Twitter's top 10 social innovations of all time

Back in February, Jeremy Nicholls volunteered his choices for the ten most important social innovations of all time. The Pioneers Post Twitter feed duly erupted with incredulity, fury and confusion – mainly focused at his 10th pick, hair dye. Indignance aside, there were several strong contenders Jeremy overlooked:

1. The wheel

The social innovation that got the human race rolling. The ultimate trade facilitator helped transmit ideas and wealth. The foundation for economic growth.


2. Organised religion

Today, many consider religion a hinderance to human development. But across the world and in almost every society the fear of god led to the establishment of a central religious authority that bound the many together. For the first time humans could rely on a meaningful level of social and economic stability.

3. Tax systems

Where religion went, taxation soon followed, allowing the creation of public services, and (in principle anyway) more equal distribution of wealth.

4. Internet

Skipping forward a millenia or five, Tim Berners-Lee's invention was a popular pick. "I would delete hair dye and add the internet." noted , "For all its dangers, it also connects the lonely and housebound with the world". Tracey, you had us at "delete hair dye".

5. The pill, condom and birth control generally

By far and away the omission that incensed the most. Birth control has empowered women while the condom has drastically reduced sexually trasmitted diseases.


6. Iodised salt

The best kept secret on the social innovation hot list. Iodine deficiency affects two billion people with the Lancet calling it "the single greatest preventable cause of mental retardation". Iodised salt is the cheap and simple solution.

7. Hand soap

Taken for granted in the western world, hand soap is the key to stopping the spread of diahorrea – one of the leading causes of child mortality in poor countries.

8. Mosquito nets

Malaria is another big child killer in the developing world, and like iodised salt and soap it takes a very simple solution to stop it. Nobel Laureate Ronald Ross invented the mosquito net in 1897, but it took a century before the World Health Organisation introduced insecticide-treated nets to their global prevention plan. Research suggests that mosquito nets reduce malaria related deaths by 63%.

9. Antibiotics

A life saver by the billion. All but stopped flu pandemics, made transplant surgery possible, and greatly limited the number of deaths by pneumonia and tuberculosis.

10. The Manhattan Cocktail

It's too bad for all of us that superbugs will one day win the war with antibiotics. But whatever happens we'll always have booze. As the great moden philopsher Homer Simpson once toasted "To alcohol! The cause of... and solution to... all of life's problems."
Thanks to , , , , , , , and everyone else who contributed a suggestion.