As a journalist, I recently came across an article from the History Channel highlighting seven inventions from the Gilded Age that revolutionized the world. This brought to mind a commentary I had written a dozen years ago based on Mark Steyn’s book, After America. In this commentary, Steyn encouraged us to imagine what it would be like to bring our great-grandfather living in the late 19th century to an ordinary American home in 1950.
The result would be astonishment. The home would be full of mechanical contraptions, including a huge machine in the corner of the kitchen that kept food fresh and cold, and an orchestra playing somewhere that came from a tiny box on the kitchen countertop. Looking out the window, he would see metal conveyances coming down the street at incredible speeds, enclosed with doors and windows – essentially houses on wheels – with no horse or horse-drawn carriage in sight.
Now imagine someone from 1950 sent back to our world today. They may be disappointed as not much has changed since then. Sure, there are computers and smartphones nowadays but they might have expected more changes than they found. Most of the remarkable technological advancements happened over a hundred years ago.
There are two reasons for this plateau in technology: physics and politics. While we can dream of flying cars, time machines and teleporting devices, there are physical limits that prevent them from being created. Furthermore, bureaucratic regulations imposed by government make it much harder for inventors and entrepreneurs to innovate and bring their ideas into fruition. It is time for us to roll back government interference that stifles imagination and creativity in technology development.