Today is Thanksgiving Day in America, a holiday dedicated historically to giving thanks for the fall harvest.  In the spirit of Living Labs’ mission, I thought I would take this moment to list a few innovations that we should all be thankful for since they all save us effort in some way.  Some of them are obvious, but some are probably things that we use on a daily basis without recognizing the value they provide.

  • Wheels – not only useful in transportation, but in industrialization processes which drive our global economy
  • Velocipedes – the precursor to the modern bike; it has been argued that the technology created for these machines directly fed into the innovation of the automobile
  • Magnetic card technology – used your credit card today?  It was probably a lot easier than standing in line at the bank waiting for withdraw cash, or even writing a check for that matter.
  • Fiber optics – and not only fiber optics, but thing about the engineering feat of stringing this stuff across the entire globe!
  • Vacuum-forming – you’ve probably held or used a product today that was created using vacuum forming technology
  • Blow-forming (glass, plastic) – how nice it is to drink a bottled beverage
  • Shipping containers – these things have fundamentally changed our lives, and many of us never see them, unless you’ve lived in a port city.  They’ve forced the price of shipping way down, further driving globalization and the off-shoring of manufacturing in the US.
  • Agriculture/Industrialized farming (surplus) – some theorize that the first agriculture enabled the very formation of cities.  Through agriculture, we created surpluses that enabled trade – trade that formed our earliest cities.
  • Lithium-ion batteries (iPods, laptops, etc.) – these light and powerful batteries power almost all mobile devices today, and you know how dependent you are on that cell phone, iPod, laptop, or Kindle.
  • Flush toilets – what a modern wonder!  Truth is, many of us probably don’t remember a day without these things, but they may have saved us from extinction.  Really, before flush toilets and sanitation planning, just being in a city was a health hazard.  Cars didn’t emit carbon dioxide back then; horses emitted…well…horse emissions.
  • Radio/telecasting/streaming/MP3 format (digitization of music) – collaboration is key in this day and age, and with a globalizing economy ease of communication is a driver.  It’s also nice to enjoy artists’ communication on-the-go with MP3s.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Terra Curtis