I am a ‘baby boomer’, born in 1952. I and other baby boomers have lived through a period of accelerating and dramatic change both culturally socially and technologically.
We have lived through a period of relative stability and growth, we have seen increases in wages, thriving businesses, and an increase in the variety and quantity of products for consumers. Our ‘generation’ was the first to experience such a dramatic change compared to the previous generation (our parents) and those before it. Whilst progress was happening (of course) it was very slow compared to post 1960.
I have conversations with my mother (she is 90 years old) and her contemporaries, the difference in our attitudes, beliefs and in some cases Knowledge or access to it is noticeable. In particular there is a clear and distinct digital divide between us and our parents generation. Largely because ‘digital’ did not exist for our parents. The digital divide has also led to a Knowledge Divide, where individuals who can access the information digitally can also interpret and understand information presented once connected. the other side of this, is that, it is claimed that 60% of the world’s population, almost 4 billion people, have no access to the Internet.
This accelerating change is now beginning to cause noticeable problems for our societies, putting pressure on them because we cannot keep up!
Computer related developments
1937 – Bell Labs, Relays for a demonstration Adder
1941 – Alan Turing ‘The Bombe’
1948 – First program! to run on a computer
1956 – Direct input through a keyboard
1966 – First Commercial computer to use integrated curcuits
1971 – First Handheld calculator
1976 – Tandy TRS 80
1980 Commodore Vic 20
1980 – Sinclair ZX 80 – I owned one!
1984 – Apple released the first Macintosh
2007 – First Kindle
2008 – First Airbook
2010 – Retina Display and Ipad
total 73 years and development is accelerting. 1984 was a turning point when things really started to speed up Moores Law can be applied when development of microchips etc doubles every 2 years ( in fact it is now more like 12 months)
accelerating change is a perceived increase in the rate of technological change throughout history, which may suggest faster and more profound change in the future and may or may not be accompanied by equally profound social and cultural change.
Kurzweil’s The Law of Accelerating Returns
“An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense ‘intuitive linear’ view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The ‘returns,’ such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity—technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and non biological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.”
Gerald Hawkins’ Mindsteps
In his book “Mindsteps to the Cosmos” (HarperCollins, August 1983), Gerald S. Hawkins elucidated his notion of ‘mindsteps’, dramatic and irreversible changes to paradigms or world views. He identified five distinct mindsteps in human history, and the technology that accompanied these “new world views”: the invention of imagery, writing, mathematics, printing, the telescope, rocket, radio, TV, computer… “Each one takes the collective mind closer to reality, one stage further along in its understanding of the relation of humans to the cosmos.” He noted: “The waiting period between the mindsteps is getting shorter. One can’t help noticing the acceleration.” Hawkins’ empirical ‘mindstep equation’ quantified this, and gave dates for future mindsteps. The date of the next mindstep (5; the series begins at 0) is given as 2021, with two further, successively closer mindsteps in 2045 and 2051, until the limit of the series in 2053. His speculations ventured beyond the technological:
The mindsteps… appear to have certain things in common – a new and unfolding human perspective, related inventions in the area of memes and communications, and a long formulative waiting period before the next mindstep comes along. None of the mindsteps can be said to have been truly anticipated, and most were resisted at the early stages. In looking to the future we may equally be caught unawares. We may have to grapple with the presently inconceivable, with mind-stretching discoveries and concepts.