Even As You May Think, Big Changes in Technology are Coming Slowly Than Ever Before
On June 22, 1927, Charles Lindbergh boarded a plane to Dayton, Ohio, for dinner at Orville Wright’s home. It had been a month since the young traveler on his first Atlantic crossing had just arrived, and he felt the need to pay homage to the speeding pioneer.
Forty years later, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 astronomer Neil Armstrong was allowed to bring a private passenger to the Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch of NASA’s giant spacecraft Saturn V. Armstrong called on his hero, Charles Lindbergh.
This is how rapid technology began in the 20th century. One person, Lindbergh, could be the link between the first pilot and the first international.
In our later years, more or less, progress is not what it used to be. Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon says that by 1970, important technologies were in place: cleanliness, electricity, mechanical farming, highways, air travel, connectivity and much more. After that, inflation and inflation could not have exceeded the trend of the last 100 years. The term Gordon calls the “special years.”
Since 1970 many well-known personalities have been adding to the power of computers, which have become the mainstay of Internet users and our modern technology. But in many other ways, Mr Gordon argued, the lives of people in developed countries look and feel the same in 2019 as they did in 1979 or 1989.
This is good in a small way, albeit bad in many ways of reading. Sudden and unstable change can be stressful, and when things get slow, people and organizations have more time to relax and get used to it. But speaking like Gen Xer, celebration is not what I was taught to expect. And in many areas of technology, today’s advances feel little, if not impossible.
Think about robots. There is a huge potential for robots to help us with homework, education, recreation and healthcare. But the robotics industry seems to be moving on: robotics maker Jibo closed in March after raising $ 73 million, and in April maker Anki closed after raising $ 182 million. The most advanced home automation robot, cleaned by a Roomba system called the Roomba, was purchased in 2002.
Or think of a place. In 2007 the XPRIZE Foundation awarded $ 30 million in prizes, donated by Google, to commercial teams that could compete on a monthly and robotic basis. When it became clear that no team could fulfill its predecessor, the foundation expanded the competition four times and finally pulled the plug in 2018. Although the five teams built monuments, all failed to raise enough money to buy startup programs. Companies such as Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries are pioneering low-cost spacecraft at low satellite speeds, but the cost per kilogram of finding large satellites and processors in orbit is still, excuse the pun, high in the sky. (Israeli-based Spaceil began its operations at Beresheet around April, after canceling the race, but it fell out of favor by being born.)
Our acquisition of our century technology is the iPhone. And in the meantime, we have had phones in our pockets longer so we can begin to appreciate their vulnerability. At the moment the list of potentially revolutionary technologies around the world that includes many journalists but remain stubborn in the prototype segment is long. Self-driving cars, flying cars, real-life glasses, genetic support, nuclear weapons. Do I want to continue?
Of course, it is all a complicated process. But historically, solving some of the biggest problems – rural electrification, for example, requiring fixed income, often in secret markets and taxpayers to distribute goods. In this century, we urgently need to reverse some of the consequences of high-end manufacturing by producing low-cost technologies of zero- and promotional products. This is another big problem – and to solve it, we need to revisit some of the things that made the “special years” so special.