Paper - one of the most important inventions of the last two millennia.
At the beginning of January 1999, the Daily Telegraph carried a most interesting report of a survey carried out on the Internet amongst leading scientists and mathematicians as to what they believed were the most significant developments of the last two millennia. One of those surveyed, Clifford Pickover, a research staff member at IBM T. J. Watson Research Centre responded as follows:
"In 105 AD Ts'ai Lun reported the invention of paper to the Chinese Emporer. Ts'ai Lun was an official to the Chinese Imperial Court and I consider his early form of paper to be humanity's most important invention and progenitor of the Internet. Both paper and the Internet break the barriers of time and distance and permit unprecedented growth and opportunity. In the next decade, communities formed by ideas will be as strong as those formed by geography. The Internet will dissolve away nations as we know them today. Humanity becomes a single hive mind, with a group intelligence, as geography becomes putty in the hands of the Internet sculptor."
From Paper Technology, March 1999.
See Edge No 48 for the full text of the survey.