Why only in the last few hundred year has science and technology progressed like it has

Why only in the last few hundred year has science and technology progressed like it has

Man has been on the Earth for millions of years. But in only the last few hundred years, science has made major advances: the average life expectancy expanded, electronics, transistors, telecommunications, the internal combustion engine, fuels, chemicals, medicines appeared.

Is there a logical explanation for this acceleration of the rate of technological progress?


New technologies build on previous technologies, so technological growth is cumulative.

The rate at which it is developed, and hence accumulated, depends upon the number of people who can work on producing new technologies. The number of people engaged depends on technologies that give a proportion of the population the time to do things that are not directly related to survival. As more technologies are produced, a greater population can be supported with less effort per person.

A specific example of how technological advancement depends on earlier technologies is how writing changed things. In prehistorical times advancement relied on accident and insight. But with only word-of-mouth and direct teaching, progress was slow and knowledge could get lost. After writing, discoveries could be recorded and disseminated.

A narrative argument is

  • spears allowed easier and safer hunting, increasing the population
  • some of the increased population could spend some time developing new technologies (over millenia)
  • one of the new technologies was domesticating food production animals, supporting an increased population with even less effort per person. Roles could become more specialized, and people who specialize can focus on solving specialized problems.
  • the new technology supported larger population centers (towns and cities) and larger ruling classes, some of whom had more leisure to spend on developing new technologies. The ruling classes also had enough resources to employ specialists, such as military, and to undertake larger projects, such fortifications and irrigation.
  • about 400 years ago, a tipping point was reached, and the seeds of the industrial revolution were sown. The industrial revolution when it arrived freed huge fractions of the population to specialize even more.
  • 200 years ago the current technological snowball effect you describe took off, based on the previous million years of progress.

There's just more scientists around today. Population has grown tremendously over the past 200 years.

On top of that, our means, tools, and time available to spend on research has grown too. And much faster communication allows ideas to spread much faster, allowing other scientists to build on what you did immediately, rather than 10 years later.

At the same time, don't underestimate the progress of the past. The middle ages are often seen as a time when not much progress was made, but there were tremendous advances in construction, defense works, metallurgy, weapon design, etc. Not to mention the introduction of a totally new number system, sailing, compass, etc.


Larger population means that even if the percentage of people with the necessary skills and interests is the same, the total number of people with those skills and interests is much greater.
Combined with the ever increasing base of scientific data on which to build (as pointed out by Andy) this causes an increase in the potential for scientific progress (and progress in other fields like engineering to go along with it).
Of course if you have a society that actively discourages interest in science and engineering that will cause a slowing of that progress, and we seem to be entering such an age. But that happens occasionally throughout history, and there's still the mechanism of greater numbers in place to make progress faster relative to those periods.
One thing that could (and at times has) caused things to seemingly slow down is the requirements for ever larger teams and investments needed to make new discoveries. It was quite possible for Christian Huygens to design, fund, and create his first microscopes. For the person coming up with the idea for the electron microscope that was already a lot harder. And to build a cyclotron on your own is just about impossible unless you happen to be a rather affluent person with advanced skills in many fields.
But overall, it holds true that more people can get more done in total in amount of time than a smaller group.


Modern Humans Emerged 200,000 Years Ago. Why Was Technology Stagnant Until The Last 10,000?

I will give two answers: the first on more solid historical ground, and the second more speculative.

First answer: Civilization had to wait for the end of the ice age, which terminated about 15,000 years ago. At that time the glaciers had piled up a lot of good topsoil at its edge, and the melting ice provided plenty of water. Agriculture was developed for the first time in human existence, at first in Turkey. Agriculture is key it means that not everyone has to hunt and gather, but food can be farmed by specialists. That allows others to becomes tradesmen, businessmen, and physics professors.

Do not underestimate the rapidity of technical innovation during this period. It may seem slow, but that’s because today we take bronze and iron for granted. There were likely enormous advances in farming technology, but the wooden tools and plows used did not last for archeologists to study.

The question says that “advanced technology” took place 500 years ago. With the rapid growth of technology, it might always appear that all the important stuff was developed in the last 2000 years. I recall Freeman Dyson, when asked for the greatest invention of the past millennium, responded “hay”. It was a brilliant answer, one full of deep insight. Hay?! Most people would never think of that as a great technological advance, since we take it for granted. And note that hay was not in the last 500 years. According to Dyson (see Dyson’s essay on hay ) it was this invention that allowed civilization to spread north from the Mediterranean.

Second answer (much more speculative, perhaps even whimsical): The true advance of humans came from a human genetic mutation that took place about 3000 years ago. One of my names for it is “the dissatisfaction gene.” This was a gene that made people unsatisfied with their present situation. Animals never developed this they search for environments that are good enough, and then they are satisfied. House cats are prototypical. But even elephants seem to be happy when they find a place with lots of grass and water.

Not humans. Those who had this gene were never happy enough with what they had, and they pushed and developed and worked hard and created an ever expanding civilization.

If you too are cursed with this gene (I think I am) then it is difficult to be happy, because no matter what you achieve, you want to do more. For that reason I sometimes refer to it as the “Original Sin Gene.” Like the original sin of Judaism and Christianity, it dooms humans to suffering. No matter how much life improves, we want it to be better.

There is a solution that I personally try. I recognize that I must continue to strive to achieve more, and this is my burden. But I also can rise above it, and look at the world, and realize how blessed I am to live in such a wonderful place. Enjoy what we have, but never stop working to make it even better.

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Life 100 Years Ago vs Life Now – What Has Changed?

Every day our world and the way we live changes, and life 100 Years ago vs life now is very different. People used to be different towards one another and towards the elderly. Money and life had a different meaning. But, over time these things have changed due to society, technology and the way we act, think and feel in general.

How has technology changed in the last 100 years? Our generation lives in a fast-paced, technologically progressive society. Life today vs 100 years ago is much more advanced. The early 1900s were a fascinating time of primitive automobiles. The major invention at that time was the first toggle light switch. The major tech invention of today is CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology. This use of technology in agriculture is changing farming now from old farming methods. It enables us to reprogram life as we know it. We are also making strides in artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors, and networks. As well as advancements in synthetic biology, materials science, space exploration and more!

Life 100 Years ago vs life now was different when it comes to love and relationships too!

Dating in the past vs now has evolved quite a bit. Thanks to the Internet. New generation relationships often start via online dating. People also commonly live together without getting marriage. One of the biggest differences in dating then and now is our openness about it. We are no longer so conservative about our love lives, and sex lives. As a result, infidelity and casual relationships are quite common these days. Regardless of these thought-provoking facts, there are simple habits that will make you more attractive and get people to like you. If you are interested in actual dating, that is!

There’s also a big difference between education now and in the past. Nowadays graduating high school is more of an expectation, rather than a privilege. But, education 100 years ago was not the same. Only about 10 percent of high school students actually graduated. Yet, classrooms 100 years ago looked much like classrooms now. There are still chalkboards and chalks, but classrooms today are also filled with computers. Students also have access to online learning and are able to earn degrees from home.

How has healthcare changed in the past 100 years?

Marijuana, morphine, and heroin were sold over the counter. Now, marijuana has been legalized (or about to become) in the recent past. But, morphine and heroin without a physician’s prescription are illegal. Hospital stays used to be lengthy. Along with severe blind spots in prevention and a lack of patient respect. Today, the length of hospital stays for recovery from procedures has declined substantially. Due to technological advances. Hospital births are common and pretty much expected. But, back then over 95 percent of childbirths occurred at home.

People didn’t make too much of a big deal about personal hygiene either. Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub. While most women only washed their hair once a month using Borax or egg yolks as their shampoo. In comparison, life 100 years ago vs life now are polar opposites, as far as personal hygiene is concerned. Our obsession with hygiene and personal care is undeniable. We shower daily, brush our teeth twice a day, we remove unwanted hair. We put on makeup, and wouldn’t dare to leave the house without deodorant and perfume. And more than likely, we overestimate our hand sanitizer effectiveness. Instead of trusting our own body’s defense system. There are so many amazing facts about the human body most of us still don’t even know about!

How else was life 100 years ago vs life now different?

Well, it’s also worth mentioning that women have made a lot of progress towards equality. Life of a woman 100 years ago was very different. But, one thing women one hundred years ago and women today have in common is the need for independence. Let’s look at women’s roles in society then and now. In the early 1900s, women wanted to be seen as more than mothers and wives. Today they are still working towards equality in the workplace. And advocating for higher education! After being seen as the weaker sex, during the World War, women had to step up to fill men’s vacant jobs. Of course, they were expected to return to their domestic roles when the men returned from war. But the cause was already underway. Today, women are just as career-driven as their male counterparts and have just as many opinions to voice about society.

A hundred years ago money was important, but it wasn’t the cornerstone of everyone’s life!

You could get a handle full of candy for a penny, and now you have to pay a couple of dollars just for a candy bar. In the past, people stored basic items and had more access to fresh foods and raw materials. Which is not the case today! Profits made on things are skyrocketing. Whilst big companies are keeping people dependent on manufactured products more than ever. Inflation has also been taking its toll on our society.

Entertainment in the 1910s was important. People loved music and dancing! Marking the era of Early Jazz, also known as Dixieland Jazz (from 1900 to 1928). Going to the theater, opera and to the circus was very popular back in the day. People also loved sports in the early 1900s. Especially tennis, golfing, football and soccer. Today we play video games, we get to enjoy virtual reality and online video chat. We can go skydiving, paragliding and bungee jumping Go to bars, nightclubs, music festivals, and casinos, and we get to travel the world Keep in touch with friends and family on Social Media Have entertainment and information available at our fingertips Read e-books and magazines on our tablets Binge-watch movies and our favourite shows on Netflix. Plus, we get to entertain each other on platforms like YouTube! Not to mention having access to online shopping around the clock.

Life 100 Years ago vs life now has changed due to technology, the Internet, and health care. Revolutionizing human civilization. Indeed, the difference between lifestyle now and 100 years ago is remarkable. Though certain life lessons have remained the same, and they are worth remembering. No matter what the next 100 years may bring!

But, the question remains. Is life better today than it was 100 years ago? How will humans 100 years from now live? Let us know what you think!


Where would we be without science? Today, we live longer than ever before according to the Royal Geographical Society, thanks to pharmaceutical, medical, and health science. Vaccines saves many lives. Physics and electronics have given us satellites, telecommunications, and the Internet. You would not read this blog without them. Chemistry and biology have provided use with all sorts of products, food, and enabled the agricultural (“green”) revolution enhancing our crop yields. The science of evolution and natural selection explains the character of ecosystems, and modern meteorology saves lives and help us safeguard our properties.

So what is science? It’s more than just a body of knowledge. It’s a mindset and strategy to build an understanding of our world. This understanding is extremely valuable for our society, especially when it comes to establishing where we stand and what the likely outcomes will be from perceived future actions.

The scientific method is perfect for resolving uncertainties such as controversial claims about facts. It builds on the principles of transparency, testing, and independent replication. Every scientifically trained scholar should get similar results when the analysis is repeated for a finding that is universally true.

Scientific testing and replicating scientific facts are usually based on data analysis and require an understanding of statistical reasoning and what the data really represent. The data analysis is often the point where differences arise. Climate science is no different to other science, and I have myself contributed to the process of checking the findings in a number of controversial papers (Benestad et al., 2016) .

There is always a story behind each conclusion that goes back to its roots. The difference between science on the one hand, and dogma and propaganda on the other, is that the latter is not traceable. In other words, you should be more confident about scientific results and sceptical when it comes to intransparent or undocumented claims.

The scientific community has a well-established system for taking care of scientific findings, mainly through publication of papers in the scientific literature. A scientific paper should provide sufficient information for others to replicate the work done and reproduce results. Scientific results are also presented and discussed at conferences, such as the present American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting. The science presented in conferences, however, is not readily broadcasted to the wider society, partly because of difficult language and partly because of limited media presence.

I strongly believe we need a public voice of scientists and historians (see Defending Climate Science), but there is a concern for the future of Earth and space science. It is not just a potential problem for the science community. This is also a genuine worry that affects the wider society and its right to scientific facts and objective information. It is also an issue when it comes to education.

Science benefits everyone and is part of the fabric of our civilisation. It is therefore unwise to dismiss or twist for short-term benefits. The concept “science denial” has been discussed in the magazine called Physics World (September 2016), Nature, blogs, videos, as well as books, just to mention some examples. One of my favoutites is nevertheless the book with the title ‘Agnotology: the Making and Unmaking of Ignorance‘ by Proctor and Schiebinger

History of science can explain how absurd the notion is regarding global warming being a hoax from China. We only need to search for scientific publications from the past, as I did when I wrote a review about the greenhouse effect, based on a paper from 1931 by the American physicist Edward Olson Hulburt (Benestad, 2016) ). There is an excellent historical account of modern climate science American Institute of Physics written by Spencer Weart.

It is also a disservice to our society to close down faculties, such as earth observations and climate science. We need both observations and updated analysis more than ever in the times of unprecedented global warming. They are essential inputs to fact-based decision-making concerning our global environment on which we all depend. Our society has progressed and become great much thanks to science, and it would be a sad story for everyone if we were to undo that.


Long and Short Essay on Science and Technology in English

New inventions in the field of science and technology play great role in the daily lives of people and making their life style advance.

In order to keep students up-do-date and check their general knowledge about new inventions, they are given this topic to write essay on science and technology.

Here we have provided some simple science and technology essay to help students to do better in their essay writing competition.

Science and Technology Essay 1 (100 words)

Advancement in the science and technology in many areas has made the lives of people more advance than the ancient time. Advancement in the science and technology is directly and positively affecting the people’s way of living on one hand however it is also affecting indirectly and negatively on the people’s health on the other hand. New inventions in the field of science and technology are very necessary in such a modern world for a country to be strong and well developed country than other countries. In this competitive world, we need more technology to go ahead and become a successful person in the life.

Science and Technology Essay 2 (150 words)

Development, whether it is human development or country development, is linked to the proper growth and development of the technology in many ways. Technological advancement happens when there become new inventions in the science by highly skilled and professional scientists. We can say that technology, science and development are equally proportional to each other. Development in the science and technology is very necessary for the people of any nation to go hand in hand together by the people of other countries. Development of the science and technology depends on the analysis and proper understanding of facts. Development of technology depends on the way of application of various scientific knowledge in right direction.

In order to enhance the economy and betterment of the people of any nation, up-to-date knowledge, technology, science, and engineering are the fundamental requisites. A nation can be backward and the chances of being developed country become minimal in the lack of science and technology.

Science and Technology Essay 3 (200 words)

As we all know that we live in the age of science and technology. The life of every one of us is highly depends on the scientific inventions and modern day technologies. Science and technology has changed the lives of people to a great extent. It has made life easy, simple and fast. In the new era, the science development has become a necessity to finish the era of bullock cart and bring the trend of motorized vehicles.

Science and technologies have been implemented to the every aspect of modernization in every nation. Modern gadgets have been introduced to every walk of life and have solved almost all the problems. It was not possible to have all the benefits of it without implementing it in the sectors like medicines, education, infrastructure, electricity, aviation, information technology and other field.

What improvement we are seeing in our life on daily basis is because of the science and technologies. For the proper growth and development of the country, it is very necessary to go science and technology hand in hand. Villages are getting developed to towns and towns to cities thus expanding the greater horizons of economy. Our country India is a fast developing country in the sense of science and technology.

Science and Technology Essay 4 (250 words)

Science and technology has become a debated topic in the society. On one hand, it is necessary for the modern life where other countries are continuously developing in the field of science and technology. It becomes very necessary for other countries too to grow in the same way to be strong and well developed like other countries for the future safety and security. It is science and technology which helps other weak countries to develop and be strong.

We have to take support of science and technology forever to improve the way of life for the betterment of mankind. If we do not take the help of technologies such as computer, internet, electricity, etc we cannot be economically strong in the future and would be backward forever even we cannot survive in such a competitive and technological world.

Advancement in the field of medical, agriculture, education, economy, sports, games, jobs, tourism, etc are the examples of science and technology. All such advancements show us that how both are equally beneficial for our life. We can see a clear difference in our life style while matching the ancient and modern way of life. High level of scientific and technological advancement in the field of medicine has made easy the treatment of various lethal diseases which was earlier not possible. It has helped a lot to the doctors to find effective ways to cure diseases through medicine or operations as well as research vaccines to cure diseases such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Leukemia, etc.

Science and Technology Essay 5 (300 words)

The implication of science and technology to the people’s life is very old from the time of Indus Valley Civilization. It was almost first invention when came to know about fire and wheel. Both of the inventions are considered as the mother of all the technological innovations of the modern time. Through the invention of fire people knew about the power of energy first time. Since then, people’s curiosity was increased and they started trying their hard to research about various measures to make life style easy and simple.

India is a most famous country all over the world from the ancient time however after its slavery by the British rule, it had lost its recognition and strength. After getting freedom in 1947, it again had started getting its lost recognition in the crowd. It is the science and technology which has helped India to get its real recognition all over the world. India has become a highly growing country through the new inventions in science and technological advancement. Science and technologies are playing great role in meeting the needs and requirements of the modern people.

Some examples of the advancement in the technologies are establishment of railway system, metro system, railway reservation system, internet, super computers, mobiles, smart phones, online access of people in almost every area, etc. Government of India is creating more opportunity to the space organization and several academic institutions (Indian Association for the Advancement of Science) for the better technological growth and development in the country. Some of the renowned scientists of the India who have made possible the technological advancement in India (through their notable scientific researches in the various fields) are Sir J. C. Bose, S. N. Bose, C. V. Raman, Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, Srinivasa Ramanujan, father of India’s nuclear power, Dr. Har Govind Singh Khorana, Vikram Sarabhai, etc.

Science and Technology Essay 6 (400 words)

Science and technology plays vital role in the modern life and profoundly influenced the course of human civilization. Technological advancement in the modern life has provided us lots of remarkable insights all over the world. Scientific revolutions has taken its full speed from the 20 th century and has become more advance in the 21 st century. We have entered to the new century in new ways and with all the arrangements for well being of the people. Modern culture and civilization has become dependent over the science and technologies as they have become integral part of life according to the need and requirement of the people.

India has become an important source of the creative and foundational scientific developments and approaches all across the world. All the great scientific discoveries and technological achievements in our country have improved the Indian economic status and have created many new ways to the new generations to grow in the technologically advanced environment. There are many new scientific researches and development have been possible in the field of Mathematics, Architecture, Chemistry, Astronomy, Medicine, Metallurgy, Natural Philosophy, physics, agriculture, health care, pharmaceuticals, astrophysics, nuclear energy, space technology, applications, defense research, biotechnology, information technology, electronics, oceanography and other areas.

Introduction of scientific researches, ideas and techniques to the field of education has brought a huge level of positive change in the new generation and provided them variety of new and innovative opportunities to work in the field of their own interest. Modem science in India has been awakened by the continuous and hard efforts of the outstanding scientists. Scientists in India are great who have made possible the scientific advances of highest international calibre.

Technological development in any filed enhances the economy of any nation. In order to improve the power of science and technology in India, Indian government has made Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in the year 1942 and Board of Scientific and Industrial Research in the year 1940. In order to emphasize the growth of science and technology in the country, Indian government has established a chain of national laboratories and research institutes in various regions.

After the independence, our country has been involved in the promotion of spread of science for the national development. Variety of policies made by the government has emphasized the self-sufficiency and sustainable growth and development all through the country. Both science and technology have impacted the economic growth and social development in the country in extraordinary manner.


We've already found aliens (but are too distracted to realize it).

Thanks to pop culture, the word "alien" probably makes you envision a spooky humanoid with a big, bald head. That's fine for Hollywood &mdash but these preconceived images of E.T. could sabotage our search for alien life, a team of psychologists from Spain wrote earlier this year.

In a small study, the researchers asked 137 people to look at pictures of other planets and scan the images for signs of alien structures. Hidden among several of these images was a tiny man in a gorilla suit. As the participants hunted for what they imagined alien life to look like, only about 30 percent noticed the gorilla man.

In reality, aliens probably won't look anything like apes they may not even be detectable by light and sound waves, the researchers wrote. So, what does this study show us? Basically, our own imagination and attention span limit our search for extraterrestrialsy. If we don't learn to broaden our frames of reference, we could miss the gorilla staring us in the face.


The 15 Most Important Automotive Tech Milestones of the Last 25 Years

Cars have come a long way in the last quarter-century.

A look at the cars of 1991 is all you need to realize how much technology has changed the auto industry in a quarter-century. Here are 15 of the most important automotive advancements and milestones of the last 25 years.

Mitsubishi was one of the first manufacturers to offer a differential that could be electronically controlled. The system was called Active Yaw Control and was available on its high performance Evolution model in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, we in America didn't get the Evo until 2003. But today, active differentials that use electronics to send torque across an axle are found in many high performance cars.

If equipped on both the front and rear axles of an all-wheel drive car, these sophisticated differentials can direct the vehicle's torque to any wheel in any amount at any moment. That not only improves handling when the driver is pushing hard, but also improves the around town drivability and traction in foul weather, without any drawbacks. And this tech isn't just for sports cars. The Land Rover LR4, for instance, has an electronic rear differential that can fully lock for a rocky trail and unlock in varying degrees for smooth operation on the street.

For decades, automotive headlamps were so universal that you could find replacement parts for virtually any vehicle at the local auto part store. But in the early 1990s, headlamp design began to change. In '92 High Intensity Discharge headlamps (far brighter than traditional halogen lamps) were first installed in European production sedans. And since then, several technologies have been fighting for dominance. In the early 2000s, light-emitting diode (LED) headlamps began to show up on production cars. LEDS are small, super-efficient, and can be formed into a wide variety of shapes, which allowed car designers creativity like never before. Today's adaptive LED headlamps can automatically turn on and off individual bulbs depending on conditions, so these advanced lamps can keep the road illuminated without blinding other drivers.

In the future, headlamp technology will go further. German automakers are betting on laser headlamps. These lights are not yet legal in the US but can provide a high beam with incredible range up to 1,000 times brighter than an LED (according to BMW) at a far lower power level.

If you drive a newish car with push-button start, the experience of climbing into an older car and turning a key to fire it up feels surprisingly dated. Over the past couple decades, smart key fobs have made getting in and starting your car nearly effortless. Simply leave the fob in your pocket. As you approach, doors will unlock by simply touching the handle. Once inside the engine purrs to life with an easy push of a starter button. It's a level of personalization and convenience that's almost standard today.

Not so long ago this sensation was a pure novelty. In 1998, Mercedes-Benz was the first to offer the tech. Some of the first versions were credit card-sized slivers of plastic, but those evolved into the fobs we have today.

Basically, advanced dual clutch transmissions (DCT) offer the benefits of a traditional automatic transmission with none of the drawbacks. On a six-speed DCT gearbox, for instance, one clutch shifts the odd gears (1, 3 and 5) and the other one handles even gears (2, 4 and 6). The twin clutches allow the driver to shift gears seamlessly with incredible speed. The result is something as easy to use as an automatic but with quicker shifts than a manual.

Dual clutch transmissions have been used in racing since the 1980s. Volkswagen was the first to popularize the transmission and democratize its use in relatively pedestrian cars. VW's dual clutch transmission, called DSG, was launched in mainstream performance vehicles like the GTI in 2003. The downside of dual-clutch? They put a big nail in the manual transmission's coffin. Today, these transmissions are used by just about every brand in performance applications, from Mercedes-Benz to Lamborghini.

As the name would suggest, OBD II was an evolution of the first on-board diagnostics systems of the 1980s. OBD II provided far more diagnostic capability, allowing technicians and home mechanics to find out exactly what was wrong with their car through specific codes accessed by a 16 pin connector. Want to know why your engine was running poorly? OBD II could tell you that a specific cylinder was misfiring. OBD II allowed the adaptation of far more complex and precise air and fuel management in the engine. And this more sophisticated control over the engine has produced improved fuel economy as well as the enhanced performance we've seen in the last two decades.

Early on, car enthusiasts despised OBD II. That's because its main purpose in life was to test vehicle emissions&mdashthe thought was that this nannying would make performance modifications more difficult. But since the introduction of OBD II two decades ago, cars have dramatically increased in performance while also running cleaner. Meanwhile, OBD II has created an industry for not only scan tools that tell you why your Check Engine light is on, but also aftermarket devices including performance tuners and fuel economy meters.

Turbos have been used on production cars since the 1960s. These compressors, driven by the vehicle's exhaust gasses, force more air into the cylinders. When combined with more fuel, that results in more power. Turbos can make a small engine perform like a much larger one.

Both GM and Ford introduced small turbocharged engines in the 2008-2009 timeframe that signaled the tech had matured enough to install in the company's least-expensive cars. Now automakers could use smaller, more efficient turbo engines and retain (or even exceed) the power levels of larger engines. Today, nearly every manufacturer has downsized its engines to smaller turbocharged ones with a boost in performance and fuel economy.

What changed? The design of the turbos themselves were refined. Parts were made smaller, lighter, and more responsive. Twin-scroll turbos and twin-turbo setups allow engines to make power and torque all across the rev range with very little of the lag that old-style turbo engines were known for. Modern turbos are constructed of stronger materials than the old ones. The popularization of direct fuel injection also contributed to turbo performance, because this form of fuel delivery helps cools the intake stream, which allows for higher compression ratios&mdashand more reliable power.

It's no coincidence that we see far fewer cars parked on the side of the road with a flat tire these days? Big improvements in tire technology had a lot to do with it, and run-flat tires have enjoyed a spike in popularity over the past two decades. But the standardization of tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) in cars means that owners are warned about their under-inflated tires before real trouble happens.

There are two types of systems. Indirect TPMS uses the anti-lock braking system and wheel speed sensors to notice if tires are spinning faster than they should, indicating reduced air pressure. A light illuminates when the tire is 25 percent below a pressure threshold. Direct TPMS is far more accurate and uses pressure sensors inside each wheel to measure tire pressure and send it to your vehicle's information center.

The first TPMS was available on the Porsche 959 supercar in the late 1980s. But it took new laws, sparked by outrage over the Firestone/Ford Explorer rollovers of the 1990s, for the systems to become widely adopted. The Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000 ensured that every passenger vehicle would have these systems standard by 2008.

Until the early 2000s, the only ways to know what was happening behind your car as you backed out of the driveway were to look at your trusty mirrors or to crane your neck and look out the rear windshield. Neither approach could cover the area directly behind the car, putting children and pets at risk. In 2002, Infiniti launched a lifesaver with the first backup camera available in the new Q45. With a camera mounted below the trunk lid and a monitor in the dash, these early systems saved lives and made parking far easier for thousands of car owners. Later in the decade, Nissan introduced its Around View Monitor, which used multiple cameras to produce a 360-degree perimeter picture of the area around the car. Some of the best systems, like the one in the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, even provide enough detail to spot a curb on the side of the car when parking.

Today about half of all new cars come with a basic backup camera standard. The tech is so valuable in preventing injuries that it will be required on all passenger vehicles by 2018.

Electric cars may be the future, but actually they are old tech. City-dwellers used battery-powered EVs to silently roll the streets beginning in the late 1800s. These old-timey electic cars were slow, though, and couldn't match the advantages of internal combustion. And so for the most part, electric vehicles petered out for a century.

Then, in 1991, GM launched the fully electric EV1. This car looked and drove like the future, but it wasn't without faults. The EV1 had long charge times, and though it promised 70-90 miles on a charge, Popular Mechanics' own real-world testing at the time saw ranges closer to 50-60 miles. The EV1s were all leased vehicles and famously crushed upon their return to GM, and to some it seemed like the EV resurgance was crused along with them. But it was the pioneering efforts of GM and others, along with advancements in battery technology, that set the stage for the EV revolution that began a decade later. You've heard all about Tesla, no doubt, but the more established car companies are taking EVs more seriously than ever. GM's new brainchild is the Bolt, an affordable car that delivers nearly 240 miles on a single charge.

The significance of Bluetooth's wireless technology to the automobile industry wasn't completely apparent when it launched in the late 1990s. But by 2001 the company had its first in-car kit for talking on your phone hands-free. Today the technology is in just about every car and installed on just about every cell phone. It's so ubiquitous we rarely think about the fact that we didn't used to have it. But to legally talk on your phone in the car in at least 14 states, a hands-free connection must be established between the phone and the car. And Bluetooth is the way to make that happen.

Lots of little innovations paved the way for the self-driving car future we've been promised. Take the radar cruise control systems that began to arrive in the early 2000s. Where older cruise control systems could maintain the car's speed, these new ones could also maintain a safe distance to the car in front without driver intervention, even if that car changes its speed. Mercedes-Benz was one of the first to debut this tech when Distronic launched in the 2000 S-Class.

As the technology has advanced, it has gotten more ambitious. On many vehicles, the tech behind this same radar system is used in collision avoidance systems that warn a driver they're in danger, apply full brake power automatically, or both. Mercedes-Benz added the ability to steer just three years ago, and last year Tesla enabled its somewhat controversial Autopilot with fully autonomous control. Someday in the future, when your car really does all the driving, remember that it all started with a relatively small improvement in cruise control.

Airbags can be traced all the way back to the 1950s, but those forward-thinking early designs weren't practical or reliable enough to go into cars. Luxury carmakers like Mercedes-Benz began to use modern airbags in the 1980s, and Ford made airbags standard on all its vehicles in 1990. It was the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, though, that required the safety tech on all cars by 1998. This law made the airbag the universal lifesaver we know today. The new rules also led to the adoption of lower-powered airbags, which reduced airbag-inflicted injuries in a crash.

Airbags have saved tens of thousands of people since then, and the success of driver and passenger bags lead to a proliferation of airbags around the cabin. Today, even a humble compact sedan has driver and passenger airbags in addition to side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags that trigger in the event of a rollover.

Not long ago, a cross-country road trip required a bundle of fold out maps, a stack of Thomas Guides, or&mdashif you're really old-fashioned&mdasha "Trip Tik" from AAA. No more. Now you just tell your GPS where you're headed and it guides you through every turn.

Automakers began to offer navigation systems that relied at least partially on Global Positioning System satellites in the mid-to-late 1990s. Oldsmobile was the first in the U.S, with Guidestar in 1995, but the U.S. government deliberately degraded the signals given to Guidestar. In 2000, the true precision of GPS came to civilians, and soon after, automakers began developing and installing systems in new luxury vehicles like the BMW 7-Series. It wasn't long before the aftermarket for portable GPS units exploded with new dash-top units. These systems work so well and are so convenient that paper maps have basically disappeared from vehicle glove boxes.

Electronic stability control (ESC), which helps correct a skid if your car begins to slide, was the final step in a technical progression that began with anti-lock brakes in the 1970s and 1980s.

As computing power increased and sensors improved (and got cheaper), automakers could apply the brakes to individual wheels to reduce wheel slip and increase traction. Thus, traction control was born. What stability control added was a yaw sensor to determine whether a car was sliding. If ESC detected a slide, the system would apply the brakes on individual wheels to help control the skid and straighten the car's path. Some ESC systems control the throttle to manage power going to the wheels.

Mercedes-Benz and BMW were the first to bring stability control to the luxury market in mid 1990s. Later in the decade it began to trickle into American cars, most notably with the introduction of "Stabilitrak" to the 1997 Cadillac lineup. The technology improved vehicle safety so much, it's been required on all passenger vehicles since 2012.

No drivetrain advancement has improved fuel economy more dramatically than the hybrid-electric powertrain, and today hybrids are so common that it's hard to imagine a time before them. In fact, they're just now old enough to vote.

Toyota was the first to market with a mass-produced hybrid in the form of the 1998 Prius. It combined a dinky 1.5-liter gas engine with an electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Not many embraced the tech early on, but the idea was revolutionary and changed the face of the car industry&mdashnearly every automaker has a hybrid or plug-in hybrid in the lineup. And while few loved frumpy body of the first Prius, Toyota soon replaced it with the cars familiar futuristic look. Since the 1990s, Toyota has sold almost 4 million Prius liftbacks and now has a full lineup of Prius-badged hybrids.


The 20 Biggest Advances in Tech Over the Last 20 Years

Another decade is over. With the 2020s upon us, now is the perfect time to reflect on the immense technological advancements that humanity has made since the dawn of the new millennium.

This article explores, in no particular order, 20 of the most significant technological advancements we have made in the last 20 years.

  1. Smartphones: Mobile phones existed before the 21st century. However, in the past 20 years, their capabilities have improved enormously. In June 2007, Apple released the iPhone, the first touchscreen smartphone with mass-market appeal. Many other companies took inspiration from the iPhone. As a consequence, smartphones have become an integral part of day-to-day life for billions of people around the world. Today, we take pictures, navigate without maps, order food, play games, message friends, listen to music, etc. all on our smartphones. Oh, and you can also use them to call people.
  2. Flash Drives: First sold by IBM in 2000, the USB flash drive allows you to easily store files, photos or videos with a storage capacity so large that it would be unfathomable just a few decades ago. Today, a 128GB flash drive, available for less than $20 on Amazon, has more than 80,000 times the storage capacity of a 1.44MB floppy disk, which was the most popular type of storage disk in the 1990s.
  3. Skype: Launched in August 2003, Skype transformed the way that people communicate across borders. Before Skype, calling friends or family abroad cost huge amounts of money. Today, speaking to people on the other side of the world, or even video calling with them, is practically free.
  4. Google: Google’s search engine actually premiered in the late 1990s, but the company went public in 2004, leading to its colossal growth. Google revolutionized the way that people search for information online. Every hour there are more than 228 million Google searches. Today Google is part of Alphabet Inc., a company that offers dozens of services such as translations, Gmail, Docs, Chrome web browser, and more.
  5. Google Maps: In February 2005, Google launched its mapping service, which changed the way that many people travel. With the app available on virtually all smartphones, Google Maps has made getting lost virtually impossible. It’s easy to forget that just two decades ago, most travel involved extensive route planning, with paper maps nearly always necessary when venturing to unfamiliar places.
  6. Human Genome Project: In April 2003, scientists successfully sequenced the entire human genome. Through the sequencing of our roughly 23,000 genes, the project shed light on many different scientific fields, including disease treatment, human migration, evolution, and molecular medicine.
  7. YouTube: In May 2005, the first video was uploaded to what today is the world’s most popular video-sharing website. From Harvard University lectures on quantum mechanics and favorite T.V. episodes to “how-to” tutorials and funny cat videos, billions of pieces of content can be streamed on YouTube for free.
  8. Graphene: In 2004, researchers at the University of Manchester became the first scientists to isolate graphene. Graphene is an atom-thin carbon allotrope that can be isolated from graphite, the soft, flaky material used in pencil lead. Although humans have been using graphite since the Neolithic era, isolating graphene was previously impossible. With its unique conductive, transparent, and flexible properties, graphene has enormous potential to create more efficient solar panels, water filtration systems, and even defenses against mosquitos.
  9. Bluetooth: While Bluetooth technology was officially unveiled in 1999, it was only in the early 2000s that manufacturers began to adopt Bluetooth for use in computers and mobile phones. Today, Bluetooth is featured in a wide range of devices and has become an integral part of many people’s day-to-day lives.
  10. Facebook: First developed in 2004, Facebook was not the first social media website. Due to its simplicity to use, however, Facebook quickly overtook existing social networking sites like Friendster and Myspace. With 2.41 billion active users per month (almost a third of the world’s population), Facebook has transformed the way billions of people share news and personal experiences with one another.
  11. Curiosity, the Mars Rover: First launched in November 2011, Curiosity is looking for signs of habitability on Mars. In 2014, the rover uncovered one of the biggest space discoveries of this millennium when it found water under the surface of the red planet. Curiosity’s work could help humans become an interplanetary species in just a few decades’ time.
  12. Electric Cars: Although electric cars are not a 21st-century invention, it wasn’t until the 2000s that these vehicles were built on a large scale. Commercially available electric cars, such as the Tesla Roadster or the Nissan Leaf, can be plugged into any electrical socket to charge. They do not require fossil fuels to run. Although still considered a fad by some, electric cars are becoming ever more popular, with more than 1.5 million units sold in 2018.
  13. Driverless Cars: In August 2012, Google announced that its automated vehicles had completed over 300,000 miles of driving, accident-free. Although Google’s self-driving cars are the most popular at the moment, almost all car manufacturers have created or are planning to develop automated cars. Currently, these cars are in testing stages, but provided that the technology is not hindered by overzealous regulations, automated cars will likely be commercially available in the next few years.
  14. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC): With its first test run in 2013, the LHC became the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It’s also the world’s largest single machine. The LHC allows scientists to run experiments on some of the most complex theories in physics. Its most important finding so far is the Higgs-Boson particle. The discovery of this particle lends strong support to the “standard model of particle physics,” which describes most of the fundamental forces in the universe.
  15. AbioCor Artificial Heart: In 2001, the AbioCor artificial heart, which was created by the Massachusetts-based company AbioMed, became the first artificial heart to successfully replace a human heart in heart transplant procedures. The AbioCor artificial heart powers itself. Unlike previous artificial hearts, it doesn’t need intrusive wires that heighten the likelihood of infection and death.
  16. 3D Printing: Although 3D printers as we know them today began in the 1980s, the development of cheaper manufacturing methods and open-source software contributed to a 3D printing revolution over the last two decades. Today, 3D printers are being used to print spare parts, whole houses, medicines, bionic limbs, and even entire human organs.
  17. Amazon Kindle: In November 2007, Amazon released the Kindle. Since then, a plethora of e-readers has changed the way millions of people read. Thanks to e-readers, people don’t need to carry around heavy stacks of books, and independent authors can get their books to an audience of millions of people without going through a publisher.
  18. Stem Cell Research: Previously the stuff of science fiction, stem cells (i.e., basic cells that can become almost any type of cell in the body) are being used to grow, among other things, kidney, lung, brain, and heart tissue. This technology will likely save millions of lives in the coming decades as it means that patients will no longer have to wait for donor organs or take harsh medicines to treat their ailments.
  19. Multi-Use Rockets: In November and December of 2015, two separate private companies, Blue Origin and SpaceX, successfully landed reusable rockets. This development greatly cheapens the cost of getting to space and brings commercial space travel one step closer to reality.
  20. Gene Editing: In 2012, researchers from Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Broad Institute each independently discovered that a bacterial immune system known as CRISPR could be used as a gene-editing tool to change an organism’s DNA. By cutting out pieces of harmful DNA, gene-editing technology will likely change the future of medicine and could eventually eradicate some major diseases.

However you choose to celebrate this new year, take a moment to think about the immense technological advancements of the last 20 years, and remember that despite what you may read in the newspapers or see on TV, humans continue to reach new heights of prosperity.


What ‘tech world’ did you grow up in?

In the past three decades, the United States has seen staggering technological changes. In 1984, just 8 percent of households had a personal computer, the World Wide Web was still five years away, and cell phones were enormous. Americans born that year are only 33 years old.

Here’s how some key parts of our technological lives have shifted, split loosely into early , middle and current stages.

To customize your experience, enter your birth year:

*Tape market share from before 1999 does not including competing pre-DVD formats like LaserDisc.

Blockbuster isn’t quite dead yet — as of April there were at least 10 U.S. locations still in operation, mostly in Alaska. But the era of physical videos is on its way out. Children today may never know the swelling music of a DVD menu that’s looped back to the beginning. And they certainly will never have to rewind a VHS tape.

Be kind! The VHS Rewind Simulator.

Press and hold the button to rewind the movie

Your browser does not support the video tag.

But this is just one slice of how home entertainment has changed over the past 30 years. Thanks to plummeting prices, most Americans now own (large!) HD TVs that were once reserved for the very wealthy. During the same era, cable overtook network television in profitability and prestige. Both are now threatened by the twin specters of cord-cutting and streaming.

*Slow internet is the difference between the share of Americans that reported to Pew that they used the internet at all, and the share that reported they had home broadband. It includes Americans who use broadband internet outside of their home.

Twenty years ago the Internet was still mostly for play — Geocities was one of the most popular sites on the Web. And it was slow! Dial-up —which uses pre-existing telephone lines to connect to the Internet — was the primary internet technology throughout the 90s, until faster Broadband services began to take hold. Dial-up had a max speed of 56 kilobits per second, and could be interrupted by an incoming phone call.

How long does it take to download a 1MB photo?

For those that prefer the simpler times, there’s always the Space Jam website, untouched since 1996. For an even purer experience, without modern scourges like “images,” you can look at the first website published to the World Wide Web, or just play the sound.

Around 1985, vinyl records gave way to tapes, which gave way to CDs, which gave way to digital files. And the switch to digital has really been a two-parter: First came mp3 collections where people still bought actual albums, then came the rise of streaming services that do away with the concept of “owning” music altogether.

The merits of different music formats are widely debated. But things have definitely gotten better for joggers.

How long will the music last?

How long you could jog without stopping while listening to each player.

Music technologies have a funny way of not staying dead. Vinyl sales have been creeping upward in recent years, and even cassettes are supposedly making a comeback.

While the first mobile phone call was made in 1973, it took the technology a while to reach the masses. In the late ’80s, cellphones were still an extravagance, notably used by Gordon Gecko in 1987’s “Wall Street.”

30+ years of mobile phone design

A decade a half later, Nokia and other manufacturers had developed much cheaper models. In particular, the nearly indestructible Nokia 3310 — affectionately known as the “brick” — has a special place in U.S. mobile history as the first cell phone for many younger Americans.

Where this data came from

Music sales figures from 1995 to present are from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) U.S. sales database.

Home entertainment spending by format from 1999-2010 is from the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) 2010 year-end home entertainment report, and figures from 2011-2016 are from individual DEG year-end reports. Data from 1997 and 1998 are extrapolated based on DVD player sales data from a 2005 DEG report. Industry-wide sales data is not available from 1985-1997. While tapes were dominant over DVDs during that span (DVDs were invented in 1995) we aren’t sure of tapes’ precise market share because of competing but less popular technologies such as LaserDisc.

Cellphone usage statistics for 2002-2016 are from the Pew Research Center Mobile Fact Sheet. Statistics for 2000 are from the Web at 25 Pew series — 2001 and 2003 percentages are interpolated. A single figure for cell usage was found by averaging all surveys that took place in the same year. Cellphone usage before 2000 is estimated by comparing the Pew data series with the trend in total U.S. cellphone subscriptions back to 1985, from the 2009 CTIA Annual Wireless Survey. Smartphone percentages are estimated by comparing cellphone usage to smartphone market penetration from 2005 to 2016, based on comScore data.

Internet and broadband usage from 2000 to 2016 from the Pew Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet. A single figure for broadband usage was found by averaging all surveys that took place in the same year. Internet usage from 1996-1998 is from Pew’s ‟The Internet Circa 1998” publication, 1995 is from ‟How the internet has woven itself into American life.” Internet usage for 1999 and broadband usage for 2014 are interpolated. Internet usage before 1995 is extrapolated based on the trend in Internet usage growth from 1995-1998. Poll results have been smoothed.

Highest grossing movies for each year from the Numbers. Top selling records for each year from Billboard. Top websites of each year from comScore/Media Metrix.

Rewind button by krishna from The Noun Project. Abbreviated video of Say Anything originally from Reddit, by user bacondropped. Gifs via giphy.


One hundred years ago, things looked a little bit different.

1. World Literacy Rates

1917: The world literacy rate was only 23 percent.

Today: Depending on estimates, the world literacy rate today is 86.1 percent.

2. Travel Time

1917: It took 5 days to get from London to New York 3.5 months to travel from London to Australia.

Today: A nonstop flight gets you from London to New York in a little over 8 hours, and you can fly from London to Australia in about a day, with just one stop.

3. Average Price of a US House

1917: The average price of a U.S. house was $5,000. ($111,584.29 when adjusted for inflation).

Today: As of 2010, the average price of a new home sold in the U.S. was $272,900.

4. The First Hamburger

1917: The hamburger bun was invented by a fry cook named Walter Anderson, who co-founded White Castle.

Today: On average, Americans eat three hamburgers a week. That’s a national total of nearly 50 billion burgers per year. And now we’re even inventing 100 percent plant-based beef burgers… produced by Impossible Foods and available at select restaurants.

5. Average Price of a Car in the US

1917: The average price of a car in the US was $400 ($8,926.74 when adjusted for inflation)

Today: The average car price in the US was $34,968 as of January 2017.

6. The First Boeing Aircraft

1917: A Boeing aircraft flew for the first time on June 15.

Today: In 2015, there were almost 24,000 turboprop and regional aircraft, as well as wide body and narrow body jets, in service worldwide.

7. Coca-Cola

1917: On July 1, 1916, Coca-Cola introduced its current formula to the market.

Today: Today, Coca-Cola has a market cap of about $178 billion with 2015 net operating revenues over $44 billion. Each day, over 1.9 billion servings of Coca-Cola drinks are enjoyed in more than 200 countries.

7. Average US Wages

1917: The average US hourly wage was 22 cents an hour ($4.90 per hour when adjusted for inflation)

Today: The average US hourly wage is approximately $26 per hour.

8. Supermarkets

1917: The first “super” market, PigglyWiggly, opened on September 6, 1916 in Memphis, TN.

Today: In 2015, there were 38,015 supermarkets, employing 3.4 million people and generating sales of about $650 billion.

9. Billionaires

1917: John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire on September 29.

Today: There are approximately 1,810 billionaires, and their aggregate net worth is $6.5 trillion.

For context, Rockefeller’s net worth in today’s dollars would have been about $340 billion. Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, is worth $84 billion today.

10. Telephones (Landlines vs. Cellphones)

1917: Only 8 percent of homes had a landline telephone.

Today: Forget landlines! In the US, nearly 80 percent of the population has a smartphone (a supercomputer in their pockets). Nearly half of all American households now use only cellphones rather than older landlines. And as far as cost, today, you can Skype anywhere in the world for free over a WiFi network.

11. Traffic (Horses to Cars)

1917: In 1912, traffic counts in New York showed more cars than horses for the first time.

Today: There were approximately 253 million cars and trucks on US roads in 2015.

12. US Population

1917: The US population broke 100 million, and the global population reached 1.9 billion.

Today: The US population is 320 million, and the global population broke 7.5 billion this year.

13. Inventions and Technology

1917: The major tech invention in 1917? The toggle light switch.

Today: The major tech invention of today? CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology, which enables us to reprogram life as we know it. And we are making strides in AI, robotics, sensors, networks, synthetic biology, materials science, space exploration and more every day.

14. High School Graduation Rates

1917: Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Today: Over 80 percent of all Americans graduated high school this past year.

15. Cost of Bread

1917: A loaf of bread was .07 ($1.50 when adjusted for inflation).

Today: A loaf of bread costs $2.37.

16. Speed Limits

1917: The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

Today: The maximum speed limit in most cities is about 70 mph.

Just wait for the next 100 years.

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