'Everything we touch depends on semi-conductors' - Professor Kevin Jones

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What do you think has been the most revolutionary invention that changed the way we live?

As part of our Revolutions season, we invite top academics from the University of Plymouth to make a case for what they believe to be a revolutionary invention that has changed the world. Arguing for the semi-conductor is Professor Kevin Jones.

Through history there are a number of points which changed the world, and in a way that affected everybody. One of those changes is undoubtedly the use of semi-conductor technology.

Modern society is entirely dependent on the semi-conductor. Most people probably don’t know what it is or why it’s relevant to them, and yet almost everything they touch in their daily lives is completely and absolutely dependent on that piece of technology. It’s one of those ubiquitous things that touches everybody.

Usually materials will have two properties – they conduct electricity, or they don’t. But semi-conductors aren’t quite the same. What makes them interesting is that certain conditions will allow them to conduct electricity, while others won’t. That gives us control which allows us to build all the parts that make up our devices. The mobile phone couldn’t exist without the semi-conductor in its circuits, but neither could the pen – or anything that is manufactured using computers.

We have circuits present in almost everything we use, and it is for that reason that modern society relies on semi-conductors. That scope of reach makes the semi-conductor the most revolutionary invention in history.

Kevin Jones is Professor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Plymouth, with interest and teaching areas covering computer science, more specifically trustworthiness of complex systems including cyber-security and system verification. He has three charterships as scientist, engineer and IT professional, multiple fellowships, and an array of memberships to major institutes in Science, Technology and Engineering. His background spans decades of computer science work, including 20 years in the Silicon Valley before returning to academia.

Do you agree that the semi-conductor is the most revolutionary invention? Or could paper, photography, ultrasound scanning or the transistor take your vote? Join us for the live debate on Tuesday 6 February in The House to cast your vote. Follow the conversation online with #RevInventions.

'Revolutionary Inventions' season at Peninsula Arts

Recognising that the revolutionary theme not only speaks to political change, we asked our programmers and academic colleagues to think about revolution in terms of inventions – those life-changing, ingenious and innovative inventions that alter the course of history forever. Of course technological inventions do not happen in isolation, they are often linked to social and cultural shifts with one usually preceding the other. Our programme attempts to look at these cultural and technological connections.

It is also important to remember that inventions are just that – invented – they are constructs of human interactions and relations, borne out of questioning, observation, study and sometimes argument.

Animal Condensed by Jennet Thomas