By the time you’re 25 years old, roughly one-third of the people who were alive when you were born are dead. By the time you’re 50, about two-thirds of everyone on the planet who were alive when you were born are dead. The earth’s turn-over rate is quite something.
Things have always happened fast — lives flash by and before you know it your childhood is over, your youth is gone and your kids are grown up. However, things seem to go a bit faster now than they ever have before. On top of our material, advertisement-laden modern world, technology evolves at incredible rates. It changes so frequently, that it’s normal for older generations to not even understand the nuances of new technology. It’s moving so fast that by the time the ethics of a new piece of technology are generally agreed upon, it’s already obsolete. These were not problems faced by cultures thousands or even hundreds of years ago.
To illustrate just how quickly we’re moving now, I have laid out a few facts here that I was either made aware of recently or simply put together myself. Everyone knows this one: in 1969, we took people to the moon with less computational power than the cell phone in your pocket (by a significant margin), but here are a few more:
- The oldest man in the world was a year old when the first radio broadcast aired, and had just turned nine when WWI began. He is still alive.
- The first mass-produced car was invented in 1913; the helicopter was invented only 26 years later. You could see rich people riding a brand-new Model-T as a 10-year-old on your family horse, and then be flying prototypes for helicopters in your 30s.
- There were people who were alive to see the Wright Brothers fly the first plane in history, and then also see men land on the moon in 1969.
- A man served in the US military in both the Civil War and WWI.
- The last known smallpox death was in 1978; approximately 300 million people had died from the virus in those 78 years of the 20th century.
This wasn’t always the case — technology used to move at a snail’s pace. Developments would take hundreds of years, even thousands of years if you go back far enough. To contrast our rapid pace of tech-evolution, consider these:
- The wheel was invented somewhere around 3,500 BC, however fixing that onto a siege weapon called a catapult didn’t show up until 400 BC.
- Boats were in wide us somewhere around 10,000 BC. Our first records of people figuring out to put sails on-board vary quite a bit, but it probably wasn’t for thousands of years later.
- Gunpowder is referenced as early as 142 AD, and again and again after that. However, it was not for hundreds of years (12th century, by the earliest records) that the first gun-like weapon was used, and not until the 14th century until the first canon was used.
- For approximately 90% of human history, people have been hunter-gatherers, as opposed to the agricultural societies we have today.
This is not to say that the developmental capability of people in older times was any worse than ours are now — biologically speaking, we haven’t changed. And our primal instincts, base desires and state of emotions has certainly not changed (history can show you that). However, there has been an undeniable spark that has propelled us forward at incredible rates in recent history, possibly from the industrial revolution, possibly from the use of electricity, or possibly from somewhere else.
Either way, the world is moving forward at break-neck speeds now, and that’s the reality of it.
Featured image: In this undated file photo, Orville and Wilbur Wright test their airplane on a beach. The Wright brothers have long been credited as the first to achieve powered flight. But in June, 2013, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a law giving German-born aviator and Connecticut resident Gustave Whitehead the honor of being first. On Thursday, Oct. 23, 1013 Ohio state Rep. Rick Perales and North Carolina state Sen. Bill Cook held news conferences to dispute Connecticut’s action and reassert the Wright Brothers were first in flight. | AP Photo/File