Our Future And Their Future

We can learn a little more about our future by comparing it to how people in 1893 viewed their future. That was the year of the Columbian Exposition, the 400th anniversary celebration of Columbus’s landing in the New World. Then, Americans looked at the future and marveled at the big. Today, in 2013, we look at the future and marvel at the small.

Columbian Exposition attendees remarked often about the massive machines and structures at the event. Blinking at the size and scale of these behemoth things, they wondered at the implications of hugeness in the future. How big could things get?

We do the opposite. In our time everything that is amazing tends to be nano, sub-molecular, and quark-sized. What is powerful–and what we believe holds the greater promise of still more power–is everything unseeable. The devices we regard as quaint–the first wireless phones, the first computers, the first VCRs–are regarded as such because of outsized, oversized dimensions.

And so, the future 120 years ago was thought to be the realm of the big. The future as it stands today is believed to be not just small but infinitesimal. Big was them. Small is us.