20 votes

What's something amazing that many people take for granted?

Anything goes -- all answers are fair game, no matter how big or small! All that matters is that something amazing isn't getting its due.

Also, it probably goes without saying, but let us know why (you think) it's amazing and why (you think) people take it for granted.

35 comments

  1. [10]
    MindlessElectrons
    Link
    Computers or anything with a processor. We take a specific type of rock, hit it with lightning and trick it into thinking. Shit is some type of magic.

    Computers or anything with a processor. We take a specific type of rock, hit it with lightning and trick it into thinking. Shit is some type of magic.

    28 votes
    1. streblo
      Link Parent
      Or just the billions of person hours over thousands of years of the human pursuit of knowledge that underpin essentially any modern product. The whole "standing on the shoulders of giants"...

      Or just the billions of person hours over thousands of years of the human pursuit of knowledge that underpin essentially any modern product. The whole "standing on the shoulders of giants" metaphor is corny but very true.

      17 votes
    2. [2]
      PhantomBand
      Link Parent
      I'm convinced computers are the most insane accomplishment in human history, just thinking about how someone had to create one of them without any precursors at some point blows my mind.

      I'm convinced computers are the most insane accomplishment in human history, just thinking about how someone had to create one of them without any precursors at some point blows my mind.

      8 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        To be fair, there were precursors. E.g. The Antikythera mechanism, mechanical calculators, and difference engines. And if anything, the invention of vacuum tube technology allowed for those basic...

        To be fair, there were precursors. E.g. The Antikythera mechanism, mechanical calculators, and difference engines. And if anything, the invention of vacuum tube technology allowed for those basic calculation machines to actually be simplified. Where we took the idea of general-purpose computing after that has only caused an increase in complexity, but we're all still standing on the shoulders of giants.

        See also: Timeline of computing hardware before 1950

        7 votes
    3. [5]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      The processors themselves are not magic. They can be explained. The miniaturization and scale is what's amazing about them. Your desktop CPU has over 200 million transistors in them. And the...

      The processors themselves are not magic. They can be explained. The miniaturization and scale is what's amazing about them. Your desktop CPU has over 200 million transistors in them. And the reason why they can do things so quickly is because they are full of different parts that do different things simultaneously. And because we can make them so tiny, we can even include all the accessories that used to be separate chips in one single package, which also means that they are both cheap and reliable!

      4 votes
      1. spctrvl
        Link Parent
        It's even more impressive than that; high end desktop CPUs have more like 20 billion transistors, and even mobile chips these days are cracking the 10 billion mark.

        Your desktop CPU has over 200 million transistors in them.

        It's even more impressive than that; high end desktop CPUs have more like 20 billion transistors, and even mobile chips these days are cracking the 10 billion mark.

        6 votes
      2. [3]
        teaearlgraycold
        Link Parent
        Presumably anything that humans have made was at one point explained (with exception to one person projects that no one but the creator understands). I would define magic as something that works...

        The processors themselves are not magic. They can be explained.

        Presumably anything that humans have made was at one point explained (with exception to one person projects that no one but the creator understands). I would define magic as something that works despite your ignorance to how. So to most people computers are magic. Almost everyone has no idea how silicon computers work. I’d guess Tildes commenters know way more than the average person in this regard.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          Akir
          Link Parent
          I kind of love your definition because it makes “magic” (slight-of-hand tricks) into actual magic. I have tried to explain why this is such an amazing feat to normal people but they don’t get it....

          I kind of love your definition because it makes “magic” (slight-of-hand tricks) into actual magic.

          I have tried to explain why this is such an amazing feat to normal people but they don’t get it. Likewise, I can’t get people to understand why they should be happy the precision machine that places millions of droplets at extremely specific locations and volumes on a sheet of paper is really a great value when talking about printers.

          3 votes
          1. teaearlgraycold
            Link Parent
            It also kind of makes actual "magic" (as in works of fiction) into non-magic. Wands and spells are no more magic than computers are to the layperson.

            It also kind of makes actual "magic" (as in works of fiction) into non-magic. Wands and spells are no more magic than computers are to the layperson.

            1 vote
    4. ImmobileVoyager
      Link Parent
      Actually, you can compute with marbles. Electrons are just very tiny and speedy marbles ;-) Whether thinking can be explained by computation is a hard question. Whether the internet will become...

      Actually, you can compute with marbles.

      Electrons are just very tiny and speedy marbles ;-)

      thinking

      Whether thinking can be explained by computation is a hard question. Whether the internet will become sentient, or already has, is a frightening one.

      1 vote
  2. SongsStillUnfinished
    Link
    The list could go on; access to clean water, basic shelter, nutritious food, transportation, a supportive community, an UNCONDITIONALLY ACCEPTING & LOVING FAMILY... living without fear of violence...

    The list could go on; access to clean water, basic shelter, nutritious food, transportation, a supportive community, an UNCONDITIONALLY ACCEPTING & LOVING FAMILY... living without fear of violence for being profiled by authorities...being dismissed for not having monetary equity...ONE person in the world, settling for you AND all your flaws; that you are able to accept too...like I said, the list is never ending.

    16 votes
  3. [2]
    CALICO
    Link
    The sky is a window to eternity, and that's the most true during the night. Those living in cities miss a lot of what can be experienced, but they aren't entirely cut off. If you've never done so,...

    The sky is a window to eternity, and that's the most true during the night.

    Those living in cities miss a lot of what can be experienced, but they aren't entirely cut off. If you've never done so, I greatly suggest just staring into the sky during a clear night. Lay on the ground if you can. Pick a star, or look at the Moon. And just look.
    Look and think about what it is that you're looking at. Think about its size relative to yours. Think about its distance from where you lie. Think about its age relative to yours.
    As those dry, textbook facts begin to feel true, force your perspective to shift.
    The ground isn't the floor; it isn't down.

    Make the sky down, and feel what infinity is.

    This is probably as close to the Overview effect as we can get, without boarding a rocket.

    11 votes
    1. autumn
      Link Parent
      I also recommend visiting a planetarium at least once on your lifetime. You can really get a sense of how expansive the universe is.

      I also recommend visiting a planetarium at least once on your lifetime. You can really get a sense of how expansive the universe is.

      4 votes
  4. [3]
    ImmobileVoyager
    Link
    On-demand electricity. Clean water on tap. Indoor flush toilet. Central heating. Refridgerators. Antibiotics. Efficient healthcare. Radio. Telephone. Television. Younger people might take the...

    On-demand electricity. Clean water on tap. Indoor flush toilet. Central heating. Refridgerators. Antibiotics. Efficient healthcare.

    Radio. Telephone. Television.

    Younger people might take the internet for granted, or even smartphones. Or even GPS.

    In OECD countries, since the middle of last century : enough food.

    In most countries : not being at war.

    The internal combustion engine is quite amazing too, if you think of it. Became commonplace only one century ago. No wonder we got so quiclky addicted to it.

    And of course, the most amazing of all : aeroplanes. Giant aeroplanes flying at 900 km/h and carrying 800 persons from one continent to another in just a few hours for a very modest price. The miracle of flying, now for all.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      spctrvl
      Link Parent
      The electrical grid is the one that blows my mind, just the fact that it works so well with functionally no storage. If it was a series of generators that charged house batteries that actually...

      The electrical grid is the one that blows my mind, just the fact that it works so well with functionally no storage. If it was a series of generators that charged house batteries that actually supplied the current, that'd be one still very impressive thing, but the fact that power is generated on demand as soon as you plug something in, with no more storage than the inertia of the turbines in the power plant? Absolutely insane that it runs at 4 to 5 9s of uptime in most developed countries.

      5 votes
      1. ImmobileVoyager
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Yep, the grid works so well that we've stopped thinking about it long ago, except when a massive blackout happens. And though, if it stopped working, a lot of things would crash too. Then, with...

        Yep, the grid works so well that we've stopped thinking about it long ago, except when a massive blackout happens. And though, if it stopped working, a lot of things would crash too. Then, with all the things becoming electric because climate, there's a lot of work to do on the grid (Like doubling or tripling it.) It took me only 45 years to realize how complex and precious this system is ;-)

        power is generated on demand as soon as you plug something in

        I'm not sure that's exactly how it works. The daily power call is predictible, with a rather small margin of error, and yes, that's very hairy mathematics, for the little of it that I've seen.

        no more storage than the inertia of the turbines

        There is another form of storage with a much bigger capacity : pumped storage, but still a very tiny fraction of overall generation. Some plans are floating to retrofit the Hoover Dam to that effect.

        Another grid feature that is mind-blowing : everything is synchronised. All the alternators, all the wall sockets … Not only the AC is at the same frequencey everywhere, but everything is kept in tune all the time, so to speak. (Technically : in phase)

        2 votes
  5. [7]
    kilroy
    Link
    The cumulative knowledge of humanity and how easy it could be lost. We think just because we have the internet that everything is enshrined forever, but sites disappear and information is lost...

    The cumulative knowledge of humanity and how easy it could be lost. We think just because we have the internet that everything is enshrined forever, but sites disappear and information is lost every day. The rate at which we produce and lose information is greater than at any point in history.

    7 votes
    1. [5]
      Kuromantis
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Vsauce has a quote for this:

      The rate at which we produce and lose information is greater than at any point in history.

      Vsauce has a quote for this:

      "I've said before that, if humans were to go extinct, the sun would still shine, the universe would keep expanding and Jupiter would keep being gaseous. But, the universe would lose it's best autobiographer."

      6 votes
      1. [4]
        PhantomBand
        Link Parent
        Sorry to go offtopic, but the "I've said before that, if humans were to go extinct, the sun would still shine, the universe would keep expanding and Jupiter would keep being gaseous" part is...

        Sorry to go offtopic, but the "I've said before that, if humans were to go extinct, the sun would still shine, the universe would keep expanding and Jupiter would keep being gaseous" part is something I often hear from nihilistic and misanthropic types, especially in a "climate change doom" context, but it always makes me think..

        ..why are so many actually holding things like nature, the universe, etc, in such high esteem like that? Like, finding a sort of solace in the fact that even if humanity will go extinct one day, rabbits will still hop around, the sun will still float around, the wind will still blow, etc. What's so fantastic about that?

        Now I'm not saying "fuck nature, let's litter and pollute" or anything, I think it's important to fight climate change and things like that, but I don't get that mindset at all. To me it sounds like standing in a house, watching a bunch of other people inside the same room die and then thinking "ah well, the house will still remain". So what, why does that matter?

        4 votes
        1. streblo
          Link Parent
          Well assuming the planet survived/recovered after humanity was wiped out we still have say ~5 billion years of sunshine left barring a visit from an asteroid or similar. If humanity diverged from...

          Well assuming the planet survived/recovered after humanity was wiped out we still have say ~5 billion years of sunshine left barring a visit from an asteroid or similar. If humanity diverged from modern apes about ~10 million years ago we're looking at ~500 iterations of similar time frames for intelligent life to try again. Then there's extraterrestrial life. So I think it's just taking solace in the fact that the universe will continue navel-gazing in some fashion with or without us.

          11 votes
        2. [2]
          hamstergeddon
          Link Parent
          To offer another view, I interpret it as less "but at least nature keeps on trucking" and more "we don't matter in the grand scheme of things". Which I find to be both reassuring and depressing at...

          To offer another view, I interpret it as less "but at least nature keeps on trucking" and more "we don't matter in the grand scheme of things". Which I find to be both reassuring and depressing at the same time!

          3 votes
          1. PhantomBand
            Link Parent
            More depressing imo, but at the same time idgaf about "the grand scheme of things" so whatever I guess.

            More depressing imo, but at the same time idgaf about "the grand scheme of things" so whatever I guess.

            2 votes
    2. hamstergeddon
      Link Parent
      I wonder if there are any conservation efforts for human knowledge like that seed vault in Europe? Closest thing I can think of is the Internet Archive, but I mean like a serious "this will...

      I wonder if there are any conservation efforts for human knowledge like that seed vault in Europe? Closest thing I can think of is the Internet Archive, but I mean like a serious "this will survive human extinction" level conservation of knowledge. Assuming the earth isn't destroyed, but society is, can we even store large amounts of digital data for longer than a human generation or two? HDDs, SSDs, optical, and tape all have shelf lives. You can extend it with proper care and environment, but surely none of that would survive in the same way that fired clay tablets from the Roman era did.

      1 vote
  6. [2]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. mrbig
      Link Parent
      I remember, as a kid, being fascinated with the fact that the thought "move arm" could actually move my arm. Something entirely subjective could move something objective in the real world. That...

      I remember, as a kid, being fascinated with the fact that the thought "move arm" could actually move my arm. Something entirely subjective could move something objective in the real world.

      That still fascinates me.

      4 votes
  7. DonQuixote
    Link
    The fact that the human brain and body contain both a rational engine of calculation and logical thought as well as a highly emotive and imaginative engine of impulse and animalistic reflex under...

    The fact that the human brain and body contain both a rational engine of calculation and logical thought as well as a highly emotive and imaginative engine of impulse and animalistic reflex under the same physical cover, so to speak.

    The fact that these at first blush contradictory systems coexist under the guise of a singular personhood gives rise to the greatest and the worst in human endeavor. Yet this highly evident situation is typically masked to the point where it's existence is typically denied on the part of our "selves" while obvious in others.

    5 votes
  8. joplin
    Link
    The ability humans have to analyze their situation and change it to better suit their own needs. Better yet, the ability of humans to analyze a situation larger than themselves and make it better...

    The ability humans have to analyze their situation and change it to better suit their own needs. Better yet, the ability of humans to analyze a situation larger than themselves and make it better for many people. And to be able to do it independently. I think about how some animals are able to work together — like ants or bees for example. They can work toward a common goal and build something. But it doesn't seem like individual ants or bees have a lot of autonomy to make decisions about what to build or how to improve it the way humans do.

    4 votes
  9. somewaffles
    Link
    At least in the US, trash collection and sanitation. I don't think "amazing" is the word for it because of what becomes of the waste after it leaves our sight, but it keeps our streets clean and...

    At least in the US, trash collection and sanitation. I don't think "amazing" is the word for it because of what becomes of the waste after it leaves our sight, but it keeps our streets clean and people don't even think twice about where it goes. I think the "amazing" part is how little everyone thinks about how much trash they generate and how it is processed after they are done with it. It makes me think of the movie Idiocracy every time I think of the trash mountains that we are slowly accumulating around the world.

    4 votes
  10. thevirus
    Link
    Light, especially portable light.

    Light, especially portable light.

    4 votes
  11. mrbig
    Link
    I lost two teeth that are in the process of being replaced with two artificial teeth that will functionally and aesthetically replace the originals. I got screws in my mouth. I find that amazing....

    I lost two teeth that are in the process of being replaced with two artificial teeth that will functionally and aesthetically replace the originals. I got screws in my mouth. I find that amazing. For how long we had to settle with being toothless?

    4 votes
  12. CrunchyTabasco
    Link
    A huge one for me is music streaming. I'm a gigantic music fan, and I can't imagine being one even a few decades ago, when I would need to save up and buy physical records from the store for every...

    A huge one for me is music streaming. I'm a gigantic music fan, and I can't imagine being one even a few decades ago, when I would need to save up and buy physical records from the store for every single album I wanted to listen to. Maybe I'm showing my youth a bit with this one, but I grew up with iTunes, and later, Spotify, and I'm still in awe at how accessible the grand majority of music created by humans is to the average person. I really think it's amazing, yet if I don't think about it I find myself taking it for granted.

    3 votes
  13. [5]
    randulo
    Link
    Genitalia of both sexes that self lubricate.

    Genitalia of both sexes that self lubricate.

    1 vote
    1. [4]
      mrbig
      Link Parent
      I know vaginas self lubricate. I was not aware penises had the same ability.

      I know vaginas self lubricate. I was not aware penises had the same ability.

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. mrbig
          Link Parent
          I know about precum. I can't say it is effective as lubricant. Vaginas, on the other hand, are so efficient it's not even worth comparing :P

          I know about precum. I can't say it is effective as lubricant. Vaginas, on the other hand, are so efficient it's not even worth comparing :P

          2 votes
      2. Sand
        Link Parent
        Smegma is also a lubricant.

        Smegma is also a lubricant.

        1 vote
      3. randulo
        Link Parent
        I think I read that in Dangerous Visions or some other SF, that they do when in use for that purpose. Not enough to matter, obviously.

        I think I read that in Dangerous Visions or some other SF, that they do when in use for that purpose. Not enough to matter, obviously.