Foreign Policy Research Institute
Wachman Center
Innovation Essay Contest Prizewinner
March 2009
Megan Bodie
Grade 10
Saint Ursula Academy
Toledo, Ohio 43606

Technology helps bolster humankind to its fullest potential. Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" is a pyramid of steps that includes physiological needs, need for safety, need for love/belonging, and at the top is self-actualization. My rankings decrease as every need is satisfied and fulfillment is reached. In the last fifty years new technology has made improvements along this same hierarchy. Americans have made strides in health care, food preparation, communication, and ultimately space observation. Polio vaccines, microwave ovens, the Internet, and the Hubble Space Telescope are all American made innovations that have become an integral part of civilization.

The polio vaccine helps keep people healthy, and thus makes it possible to achieve higher state of awareness. It is my number one ranked innovation because if one is not healthy one does not worry about anything else. The vaccine has dramatically reduced the number of cases worldwide. One in every two-hundred cases results in paralysis (Polio Facts). The number of polio cases has dropped from 350,000 a year in 1988 to 1,315 a year in 2007 (Polio Facts). An important benefit of the polio vaccine is how inexpensive it is. The Sabin oral vaccine costs about $0.10 or less a dose (Polio Vaccines). Also it does not need to be administered by a trained health worker and no needles are necessary making it easily distributed. This convenience makes the vaccine capable of being administered in developing countries. Improvements in health care such as the polio vaccine have allowed mankind to improve the quality of everyday life.

Humans are constantly searching for new forms of fire to better their lives. After all, humans need food to survive and it is a need that has to be indulged before much else. The microwave oven revolutionized the speed of cooking and is my second-ranked innovation. Now food can be "nuked" in less than three minutes. Now instead of cooking a new meal every night, one can throw leftovers or a frozen meal in the microwave and have an instant meal. This promptness is convenient in today's fast paced society. Microwave ovens keep a kitchen cooler than conventional ovens. Microwaves also help save money on electricity bills with savings up to fifty percent (Microwave Ovens). Microwave ovens provide a way to lighten the load of cooking and extra time to pursue the meaningful questions in life.

The barcode system can be considered a form of communication and help keep products safe where ever they travel. It satisfies the need for safety and is my number three ranked innovation. Federal Express (FedEx) uses its own system of barcodes called the Codabar to keep track of parcels that are shipped to the 210 countries which FedEx delivers to (General Questions). The home shopper can follow their purchase right to their door using barcodes that are scanned every step of shipping. Before 1974 grocery stores had no uniform barcode and scanning system. This innovation has sped up the process of checking out incredibly. A barcode can be scanned for every two keystrokes a store clerk takes (Five Advantages). The barcode system is also used for inventory control. Managers know what products are being continually purchased and when to restock. When an item is bought a computer counts the number of each product purchased. This new language has made keeping track of products and purchases less worrisome. This allows people to worry about other problems in the world and achieve the highest state of being.

No matter how the Internet is accessed, whether it is on a computer, laptop, or cell phone, it helps satisfy a person's need for love and belonging. It is my number four ranked innovation because humans can reach out to one another through sites on hobbies we enjoy or dating websites. The Internet has put unlimited resources at the fingertips of millions. One can search for information about John F. Kennedy or watch "YouTube" videos of erupting Diet Coke bottles. E-mails can be sent to anyone instantly and have begun to phase out letters. Many people meet and communicate online through sites such as "Facebook" and "e-Harmony." It is also many people's preferred form of communication. About 1,463,632,361 people use the Internet worldwide (Internet Usage). The Internet is a diverse tool that fosters communication between people around the world. This innovation can help fulfill humankind's need for affection and love, so they can explore the corners of space looking for answers.

The Hubble Space Telescope satisfies society's need for knowledge and achieving the highest aptitude. It is my number five ranked innovation because Hubble hunts for information humankind craves in order to understand where we come from. These questions were hard to start answering with previous telescopes. Scientists resorted to telescopes that had to look through Earth's atmosphere. The Earth's atmosphere distorts stars and blocks some forms of radiation including infrared and ultraviolet light that stars give off. Every day Hubble scans the universe for images and transmits enough pictures to fill half the memory of a standard home computer (Moser 54). Hubble has become a plethora of knowledge for astronomers everywhere, and more than six-thousand scientific articles have been written on Hubble information (Hubble Essentials). The telescope has been answering questions for nineteen years, and NASA was going to bring it back down to Earth in 2008. However they decided to keep it orbiting for another five years. Hubble is helping to crack life's meaningful queries. These questions include "Where do we come from?" and "What else is out there?" Technology now helps decipher human-beings most difficult questions, not just practical applications like speeding up cooking time.

Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" is a ladder humans climb up every day of their lives. They do it subconsciously, but worry first about food, then safety, then relationships, and then finally more philosophical thoughts. Technology is always being developed to help mankind. Whether it is used to save lives, improve daily life, or to satisfy humans' curiosity, innovations are part of everyone's life.

Works Cited

"Five Advantages of Barcodes." 2008. Barcoding Incorporation. 5 Jan. 2009. here.
"General Questions." 2008. FedEx. 3 Jan. 2009. here.
"Hubble Essentials." HubbleSite. 5 Jan. 2009. here.
"Internet Usage Statistics." 2009. Internet World Stats. 3 Jan 2009. here.
"Microwave Ovens." 23 May 2003. Tech it Out UK. 5 Jan. 2009. here.
Moser, Kit., and Ray Spangenburg. The Hubble Space Telescope. New York: Franklin Watts, 2002.
"Polio Facts." 2004. The Last Child. 5 Jan. 2009. here.
"Polio Vaccines." 3 July 2007. Sabin Vaccine Institute. 3 Jan. 2009. here.
Sipiera, Diane M., and Paul P. Sipiera. The Hubble Space Telescope. New York: Children's Press, 1997.