never written in the present. Our internet is a toddler, still trying to get a handle on walking. It’s not until age 5 that children really start looking around their world and ask the question Why? I believe my child will be part of the generation that asks Why and What-for? They will never know a world without the internet, without border-less communication, without a connected world.

Vintage cars

Image by macieklew via Flickr

I think a more interesting comparison could be drawn between the invention of the combustion engine (and the motorized vehicle) and the internet. Both have connected us with parts of the world that we might not have otherwise seen or known about. The have both expanded our horizons and I simply could not imagine life without either of them. Both of these inventions have provided a sense of freedom (something with goes back to yesterday’s topic) in the way we interact and move around within our world. What does that mean for those that lack either one or both of these items? I’m not sure I can answer that. Time will surely tell…