Nothing New Under the Sun?

Phillip J. Longman laments that the pace of technological progress is slowing. According to Longman, if the typical middle class 1950s family (exemplified in his article by the atypical Ozzie and Harriet) were whisked to 2000, they would see only incremental change rather than any technological revolution.

Longman, like a lot of other commentators, fails to note that sufficient incremental improvement can itself be revolutionary. When I was a kid, we had a phone but I still thought Star Trek communicators were an impossible science fiction invention. Now everybody and their brother seems to carry around miniscule cell phones. Who would have thought that the first calculators would eventually morph into a super computer on the desktop.

Even without the incremental change, however, Longman ignores one advanced made well after the early 1950s that would certainly have shocked Ozzie and Harriet and is certainly one of the top 10 most important inventions of the 20th century — the birth control pill. Love it or hate it, cheap, effective chemical birth control profoundly changed American culture so thoroughly, that I would argue only the automobile had a more far reaching effect.

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