So Madsen Pirie has written a little pamphlet talking about how the world will be in 2050. And he’s obviously right, as Chris Dillow so often says. Straight line projections are probably the best we can do. So, what’s economic growth like, 2% a year you say for the past 150? Great, so we’ll forecast that and so on. And the accumulation of technological change is such that:
Even if they did work out that
people could make telephone calls from a smartphone, the person
from 1984 would be awestruck to learn that the tiny instrument was
also a record player, tape recorder, CD player, DVD player, computer,
radio, television, camera, video camera, calculator, flashlight, and a
whole lot more besides.
And what I think is really fun there is that the bloke from 1984 wouldn’t have a clue what a DVD was. Weren’t invented for another 11 years, in 1995. Madsen’s point is of course that the accumulated changes, each perhaps small in themselves, produce and entirely different world in not that much time. This being underlined by our looking back, trying to emphasise these changes, and managing to underestimate them even as we do so.