There used to be a time when we invented products that were completely new and unique compared to anything we had ever seen or experienced before. Electricity, for example, moved us from lighting a kerosene wick to generate light to flipping a switch to illuminate an entire room. Indoor plumbing made it more convenient to cook, bathe and deal with other human necessities.
We also progressed from horse and buggy to cars to flight, all within a couple generations. Then there was the telephone. None of us alive today remember what it was like to communicate solely by pen and paper. When Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876 it was nothing short of revolutionary.
When I look around today there are still remarkable advancements occurring almost daily, from how we power our homes and cars to how we communicate with one another. Still, what we see today is usually an improvement on something already invented, or something so complicated that a person of normal intelligence wouldn’t really understand it without the assistance of someone skilled at explaining complex matters in laymen’s terms.
The cell phone is still just a phone, albeit a portable one with some additional capabilities. A battery powered car is still a car, just one with a different power source. It still has 4 tires, a steering wheel, and takes us from point A to point B, just like the first car ever made.
We now have new inventions and discoveries like DNA, the Internet and immunotherapy. We have super computers capable of handling trillions of calculations in a fraction of a second (the fastest can calculate 200 quadrillion calculations per second). Still, these are all either extensions of a previous invention or they’re too complex for most of us to really understand.
None of this should diminish the importance of the advancements we see today though. It just requires a little more thought and study to grasp how important these advancements are to our lives.
And really in the end, maybe understanding how something works at a micro level isn’t the most important part. It’s doubtful that the masses could explain how a telephone worked when it first became available; or explain the inner workings of the motor in a car. But they could certainly see how it impacted their lives.
So perhaps it’s not understanding the details that’s so important for most of us but appreciating how new discoveries and inventions can change our lives for the better. And when looked at in that way, the advancements of today might not be all that different from those of the past.