Joshua Kim reviews Johan Norberg’s book, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future.
This long and brilliantly illustrated article was written by John O’Brien for Educause Review. I could not do justice to it if I tried to summarize it in a couple of sentences, so I’ll just mention a couple of things that piqued my interest. O’Brien says that it is important to understand the past, and thinking about the future is fundamentally human, but it is still more fascinating to think about “the road pointing back to where you were, the road pointing ahead to where you’re going, and the moment at the crossroads contemplating both.” I learned a new term from this article: “paleofuture.” It refers to concentrating on representations of the future in the past. He doesn’t mention the novels of Jules Verne, but this is a good place to look. One of the many illustrations in the article shows a house maid using a mechanical floor scrubbing device that has a broom and a sponge attache to it. Someone made this illustrated card in 1899, about one hundred years before the Roomba was developed. Please read and enjoy this interesting article for yourself.
In this post Joshua Kim reviews Robert J. Gordon’s new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth. In the book Gordon questions the idea of a bright future based on technological progress. He compares the rise of American living standards between 1870 and 1970 with what has happened to them since 1970. He concludes that our economic growth going forward will pale compared to the earlier period. For one thing, living standards and the used of various technologies were very low in 1870. He says that developments such as the decline in infant mortality, the prevention of infectious diseases, and the rise of mass schooling are developments that can happen only once. Gordon discusses several factors that have slowed economic growth since 1970, such as rising inequality and crumbling infrastructure, poor schools, rising student debt, the decline of unionization, the erosion of marriage and children being brought up by both parents.
Remember Alvin Toffler, the famous futurist? I read Future Shock and several of his other books decades ago. I think they are worth re-reading today.