Are our greatest innovations behind us?

I love old films. I especially enjoy westerns and films that depict what life was like in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I cannot resist stopping to watch any of the old Clint Eastwood westerns.

My kids hate when I do, but I don’t care!

I want them to understand what a great life they have Today and appreciate how hard life once was.

I know! I sound like an old man.

The New York Times recently published an article entitled, “What Was the Greatest Era for Innovation? A brief Guided Tour“.

It is an amazing read!

I strongly recommend you check it out.

Even better go on Audible and listen to the author Neil Irwin read it to you on Audible’s October 26th edition of Accelerator.

The article describes the stark difference in our lives from 1870 to 2016. Technological advancements from then to now have been dramatic, but the article raises an interesting question.

What era was the most innovative?

Advancements in running water, electric lights, and transportation from 1870 to 1920 improved hygiene and reduced travel times.

From 1920 to 1970 we saw car travel become the norm while home appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines made modern life more comfortable and convenient.

Irwin cites that from 1970 to 2016, technology has improved by enhancing the innovations of the previous 50 years.  He writes that the most notable innovation of our time has been the computer and it’s improvements on communication.

I can’t say I agree.

Advancements in computers cannot be relegated simply to improvements in communication!

Computers impact everything we do.

Cars, trains, ships, and airplanes are all computer controlled. Smart home’s with computer controlled appliances are nearly eliminating the burden of household chores.

Irwin even writes extensively about how the general stores of the 1870’s gave way to convenience stores and supermarkets in the 1920’s and that chain stores have flourished into the 2000’s, but fails to recognize the convenience of online shopping.

I buy EVERYTHING on Amazon!

I greatly appreciate the nostalgia and reverence that Irwin gives to the innovations of our forefathers, but I don’t think the greatest era for innovation is behind us.

I see new technological advancements being heralded by companies like Goodyear and their Eagle 360 tire concepts, Mercedes Benz with their self-driving car technology, Continental with innovations in Augmented Reality Heads Up Displays, Wireless Electricity for your home, and other innovations in alternative fuels.

Admittedly, these may be enhancements to current technologies, but imagine how our lives will differ 50 years from now.

I’m curious about your thoughts. Do you think the best era for innovation is behind us? Or do you think the best is yet to come?

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3 thoughts on “Are our greatest innovations behind us?

  1. You should watch the History Channel mini-series “The Men Who Built America”. It is fantastic and most definitely related to your topic! As far as your question, I think we are living through the greatest revolution right now… the Technology Revolution and dawn of the Information Age.

    Your cell phone is with you at all times… if you leave home without it, you feel anxious and concerned. It is your doorway into the digital social world… and yet the first iPhone only came out 9 years ago. Prior to that phones were “phones” and the concept of a text message was a novelty. Can you believe how tremendously the world has changed in less than a decade? What’s more astonishing is humanity’s complete adoption of these changes and we look at a 4 year old phone as if it belonged in a history museum. When else in history was a technology constantly antiquated almost as quickly as it was released? That day is today. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Bill…I have seen the series you mentioned. I loved it! I agree with you that the rate of innovation in this era is unprecedented. I think Irwin’s article is too nostalgic and does not take the time to consider just how far we have come. Did you check out any of the links I added at the end? Some of those innovations are quite amazing.

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