Which do you think has had more impact on society: the invention of the automatic washing machine or the internet? If you're like just about everybody else I spoke to this week, you'll plump for the internet. Answer the washing machine and you're either a swot or Ha-Joon Chang, an economist based at Cambridge University who first posed the question.
Mr Chang thinks that the washing machine has had greater significance. Without it, women would never have joined the workforce. "Washing machines have saved mountains of time," he writes. "The emergence of household appliances, as well as electricity, piped water and piped gas, has totally transformed the way women, and consequently men, live."
The internet, in contrast, has achieved what exactly? It's true that it is difficult to imagine how one lived before spam. Now one can keep in touch with friends one hoped to have lost years ago and meet new ones in a virtual world. The two leading contenders for Person of the Year, as selected by Time magazine, were both from the internet world, washing machine men and women being curiously absent.
The Person of the Year title is awarded by the magazine's editors to the figure deemed to have had the most influence on world events that year - not necessarily in a positive way.
Hitler, Stalin and the Ayatollah Khomeini have all made off with the gong. In recent years the title has gone to less controversial figures. Last year the US Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, won, while the US President Barack Obama took the laurels the year before.
This time around, Mark Zuckerberg, a 26-year-old billionaire, who created a way for you to keep in touch with all your pals, was one of the leading contenders. Facebook has more than 500 million users worldwide. If you're an office worker it's a swell way to pass the time. Richard Stengel, the Time managing editor, said Mr Zuckerberg's social networking service was "transforming the way we live our lives every day".
Oh, really? In what way exactly? True, you can keep everybody informed of your dating status; you can send little messages, you can "poke" people, you can even chat to them in a little screen.
This is all rather thrilling, but has it transformed the way we live? I don't think so. One rival candidate for figure of the year was Julian Assange, who spent a large part of this week in a jail in south London. His spell at Her Majesty's Pleasure has nothing to do with his business, which in any event is not a money-making venture, unlike that of Mr Zuckerberg, who is said to be worth US$6.9 billion (Dh25.34bn).
Mr Assange is a whistleblower who in his short career as the head of WikiLeaks has ruffled feathers, embarrassed businessmen and unnerved politicians.
Curiously, many journalists have taken an instant dislike to the fellow, although they do not hesitate to use his information as and when it suits them.
Mr Assange could argue that he has transformed the world nearly as much as the dishwasher, if not the washing machine itself.
People might even have to stop sending secrets, conniving and plotting, or they might just develop a better encryption system and not make public to 3 million people something they would prefer hidden.
So given the choice of these two, who did Time's editors plump for?
It won't surprise many people that Mr Zuckerberg, a clean-cut, youthful American billionaire, managed to get the magazine's prestigious nod, pushing Mr Assange, the Australian anarchist, into second place.
In a statement, Mr Zuckerberg said the Time award was "a real honour and recognition of how our little team is building something that hundreds of millions of people want to use to make the world more open and connected. I'm happy to be a part of that".
Mr Assange was too busy trying to get bail to comment on losing out on the award, but I can't help thinking that he will be like one of those characters in a reality TV show, who although finishing second, end up having greater impact on the world.
He wants to make the world a more open place, although many people would prefer him not to. Both of them are interested in possessing information that hitherto remained secret. Mr Zuckerberg's aim is to commercialise our data, while Mr Assange appropriates data from government databases.
As well as the political cables, there is also the possibility that he possesses a cache of communication from a leading US bank. There are fewer secrets among European banks.
UBS, hitherto a secretive Swiss operation, has just come clean with a 44-page document explaining to its staff how to dress, how to behave and even how to knot a tie.
This contains one of the secrets of success in the business world, hitherto confined to a cabal: don't wash your dirty linen in public, and always wear a tie, beautifully knotted, if you want a hefty bonus.