Is the automobile the biggest change agent of the 20th century?

Automobiles were developed in the 19th century but became prevalent in the 20th century. Specifically the internal combustion powered auto. They clearly changed how and where we live, how we built our homes, shopping and businesses.

Is there anything that has changed the world’s more in the 20th century?

Is there anything we developed in the 20th century that will change how we live as the 21st century progresses? The transistor comes to mind. Atomic fusion is another. Thoughts?

cell phone
wireless tech

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What is Graphene? | Graphene-Info

If nuclear fusion can be developed, that would be a major change, low cost electric power for everybody. Think of ‘clean’ transportation.

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That was my thought, too. A controlled fusion has been successful. Sustaining it and getting more out than you put in is the current issue. I have high hopes. But I have had them for 45 years or so.

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Integrated circuits, without which modern pc’s and many other devices would not be possible. Also printed circuit boards. I can’t even imagine connecting multiple IC’s with hand wiring.


How about airplanes and space flight also all the new knowledge in the medical field.


Very significant inventions for sure… but did they change how we live? We don’t commute by flying car…yet…so maybe that’s the 21st century change agent. Same for space travel. We don’t live on Mars but maybe in the 21st century we will.

The medical stuff changes how long we live, clearly, but did it change how? Not sure.

And a WHOLE lot of other stuff that came FROM the use of those ICs, like cell phones, space travel, the computers that make those medical models that help heal us. That is a core technology that made all this stuff possible and a lot more in the future.

I think the IC is the expansion of the technology used to make the transistor, isn’t it? That would make transistors the core technology.

Sorry I misunderstood thy question.

Power in factories. Steam? Electricity? Electric motors?
Imagine a power outage. What can you do?

Wouldn’t that be the biggest change agent from the 19th century? The start of the Industrial Age?

I’d go along with ICs too, at least the last third of the 20th century. Automobiles would be the first two thirds of the century. ICs are a whole bunch of transistors crammed into a small space. They are executed differently than the original transistor. As for graphene, that could be a candidate for the 21st century.

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About 10 years ago, I read a book (I have no recollection of the title or author, unfortunately) detailing what the author believed to be the most productive innovations of the 20th Century. Most of them were what I expected, but he listed air-conditioning–much to my surprise. He was of the belief that productivity in tropical and semi-tropical countries increased drastically as a result of air-conditioned work facilities.

I had never before contemplated that factor, but I think that his theory has validity.


Of all the stuff I use, I’d say the natural gas water heater would be the one I’d miss the most if it disappeared. Next would be the automatic clothes washing machine. Cars and gasoline engines would probably be next on the list, but I could make do without them more than the two above.

How about hydraulics they were invented in the 18th century but were really harnessed and improved in the 19th century.

That’s why we said atomic fusion, the factories will have there own power plants.
When factories ran on steam, they had there own boilers.
If/when fusion reactors are developed they may even power cars.
Fission reactors currently power ships.


Already invented. Driving (perhaps catastrophic) change will be when/if pathogenic bacteria evolve to the point we can not create new antibiotics to work against them.

Weren’t the principles of hydraulics known since the time of Archimedes?

It appears many did not read this line.

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