Sunday, April 15, 2012

Forty Years

I've been reading a book on energy called, Reinventing Fire.  It's an interesting book, and one of the most interesting parts is where the author supposes how we'll get energy in forty years.

Now, it's almost impossible to figure out what the future will look like 40 years into the future. But it got me thinking about how far we've come in the last 40 years. And then 40 years before that:

Forty Years Ago

In 1972, traffic deaths peaked at 59,589.  Seatbelts had been mandated in new cars since 1968, but their use wasn't required by law until 1984.

In 2010 (latest available), traffic deaths were the lowest ever recorded, at 32,708. While some safety measures, such as air bags were also implemented, that's still a difference of 26,881 lives saved. Do you wear your safety belt?

Just before the Oil Crisis of the seventies, a gallon of leaded gas was 36 cents, in 1972. In 1975 – 57 cents.  Although we laugh at it now, that's a 58% increase.  Yesterday, I bought gas for $3.59.

In 1972, a Chevy Nova got between 8mpg and 15mpg. My Mazda3 (roughly the same size) gets between 28mpg and 32mpg. So efficiency has risen between 300% and 400%. And that's not with a Prius.

Eighty Years Ago

In 1932, the US was in the depths of the Great Depression and unemployment was 24.1%. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president by a landslide. And problems with agriculture lead to mass starvation in Russia.

The average cost of a new car was $610 and a gallon of gas was 10 cents.  But the average annual income was $6,510. The most popular car was the Ford Model B.

For some context: Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion in 1932 and Radio City Music Hall opened. Oh, and the parking meter was invented. Now we can pay for parking with our Smart Phones in NYC, at least.

TV had been invented in 1926, but shows weren't broadcast until 1935 – in Germany. TV wasn't broadcast in the US until 1941. And the first programmable computer wasn't invented until 1938- again, in Germany.

Forty Years into the Future

No one really knows what we'll have in the future – sometimes just thinking up what we want spurs it to happen. Star Trek had cell phones in the 23rd Century. Star Trek aired in 1968 and I bought my first "communicator" in 1995.

Maybe we'll be wearing batteries or have the internet in our eyeglasses. Maybe we'll grow our own food again, maybe not. Maybe we'll double our lifespans, or maybe we'll cause massive floods. Or we'll colonize Mars.

This, for me, is what's so intriguing about Science Fiction – what can be.



  1. Me, too! me, too! I love speculating about the future, not so much the technology itself, but what the effect of that technology will be. For example, 100 years ago, your friends and neighbors were pretty much the same set of people. Now, with most people having cars, phones, and internet access, you might not know the folks who live next door but you can have friends in other cities and even other countries. Another revealing statistic-- when people lived their whole lives without moving more than 100 miles in any direction, it was considered normal to marry a first cousin. Now we consider that too close a connection and almost no one marries their first cousin.

    1. One of my best friends lives in Australia - we're internet writing friends.

      And I got to go visit her a couple of years ago :D