The world has a history of innovations that have repeatedly brought lasting changes and have had a strong impact on all our lives. Examples of important innovations include the steam engine, the automobile, cell phones, the computer, the Internet, and now cryptocurrencies. All of these have one thing in common: They have made the world a better place and, at the same time, were subject to massive criticism and disapproval. Contrary to many expert opinions, these innovations have enriched us in numerous ways.

The steam engine, for example, facilitated the Industrial Revolution and quickly found application in weaving mills as well as in coal, iron, and steel production. It replaced water carriers in mining and enabled entirely new means of transportation, such as the locomotive and the steamship.

Interestingly, some of the pioneering innovations were initially viewed skeptically. For example, the Irish mathematician and physicist Dionysius Lardner expressed concerns about traveling by rail:

„Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.“ (1830)

Napoleon Bonaparte was skeptical of the idea of a steamship and dismissed Robert Fulton with the following words:

„What, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you excuse me; I have no time to listen to such nonsense.“ (1803)

Criticisms emerged from the widest variety of social strata and areas of life. They concerned a range of topics: working conditions due to shift work and longer working hours, safety concerns regarding possible explosions, the fear of losing one’s job, environmental and air pollution, the (continued) lack of infrastructure, and ultimately the existing trust in traditional working methods and the associated skepticism about anything new.

A skeptical attitude has run through the centuries and has been seen with almost all new inventions, from the automobile (“I believe in the horse. The automobile is just a temporary phenomenon.” – German Emperor Wilhelm II), and computers („I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, CEO IBM) to the Internet („I predict that the Internet will soon blow up into a supernova and collapse catastrophically in 1996.“ - Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet).

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