We are living in the age of the Digital revolution. New and more advanced technologies are being developed terrifically fast, enhancing and modifying almost every aspect of our lives. While this rapid pace may frighten some, many more are thrilled by the possibilities that the future will bring. Looking back 300 years, we can see how technologies have deeply improved our lives. How will our society change 300 years from now? Will we be able to live on other planets? Will we finally drive flying cars? These are just some of the questions that have prompted several people to sign up for cryonics. Let's take a look at how technology has improved, (and will probably keep improving) our lives; comparing the past, the present, and the future.
Let’s start with the past. If we go 300 years back in time, we find ourselves in the 18th century. It was the beginning of the first Industrial Revolution, where the first machines revolutionized the manufacturing processes and society at large. How was life back then? By the standards of a modern-day man, it was rough.
As modern medicine was still in its infancy, many diseases and pandemics claimed victims all over the world. The Great Plague of Marseille was the last major outbreak of bubonic plague in western Europe. Famine killed 20% of the population in Ireland while Nordic countries experienced what is known as the Little Ice Age. In addition, the century was marked by several wars around the world. In America, European powers were fighting over land, slavery and human trafficking were common practices, revolts were widespread - take the French Revolution between 1789 and 1799. On the bright side, it was the Age of Enlightenment, pursuing human happiness and ideals such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity.
Now that we have a mental picture of the situation, how did people communicate with each other in those days? Before smartphones or even the radio were invented, how did people make plans on when to meet or tell each other how they were doing?
You can probably guess the answer: the only means of communication were letters. If you have ever had a pen-pal, you know how inefficient this system may be. Imagine now that most postal services were established between the 18th and the 19th century. Before that, letters were sent together with friends or slaves, or couriers. It was common practice to write the same letter several times, to increase the chances that the letter would finally get to the recipient.
Places of education have existed in different ways since the earliest populations. Yet, before the 18th century, most schools were focused on teaching specific professions: religious positions, health care workers, and bureaucrats. Thanks to the Enlightenment movement (very interested in scientific methods), the educational system was highly modernized. The improvements, as a result, were higher literacy rates and demand for more printed material from readers across a broader span of social classes
Despite this, only around 60% of the population could read in Early Modern Germany and England at the end of the century.
Technological innovations resulting from the Industrial Revolution made railway transportation (and bicycles) possible. But this only happened at the beginning of the following century. In the 1700s, people only had a few ways to move: by foot, by horse (donkey, camel, etc.), by carriage, by boat, and by hot-air balloon.
The latter was invented in the 18th century: on the 14th of December 1782 the Montgolfier brothers first test flew an unmanned hot air balloon in France. It floated nearly 2 km. The main way to travel and transport goods however remained by ship. If you wanted to go from New York to the English Channel, it would have taken you 25 to 30 days with a well-founded sailing vessel of about 2000 tons.
What did people do in their spare time? Playing board games was quite common (chess, domino or backgammon, and many more), as well as reading books and newspapers (for those who could read). Additionally, people used to play card games and gamble. Sports were quite popular too: tennis, cricket, a slightly different version of today’s football, horse racing, etc. The Enlightenment Age pushed the construction of theaters with stages in several towns, therefore watching plays became a widespread hobby. Since the social classes were well-demarcated, the rich and poor did not mix in these activities.
Finally, public executions were popular and drew large crowds, as well as boxing matches (without gloves), puppets shows, and circus performances.
Living conditions in the 18th century were poor. With many families moving to towns to find work, the demand for cheap housing became way higher than the supply. Many families were forced to live in single-room apartments or cellars with unhealthy air and drinking water was often contaminated. The death rate in most towns was high. In London for example, some districts reached an infant mortality rate of around 75%.
At the same time, medicine was slowly developing (modern medicine will emerge only at the end of the Industrial Revolution). Surgery became a respectable branch of science - without the use of anesthesia, used for the first time in 1846, or penicillin, discovered in 1928.
300 years later, life looks quite different. It is clear looking back that technical innovations have led to improved living conditions. This doesn’t mean that we are not facing difficulties anymore, but we do have better tools to deal with them.
While letters could take weeks (and sometimes months) to get to the recipient, now we have the so-called instant messaging. Through our phones, we can be in contact with almost anybody anywhere at any time.
Can you guess how many people have a smartphone in the world today? 6.648 billion, which translates to 83.72% of the world’s population. If we consider phones in general, adding also those devices that have no apps and complex OS systems, we get up to 91.54% of people.
300 years ago, if you had 10 friends, 4 of them didn’t know how to read because they hadn't received any education. Today, if you think about the people you know, it’s very likely that all of them went to school. The literacy rate worldwide in 2020 is 86.3%, which goes up to almost 100% in many European countries.
Moreover, in the last few years, education has become much more integrated with technology. Tablets are popular tools: in the Uk for example, almost 70% of primary and secondary schools now use tablet computers. The results of using digital devices for teaching are yet to be determined. But it is clear that, as technology is taking an increasingly central role in our lives, education will have to find a way to keep up.
We have come a very long way in the last 300 years! Imagine you want to go from Paris to Rome today. You could travel by car, bus, train, plane, or even by boat (although this option would be quite inefficient). Improved transport systems have thus enabled us to travel. Mass tourism developed only in the 20th century. Today, 1.4 billion people travel every year (with France being the country with the highest number of visitors).
However, things are not all roses these days. Our current transportation systems rely on a finite resource. Not only will we soon deplete our supplies, but we are also polluting the planet in the meanwhile. Future of transportation will necessarily have to include a solution to this problem.
Technology has revolutionized entertainment to the extent that nowadays we have almost unlimited choices on how to spend our free time. The first projection of moving pictures took place in 1895. Television was invented in 1927. The very first video game was invented in 1958 - a very simple tennis game invented by the physicist William Higinbotham. Finally, the internet came to life in 1983.
The direction towards which entertainment is heading seems clear. Immersive realities, virtual worlds, and wearable devices allow us to experience things like never before. With the recent birth of Meta (from the old Facebook) perhaps the Metaverse is no longer just the stuff of science fiction films.
Finally, if we compare the healthcare system of the past with the one we have today, we have certainly come a long way! First of all, in the 18th century, the public healthcare system didn't even exist. Germany in fact has the world's oldest national social health insurance system, which was invented only in 1883. Moreover, technological innovations, of which AI is perhaps one of the most important, have enabled incredible improvements.
Today, we are at the gateway to the cyborg era. Implantable Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) technologies are indeed considered among the most innovative breakthroughs of 2022. These devices receive brain signals, analyze them, and translate them into commands sent to output devices that carry out desired actions. One of the main applications of BCIs technologies is in the area of rehabilitation. Basically, patients affected by paralysis could be able to restore some functional movements through chips implanted in their brain.
What we can learn from the past is that new technologies have improved our lives. Since the earliest civilisations, every technological innovation has allowed us to evolve a little further, improving our living conditions. So what can we expect from the future? It is difficult to say, especially considering how much things have changed in the last 300 years. Yet, looking at current patterns, we can get some ideas.
Nobody knows what the future will look like in 300 years and it's likely that many of us will never find out. If you want a chance to see the future, cryopreservation is for you! Sign up and join a community of technology enthusiasts. If you want to learn more, book a call with us!