The switch was humanity's best and worst invention

Switches are a human invention. They don’t exist in nature. A switch is either on or off, and nature doesn’t work that way. In nature things are always in a state of changing, whereas the switch only has two states; on or off. Mutually exclusive and with no in-between state.

The idea of opposite states; of yes or no, on or off, good or evil, can be traced back into the long history of human thought. Indian philosophies regarded existence as dualistic in nature, either mind-matter, awareness-nature or God-world. Taoism and Confucianism in ancient China expressed this duality with the yin yang symbol. The Pythagorean table of opposites is made up of ten pairs of opposing principles. Anaximander suggested the idea that every element had an opposite. Plato wrote of the mind and body as separate from each other. And to Descartes, mind and matter were two fundamentally different components. Humans have a long tradition of regarding the world as made up of opposites. But fundamental to all of these beliefs is the fixed nature of the opposing states. Mind is always mind, it cannot become matter. Light is always light, it cannot become dark. Switching between the opposites is a more modern concept.

The switch, as a mechanical device that can connect and disconnect an electric circuit and so allow the instantaneous shift from one state to another, was invented in 1884 by John Henry Holmes. This simple, practical, now innocuous, device embodies thousands of years of thought and it set humanity on it’s path into the future.

A computer is a system of electronic switches that function as logic gates. Without the switch providing a means to open and close logic gates, turn zeros into ones, add and remove electrons, the modern computer could not exist. Without computers, the modern age, with all it’s technological advances, would not exist. Without the modern age, the technological future, with all the possibilities it brings, could never come to pass.

Whatever the future holds, good or bad, the switch is humanity’s best and worst invention.