As a member of the X-generation, I grew up with voices from all sides telling me that my generation would be the first to fail at outperforming our parents. That is, as typically had happened throughout history, every generation generally earned more, enjoyed a higher quality of life, and made a bigger contribution to society than their parents' generations.
Not the X-geners. It was predicted that we would wonder the earth aimlessly, adorned in plaid shirts and oversized jeans, with Pearl Jam on endless repeat on our CD Walkmans, as we pondered our uselessness.
The main reason people thought we would not amount to much? Because "everything had been invented."
As we know, this prediction most certainly did not come to fruition. In fact, if X-generation entrepreneurs had listened to those grumblings, we would be missing out on a many amazing products and services today, such as:
- Online shopping with two-day shipping (Amazon, Jeff Bezos, 1964)
- Affordable computers to engage in online shopping with two-day shipping (Dell Computers, Michael Dell, 1965)
- A platform for us to air our grievances about online shopping with two-day shipping -- as well as convenient, affordable payment processing (Twitter/Square, Jack Dorsey, 1971)
- Revolutionary electric vehicles to deliver our online purchases in two days - and Mars exploration, two-day shipping excluded (Tesla/SpaceX, Elon Musk, 1971)
- Games to fill all the time saved from online shopping with two-day shipping (EA Sports, Andrew Wilson, 1974)
Of course, this is just a small sample of the entrepreneurial talent that has disproven the X-generation fallacy, and Time Magazine's list of best 100 inventions of the year further dispels the idea that "everything has been invented."
Here are the five inventions that give me hope and excitement for the future -- as well as validation that all the mindful wondering and endless Pearl Jam was not a complete waste of time.
Eco Friendly Concrete
Making concrete is a highly intensive process that produces its fair share of environmentally harmful biproducts. ECOncrete offers environmentally sensitive concrete solutions that have been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 to 45 percent compared to traditional methods.
It is no secret that as the global population grows, so do the challenges of feeding everyone and reducing the environmental impact of meat production. Impossible Foods (and a few other innovative companies) is on a mission to reduce the impact of meat production with plant-based products that imitate meat to such a high degree as to fool even the toughest critics.
Solar Paneled Cars
Electric cars and solar power are nothing new, and combining the two is a no brainer. The challenge has been that the cost of these innovations makes it unattainable for most, but Light Year is leading the charge with a mission "to create clean mobility for everyone."
Virtual and augmented reality are already here, and it will not be long before every living room is full of gamers with funky headsets. zSpace is a company that produces (relatively) affordable augmented reality options to educational organizations, allowing students and educators to expand the academic experience by augmenting the experience in the classroom. It may not be as good as the real thing, but as adoption increases and costs come down, it will provide more opportunities for more students s around the world.
Smarter Walking Assistants
Sometimes, innovation can be in the simplest form. Case in point, the WeWALK smart walking cane for the vision impaired is meant to help visually impaired people and promote independence and equal and full participation in social life.
BONUS: TV of the Future
While Time Magazine's list of inventions are full of innovations that improve people's lives, I would be remised if I didn't also mentioned one out of pure guilty pleasure. LG's 88 inch, 8K television would be an amazing addition to the living room. Its $30K price tag needs to come down before becomes a fixture in my living room, but at the very least, it gives me something to work toward -- and to ponder on my long, mindful walks.