The next time you leave the house to get your morning coffee or to run a grocery run, take a moment to slow down and truly appreciate the marvels you are surrounded by. From the cars zipping by to the phones in everyone’s hands. The world we currently live in is so mind-blowingly sophisticated that if any person from any past era of human history were to be brought to this time period, they would most certainly think they had eaten something funny and were hallucinating really hard.
All of this has been thanks to the hard work and effort of society’s greatest people: scientists. Science, the study and understanding of the world around us, is without a doubt the strongest tool our species has ever conceived. And, thanks to some truly amazing men and women who always sought to make life better for everyone around them, we today stand on the shoulders of these giants and live a quality of life even emperors and kings of the largest bygone empires and kingdoms would be envious of. So let’s take a moment to truly appreciate how much our lifestyle has changed due to these scientific wonders, and how it will continue to do so in the coming decades and centuries.
We Tricked a Rock into Thinking for Itself
A famous quote by science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke goes, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And this quote holds especially true when we forbid the inventors of these technologies from explaining it to us how their creations work.
Take a computer for example. The modern computer is easily the most important invention of the last century. It wasn’t until we had computers bearing the brunt of our workload that technological progress exploded. But what is a computer exactly? You can point out all the bits and pieces inside it; like the processor, the memory, the motherboard etc. But what exactly are they all made of?
Well, if you were to explain the construction of a computer – specifically the processor – in the simplest way possible, you could say that we took a rock, flattened it, filled it with lightning, and made it think for itself. Of course, that explanation is stretching the concept of simplified explanations by quite a bit, but it is technically true. And if you were to try to explain the workings of a processor to someone from the Middle Ages, this would perhaps have been the only way you would have been able to make sense to that person. And then you would be burned at the stake for partaking in witchcraft.
Dying Children and Short Lifespans Were Commonplace
To put into perspective just how much our survival has benefitted from scientific (in this case medical science) discoveries, consider this: before the 1900’s, half of the people on Earth died before the age of 5. Just imagine that, 50% of everyone born would die as a toddler. Just as recently as 1950, the mortality rate was over five times as much as it is today.
Most of these deaths were due to illnesses that are a joke today. Diseases like measles, polio, dysentery, and chicken pox were extremely commonplace and claimed hundreds of millions of lives of children. And now look at us today, these are all illnesses we get vaccinated for as children and then we never have to worry about them ever again for the entirety of our lifetime. That is how much the advent of modern medicine has impacted our survivability rates, and we take it all for granted and never give it a second thought.
We Conquered the Skies, and Then Even Beyond
The Wright brothers have gone down in history as two of the most amazing and gifted men in human history, and for very good reason. Just a couple centuries back the concept of people ever being able to soar through the skies like birds was called lunacy. And then along came these two gentlemen that revolutionized travel forever. What used to take a year by horseback, months by boat, and months by train or car, became a matter of hours as the airplane was invented and subsequently improved on.
But this wasn’t enough for our ever curious and ever inventive species. We had to go further, and we did; when in 1969 the United States landed men on the moon in an ultimate show of force and technical skill to the USSR. And it only improved from there, with mankind now having nearly six thousand satellites in orbit around our planet, roving robots on our sister planet of Mars, and a probe that has now exited our solar system. We continue to dream big when it comes to Space, with plans of colonizing Mars already seeming like a very likely probability in the very near future.
Augmented Reality and CRISPR
The above-mentioned technologies and scientific wonders are only things that have been invented and accepted as mainstream items. That has all been mostly concentrated within the span of a hundred years, and we are only just getting started on the potential for science to truly change our lives forever. Very soon, we will have cities and common consumer goods that are portrayed in science fiction media today.
Augmented Reality seems to be something that has been improving in its application and use very rapidly these last few years. It seems that very soon it would be considered normal to have an implant that enhances your vision not only visually, but by providing you with an overlaid Heads-Up Display that would let you interact with the world around you in ways never thought possible before. You wouldn’t need to pull out your phone to look up something on the internet if you could literally get a text box of its description in your vision next to that item.
And then we have CRISPR technology that is only just gaining some traction. When this gets fully developed, we would be editing a person’s genes before they’re even born as if it was as common as watching TV on a Saturday afternoon is today. Genetic defects would be corrected while the person is still in the womb, and other benefits of gene alteration technology would also be possible; like selecting superior physical traits and removing genes that carry a generational illness or weakness of some sort.
This was but a brief outlook on what we have accomplished as a species so far thanks to scientific discoveries, and what remains possible for us in the near future. We haven’t even mentioned artificial intelligence and quantum computing, all of which could be just as influential to the development of our species as the invention of the computer and electricity was. If the thought of artificial intelligence intrigues you, be sure to give our post on A.I and the possible robotic revolution a look. Want to read about those fine folks who make all this possible for you? We’ve got a nice informative article on pioneering women scientists you might enjoy.