How Quickly Things Change…

from the think-back... dept

The common wisdom is that people always over predict how things will change in the course of a single year, but under predict how much they’ll change in the course of a decade. If that’s true, why not look back a decade and see just how much things have changed? Going just slightly further back, here’s a blurb from a New Yorker article talking about the difficulties faced by a family trying to live like it was 1992 again. 1992 doesn’t seem that long ago, does it? However, there were no DVDs, TiVos or iPods. Most people weren’t online — and if you were actually using “the World Wide Web” you were one of a very tiny group of people. Certainly, most of the info you see today wasn’t available. Mobile phones were around, but weren’t quite as mobile, and certainly weren’t as popular. So, while 1992 really doesn’t seem that long ago, when you think about all the products that exist now that didn’t then, it makes you realize just how much things really do change. Update: A link to the full story has been added.

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Comments on “How Quickly Things Change…”

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rax (user link) says:

For the sake of argument...

I wonder if the kid let his brother watch early nineties episodes of SNL.. provided they can still be found on cable.

Seriously though, you take for granted all the new technologies that are now an everyday part of your life. Back in ?92 I can still remember having to pay before you pump, most cashiers still had to press a few keys when you checked out, everyone still wrote checks to pay for things, and you could expect to keep a box of canceled ones in your closet in case you needed to re-balance your checkbook.

It’s funny, because I actually saw a person pay with a check at the grocery store the other day. It seemed like some relic of the past, an ancient custom like throwing salt over your shoulder. More surprising is that custom of paying in cash is still widely accepted, and almost less out of place. Especially since, I also remember the predictions of the demise of printed currency.

Steve Mueller (user link) says:

Work And Flying Cars

While people may overestimate change in a year and underestimate change over the course of a decade, it seems they go back to overestimating change over longer periods. Here are a few examples from real life and fiction:

  • Video phones
  • Flying cars
  • Computers and automation making us work fewer hours
  • “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” (flying submarines and all) took place in 1983
  • “Lost in Space” took place in 1997
  • “2001: A Space Odyssey” took place in, well, 2001

Granted, the movies probably aren’t attempts at realistic projections, but they do show the time frame some people thought these things might take place.

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