Innovation in the 21st century

One of the criticisms of the PushBack story has been that technology in 2033 is depicted as not being that much different from what it is in 2011.  The dominate perception seems to be that in twenty five years everything will be different. Looking back twenty five years to the 80’s, how much has technology or new innovations changed the world since that time? The answer: Other than the internet, not much.  Other than the internet, everything we have now we had in the 70’s. We had cars, electricity, flushing toilets, television, radio, airplanes, intercontinental ballistic missiles, etc. and so on. Things have been refined, Cars run better and longer, we have flat screen TV. Computers have evolved but they are still computers.

I have just read an e-book, The Great Stagnation  by Tom Cowen who claims we are on an innovation plateau and as a result growth in industrialized nations, which have fully utilized previous innovations, have experienced low growth rates for decades. According to the book, innovation reached its peak at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. That is when cars, airplanes, electricity, toilets, radio, and telephone were among innovations that profoundly affected every person in the industrialized world.

My father, born in a Dakota Territory sod hut in 1898 probably saw greater change during his life than any generation before or since. During WWII my father once expressed the opinion that he would never see the day when bombers would be able to reach the United States. He died in 1987, when intercontinental ballistic missiles which could  reach the United States from half way around the world, and were equipped with nuclear warheads that could destroy entire cities. I haven’t seen changes during my life that compare with those my father saw, nor can my children claim to be in a world changing faster than what I have experienced. So barring some sudden innovation surge, or an episode such as described in PushBack, life in the 2030’s will not be that much different from life in 2010.

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