We all think that the pace of technology speeds up all the time – that the mobile phone and Internet were only launched in the last twenty years. However I think that technology has always been moving at this speed.
Today marks a special event exactly 100 years ago to the day: the World’s first piece of air mail took off from Hendon air field.
We often focus too much on recent technology, and fool ourselves into thinking that we are smarter than our ancestors because we developed the mobile phone and the Internet in recent history, so technology must be accelerating faster.
I don’t think that last point is true.
Let’s go back to flight. The two world wars brought a massive amount of technology in a very short period of time. We went into World War 1 with biplanes and 34 years later we came out of World War 2 with mass produced jet engines.
Let’s look at medicine. It changed beyond recognition in the early 1900s – with the introduction of antibiotics (penicillin), x-rays and anaesthetics.
In 1961 the first human went into space and in 1969, man landed on the moon. Or to put into context, in the time that the public first watched man take off into space to land on the moon, it’s taken Facebook to launch and get to where it is today. Is that a faster pace?
We need to make science and engineering exciting again. It starts with education. Stop teaching combined sciences because we need to specialise, not generalists. And besides, I hated biology but loved physics. Combining the two with a bit of chemistry would have put me off studying physics at A level.
We need to tone down the whole business studies and the oh-so-overused word ‘entrepreneur’. Everyone leaves school wanting to be an entrepreneur these days, but without new inventions and pushing technology forward, we’re going to become a nation of imitators.
It seems obvious – we need to increase the appetite for pushing technology forward, by encouraging young people to produce new ideas. Only then will we get back to the 1960s pace of technology.