Friday, April 30, 2010

10 most influential changes since WWII

I have been reading and enjoying Robert Samuelson's 1995 book The Good Life and Its Discontents. In one section, he lists what he thinks are the 10 most important changes in the 50 years between 1945 and 1995. He lists:
1) Television
2) Jet travel
3) Air-conditioning
4) Long-distance phone service
5) Interstate highways
6) Washing machines and dryers
7) Antibiotics
8) Social security and private pensions
9) Health insurance
10) The Pill

Samuelson wrote this before the internet really took off, but still, it's an intriguing list. It's hard to imagine life without any one of these. It makes me wonder what the 2000-2050 list will look like.


Mark said...

Its interesting that no flying cars ever evolved like my grade school teachers told me there would be by now and also there never was a video phone offered by the phone company. It took bill gates and the internet to make video phones (webcams) a reality for millions of people.

Hmmm... the phone company is a regulated monopoly and the internet/microsoft is not. What does that say about government control squelching innovation?

Do we went to risk the same with health care? We report you decide.

Mark said...

I also remember my grade school teachers telling me that because of television we would all become lazy and illiterate and our hands would atrophy down to only one button pushing finger to operate our gadgets. Its funny that because of email and spell checkers I am reading and writing ten times more than I was back then not less.

My telephone usage has actually dropped off quite a bit because my friends and co-workers just send me an email when they want to ask me something.

Michael Kruse said...

Interesting that he left of the transistor and the microchip. Even without the internet these already had profound influence by 1995. I'd bump the washer and dryer and put this high on the list.

Brad Wright said...

What, you haven't gotten a flying car yet, Mark?

In fairness, he did list microchips/ computers as an alternate.

Jay Livingston said...

A lot of Europeans get by without dryers. A lot of Americans don't have health insurance, though perhaps not by choice.

As for the lack of innovation (@Mark), it probably has much more to do with monopoly than government. It was lack of competition that allowed AT&T the luxury of not innovating, not government regulation that squelched it. A similar lack of innovation occurred in other relatively non-competitive industries like cars and steel. Innovation came, eventually, from foreign sources.

Jay Livingston said...

In 2008, the Wharton school and PBS Nightly Business Report asked people to nominate the top innovations of the last 30 years. Their judges chose 30 of these. Their time frame (1978-2008) overlaps the last 17 years of Samuelson’s half-century, with the remaining 13 years (1996-2008) not overlapped. Yet not one invention or innovation is on both lists.

Brad Wright said...

That's a surprise about there being no overlap... I suppose that shows just how many innovations that we've had.