Your Obedient Serpent (athelind) wrote,
Your Obedient Serpent

The Time Dilation Effects of Accelerating Technological Change

I keep hearing radio ads for a local air show.

In them, the announcer growls enthusiastically that the audience will see the F-15 Strike Eagle and the F-18 Hornet.

The "monster truck rally" voice that he uses carries the suggestion that these are bleeding-edge examples of advanced aviation technology -- but they're both designs rooted in the 1970s.

The F-15 design is now older than the P-51 was when the F-15 first entered service.

Now, I'm not saying that this indicates how our aerospace technology has "stagnated". There's an s-curve to technological development: rapid advance at first, then a plateau where improvements are only incremental. At some point, you can really only improve on a design by making a major paradigm shift in underlying technology (piston to jet, for instance).

This intrigues me because it mirrors some other socio-cultural trends I've observed: people half my age or less who listen to the same music I do, and watch movies that I grew up with, and don't really think of them as "old".

The '90s just don't seem as far in the past as the '50s did when Happy Days debuted. When Marvel brought Captain America back in 1964 after a 19-year absence, those two lost decades were a huge gulf that let them wring great soap-opera mileage out of A Man Out Of Time. It's hard to see getting that kind of impact out of someone who hadn't been seen since the far-distant past of ... 1991.

If it were Just Me, I'd say that this was a natural process of Getting Old ... but even the adults of my childhood referred to the '50s as "back then", without the immediacy that the '90s seem to have today. I meet more than a few teenagers who listen to rock from the '60s and the '80s without any sense of "retro" or "nostalgia" or "irony". Blade Runner just doesn't have the same sense of "quaint" that Forbidden Planet did in 1982.

It's like the last half of the 20th Century didn't take nearly as much time as the first half.

Tags: comics, hoard potato, pontification, technology

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