We hear statements all the time in technology news like "the world is moving faster than it ever has before." But that's false. The impact of technology on our daily lives has diminished in the 21st century. The advent of the computer, internet, and the iPhone hasn't done much in our modern lives like previous inventions have done for previous generations.
If a person living in NYC in 1718 jumped ahead a whole lifetime to 1793, their life wouldn't look a whole lot different. In both lifetimes they use a pit toilet, they get around by foot or on a horse, they light the night with candles, they live in a small home built with hand tools, and they communicate by mail. Skip ahead another 75 years to 1868. Things are still mostly the same. Buildings are a few stories at most. Toilets are starting to be introduced. You still get around by foot or horse.
But then skip ahead another lifetime to 1943. This person wouldn't recognize New York city. The Empire State building towers at an order of magnitude higher than anything 75 years prior. You can talk to people over the telephone. The streets are no longer filled with horse poop because there's a subway. Planes fly overhead. There's the magical thing called the lightbulb that illuminates everything at night. 1943 is absolutely futuristic to someone that just time traveled from 1868. And daily life is a lot more comfortable. The list of inventions that forever changed daily lives' in this short 75-year stretch is endless.
Then you jump ahead another 75 years, and it's today. People live in the same way. They have toilets in their homes. My home is 76 years old. Cars, planes, and trains are pretty much the same. If you own a Model T, it's now worth a lot of money, but has the same internal combustion engine as most cars driving on the road now. Buildings are slightly taller than the Empire State. TV broadcast got replaced with Netflix, but we still watch 75-year-old movies. Computers, the internet, and iPhones haven't changed our lives.
I wonder if technological productivity will pick up again and start changing our lives dramatically. Maybe we'll always be on a plateau coming out of the early 1900's. Do you think we would recognize 2093 if we could jump ahead?
Photo: Nat Geo