What better time than late December to pause for a retrospective look at the ideas that mattered over the past year?
In this era of specialization, no one person is qualified to offer a definitive list of this kind. So think of what follows as a proposition to ponder: all that follows is either going to reshape our world, or would reshape it if only the idea in question were given its due.
Take to the comments section to offer ideas that ought to appear on lists like this one.
1. Anyone can own a 3D printer.
It wasn't so long ago that 3-D printing sounded like science-fiction: a device that was fed code and printed out three-dimensional objects?!
Nowadays, 3-D printers are widely known to exist. And in 2012, they began the who-knows-how-long transition from tech-geek luxury item to common consumer good. The first retail stores selling 3-D printers opened in New York and Los Angeles.
"People can come in, look at a variety of printed objects, and buy 3-D printed knickknacks like watch bands and little plastic squirrels for their friends," Ashlee Vance wrote this autumn. "They can also check out the just-released Replicator 2 printer from MakerBot that costs $2,199 and lets people build larger, more precise objects than its predecessors could."
Expensive, sure, but prices are falling fast, with one online company selling its consumer model, The Portabee , for $500. At this rate, it isn't difficult for anyone to imagine that one day in the not so distant future, they'll be hooking up their own 3-D printer in a home office.
2. The NFL starts to understand the deadliness of repeat head injuries.
Strange as it may seem, American sports historians may one day look back on 2012 as the beginning of the end for NFL football, at least in its present-day, helmeted, blocking-and-tackling-intensive incarnation.
Thousands of former players are embroiled in a lawsuit against the league, alleging that it hid information about the danger of repeated head trauma. Present and former NFL insurers are also fighting the league over who is owed what.
Every new concussion a current player suffers—and especially any suicide, violent crime or debilitating medical condition involving a former player—only brings the issue to broader public attention. And the cultural impact is trickling down to young kids whose parents are thinking twice about letting them join Pop Warner or attend tryouts during their freshmen year of high school.
3. Trial-and-error experiments could improve public policy.
That's the case Jim Manzi made in a 2012 release, Uncontrolled , that received far less attention than it deserved.
As David Brooks put it in a column that doubled as its most prominent review, "Businesses conduct hundreds of thousands of randomized trials each year. Pharmaceutical companies conduct thousands more. But government? Hardly any. Government agencies conduct only a smattering of controlled experiments to test policies in the justice system, education, welfare and so on. Why doesn't government want to learn?"
It is Manzi's belief that some in government do want to learn, and that a new federal agency dedicated to learning by experiment would serve as a useful injection of empiricism into policy-making.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider