As a journalist, I recently came across an article from the History Channel that listed seven inventions from the Gilded Age that had changed the world. It reminded me of a commentary I did a dozen years ago based on Mark Steyn’s book, After America. In this commentary, we imagined what it would be like to bring our great-grandfather living in the late 19th century to an ordinary American home in 1950. The poor gentleman would be astonished by the mechanical contraptions that filled this home. There would be a huge machine in the corner of the kitchen, full of food and keeping milk fresh and cold. And he would hear an orchestra playing somewhere and then discover it came from a tiny box on the kitchen countertop.
He would look out the window and see a metal conveyance coming down the street at an incredible speed. It’s enclosed with doors and windows. It’s like a house on wheels. There are lots of these things called cars, but not a horse or horse-drawn carriage in sight. This technological advancement has revolutionized transportation, communication, and even our daily lives. But now imagine you could send someone from 1950 to our world today. I think they would be disappointed to see that not much has changed at all except for computers and smartphones which have become ubiquitous parts of our lives nowadays. However, most remarkable changes took place over a hundred years ago during the Gilded age when most of our technology reached its plateau due to physical limits set by physics and political regulations imposed by bureaucracy that stifle innovation and imagination.
Physics is one reason why much of our technology reached its limit during this time period. We dream of flying cars, time machines, teleporting devices; however, there are physical limits that prevent them from being created due to laws such as gravity and energy conservation.
The other reason is politics and especially bureaucratic regulations imposed by governments that make it difficult for inventors and entrepreneurs to succeed in their endeavors.
It is time for us to roll back government regulations that stifle innovation and imagination so we can continue pushing boundaries in science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEM) fields.