7.7 billion people occupying a globalised planet, with technological advances previously only dreamed about in science fiction.
But perhaps the adjustments my grandfather would have had to make during his 95 years are actually not quite as astounding as the anticipated ones for my generation. While the world was a very different place 100 years ago, how quickly those shifts are happening seems to have increased. Change is a natural progression over time, with both positive and negative aspects. So while examining the changes occurring around us can be interesting, perhaps a more informative barometer in society are the rates at which these changes are taking place. The rate - in this case, some measure of the scale of change over a set period of time - gives a sense of how the changes we're experiencing in the here-and-now compare to those say 50 or 100 years ago. It is also useful when thinking about how people respond and adapt.
completely new cities being built and existing ones reaching scales never before experienced in human history.
But it’s not just about the rate of development. In fact, one might argue that pales in comparison to the impacts of rapid progress of technology and subsequent impacts on society, the economy, and the environment. The phenomenon, the “Law of Accelerating Returns”, refers to exponential advances in technology, completely reshaping the world as we know it, and suggests it may be difficult to even imagine where we will be in 100 years. I think Tim Urban in an article on ‘Wait, but Why?’ about artificial intelligence (AI) articulates the issue well. He muses that “while 1500 and 1750 were very different, they were much less different than 1750 to 2015. The 1500 guy would learn some mind-bending shit about space and physics, he’d be impressed with how committed Europe turned out to be with that new imperialism fad, and he’d have to do some major revisions of his world map conception.” But to see the same extent of change as between 1750 and 2015, he might have to go “all the way back to about 12,000 BC, before the First Agricultural Revolution gave rise to the first cities and to the concept of civilization”.