The 21st century has been an exciting time for those of us who dabble or are simply interested in the realms of technology. If you were born in any of the previous decades, you have had the opportunity to bear witness to some of the most important innovations and advancements in human history.
The start of the 21st century was met with fear and a lot of unknowns. You probably remember Y2K. Thankfully the world did not end at the turn of the century, but the 19 years following would go on to be crucial. What is even more interesting about this time period is the fact that the inventions from previous decades finally took off in the 21st century.
Over the months, we have explored crucial inventions from each decade that would eventually go on to change the world and our lives.
As you probably guessed, today we are going to continue that tradition and take a brief look at some of the inventions from the 21st century. What makes this time period so different and equally exciting is that there are a good amount of inventions from this time period that are controversial, compared to previous time periods in human history. Yet, there is a good chance you can not live without some of these inventions on this list.
1. Social Media
Ok, let’s start with the more obvious and controversial one, social media. You might have grown tired of seeing your friends' countless posts or the constant threats to your own privacy but at one point social media held a truly exciting promise, to connect people across the world. Tools like Friendster and MySpace entered the scene in 2002 and 2003 respectively, opening the doors for the eventual giant Facebook.
Social media is everywhere. There is a good chance that you read this post from our social media page. Social media does connect people and businesses across continents, is a hub for both great and useless information, and has even been a stage for major political movements.
Just to put everything into scale, there are currently 7.5 billion people on this planet and 2.89 billion of them can be found on some sort of social media platform. Social media is going to be around for a while.
2. Multi-use rockets
Hate him or love him, Elon Musk has made some tremendous contributions to our planet. His company SpaceX has gone on to develop rockets that can be recovered and reused for other launches. It was in 2017 when SpaceX became the first to use one of these rockets again for another mission.
3. The Capsule Endoscopy
All thanks to massive advancements in light-emitting electrodes, image sensors, and optical design in the 90s, the capsule endoscopy was able to be created. First used in 2001, the technology uses a tiny wireless camera the size of a common pill. This allows doctors to explore and examine the human body, specifically the digestive system, to identify any potential internal bleeding, inflammation, or cancerous tumors.
4. Blockchain Technology
Now the idea of a blockchain did not first appear in 2008. In fact, Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta first envisioned the idea in 1991. However, it was not until the emergence of Bitcoin in 2008 when blockchain technology truly became relevant. People around the world are excited about blockchain as it has the potential to change industries outside of the cryptocurrency world.
From car-sharing to cloud sharing, blockchain technology offers greater transparency increased efficiency and speed, improved traceability, and enhanced security just to name a few benefits.
5. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies
Remember last year when you could not go one day without seeing or hearing about cryptocurrencies? Bitcoin’s unprecedented rise in value force the world to pay attention to these decentralized tools. There were previous attempts to create cryptocurrencies in the late 90s, but it was the mysterious Mr. Nakamoto and his creation of Bitcoin that would go on to become a staple of culture.
Cryptocurrencies are already changing the way we conduct financial transactions offering a transparent, secure, and decentralized way to conduct business.
6. Mobile Operating Systems
Imagine where you would be without that smooth and easy to use operating systems found on your phone. Whether you love Android or Apple’s iOS, operating systems change your mobile device’s interface for the better, opening the doors to better user experiences and greater technological advances.
7. 3D Printing
One of our personal favorites, 3D printing has a lot of hype around it because of its potential to disrupt everything from the food industry to the aerospace industry. In fact, there are a lot of examples of how that has already begun. Now, 3D printing is not completely new to the 21st century.
In fact, the application of the layering method you see on today’s 3D printers can be traced back to the 19th century and 3D printing officially began in 1980. Yet, cheaper manufacturing methods and open-source software have contributed to a revolution in 3D printing. If you wanted to 3D print something back in the day it was going to set you back thousands of dollars. Now you can buy a 3D printer at home for your desktop.
8. Gene Editing/CRISPR
The fascinating thing about gene editing is that it has played a big role in various aspects of science fiction before coming into fruition. Back in 2012, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and a separate team from Harvard, as well as the Broad Institute, independently discovered the power of the bacterial immune system known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats or CRISPR.
CRISPR can be used as a powerful gene-editing tool to make drastic changes to an organisms’ DNA. CRISPR could eventually be used to eradicate major diseases and even be used to edit humans for reproductive purposes, opening the doors to many ethical questions.
9. The Internet of Things
This is probably another buzzword that you hear thrown around a lot. Originally conceived towards the end of 1999 by Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy, we would go on to see the real application of IoT in our consumer devices and appliances in the 21s century. Yet, the IoT has the potential to unlock the “fourth industrial revolution” driving innovation in places like artificial intelligence and robotics.