100 Years of Progress

Peter Diamandes writes a few fun facts about what life was like in 1917 compared with what life is like today. Here's a sampling:

1. World Literacy Rates
     - 1917: The world literacy rate was only 23%.
     - Today: Depending on estimates, the world literacy rate today is 86.1%.

2. Travel Time
     - 1917: It took 5 days to get from London to New York; 3.5 months to travel from London to Australia.
     - Today: A nonstop flight gets you from London to New York in a little over 8 hours, and you can fly from London to Australia in about a day, with just one stop.

3. Average Price of a U.S. House
     - 1917: The average price of a U.S. house was $5,000. ($111,584.29 when adjusted for inflation)
     - Today: As of 2010, the average price of a new home sold in the U.S. was $272,900.

4. Average Price of a Car in the U.S.
     - 1917: The average price of a car in the U.S. was $400 ($8,926.74 when adjusted for inflation)
     - Today: The average car price in the U.S. was $34,968 as of January 2017.

5. Average U.S. Wages
     - 1917: The average U.S. hourly wage was 22 cents an hour ($4.90 per hour when adjusted for inflation)
     - Today: The average U.S. hourly wage is approximately $26 per hour.

6. Supermarkets
     - 1917: The first "super" market, PigglyWiggly, opened on September 6, 1916 in Memphis, TN.
     - Today: In 2015, there were 38,015 supermarkets, employing 3.4 million people and generating sales of about $650 billion.

7. Billionaires
     - 1917: John D. Rockefeller became the world's first billionaire on September 29.
     - Today: There are approximately 1,810 billionaires, and their aggregate net worth is $6.5 trillion.
     For context, Rockefeller’s net worth in today’s dollars would have been about $340 billion. Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, is worth $84 billion today.

8. Telephones (Landlines vs. Cellphones)
     - 1917: Only 8% of homes had a landline telephone.
     - Today: Forget landlines! In the U.S., nearly 80% of the population has a smartphone (a supercomputer in their pockets). Nearly half of all American households now use only cellphones rather than older landlines. And as far as cost, today, you can Skype anywhere in the world for free over a WiFi network.

9. US Population
     - 1917: The U.S. population broke 100 million, and the global population reached 1.9 billion.
     - Today: The U.S. population is 320 million, and the global population broke 7.5 billion this year.

10. Inventions and Technology
     - 1917: The major tech invention in 1917? The toggle light switch.
     - Today: The major tech invention of today? CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology, which enables us to reprogram life as we know it. And we are making strides in AI, robotics, sensors, networks, synthetic biology, materials science, space exploration and more every day.

11. High School Graduation Rates
     - 1917: Only 6% of all Americans had graduated from high school.
     - Today: Over 80% of all Americans graduated high school this past year.

What do you think literacy rates, travel times, the average price of goods and services, or the state of technology will be in 100 years?

Think about this. We look at science and society 100 years ago and think how silly it all seems. What do you think society in 100 years will think of today's science and social trends?


  1. I think that our cultural advances, as highlighted here in these contrasting statistics, are as much our downfall as they are our pride. Yes, the literacy rates, travel times, and average price of goods and services have evolved to create a choice driven market that complements the exponentially growing population - but we are exceeding our biological regime.
    By this, I mean that these cultural advances will mean little to nothing if we cannot maintain our natural world in the face of such a large number of humans to little remaining natural resources.
    If I were to project my hopes and wildest expectations for the advancement of these fields 100 years in the future, I would dream of a world where we return to a co dependence on the environment rather than the exploitation of it. Literacy rates would be utilized to better educate us on responsible use of the Earth and its products; we would use literacy for constructive enlightenment rather than busy work and destructive language. Travel would adapt an eco-friendly application and allow for a decline of ethnocentrism. Necessity goods and services would be available as widely as they are now, if not more, but only be used on a basis of need rather than greed. And lastly, technology will take a back seat to reality and be used in a way that creates a more meaningful way of life.
    I think that humans will reminisce on today's state of science and society to favor the simplicity - just as our generation does of the times before smart phones and computers dictated. People will most likely miss the down-to-earth interactions that we view as accelerated and outer-worldly. I think of the times before cell phones dominated as quaint and peaceful, possibly how a futuristic college student will view my silly iPhone 5.

  2. I am not surprised to see how far the world have improved over 100 years, as technology is advancing everyday. I believe the world would be able to achieve a nearly 99% of literacy rate because of more free education provided by different countries. Travel times would be shorter and cost of travelling would be cheaper as well. Now we already have budget airlines and developing technology to make any destination highly accessible. The average price for goods and services will increase, not only because of inflation but also technology advancement. For example, cellphones we use now and very different to what we have 10 years ago. The novel technology made cellphones now more worthy than we had. Moreover, labor wages increase as labor become more educated and skillful overtime, the costs of goods and services will increase altogether. The state of technology would improve further in 100 years. The advanced technology may not be imaginable by us today as it was hardly imaginable by people 100 years ago. It would not be a crazy talk if we live our lives in virtual reality as the environment were damaged by our rapid development over the nature. Society in 100 years would think of us in living in stone age as technology advancement in 100 years would be making the impossibles now possible.

  3. Very interesting to see the accomplishments the world has made over the past 100 years. I think literacy rates will be close to 100%. Most the world (especially in Europe) education is free. As far as traveling times, i feel like technological advances are playing a big role on reducing our traveling times between cities, states, countries, continents and maybe planets?
    Prices on goods, services and everything in general is going to increase because of inflation, but i feel like a lot of jobs will be lost when we replace those with droids, or robots. I mean, there's already self driving cars and self check out stations at grocery stores and it seems like we are not gonna stop anytime soon.
    Technology will be insane after 100 years. I mean its going to be unbelievable. all the accomplishments we have done in the past 10 years can pretty much set a good future for us for the next 100 years making the impossible possible. Although, I have a feeling that corporations or even the government are going to limit what we produce but we are going to wait and see.

  4. After reading these statistics and fun facts, it is clear that in many aspects, the United States and the rest of the world have come a long way with progress. Of course, like every generation, we often question (and even doubt) the rate of world progress for the future generations.
    I believe that in 100 years, travel times will be much faster as new aircraft, high-speed rail and other modes of transportation are built to be more fuel efficient and to travel at faster speeds. Literacy rates may stay about the same, if not increase, depending on educational development in the countries with the highest illiteracy rates. Technology will be both one of defining benefits and challenges of our time as it will produce more efficient outcomes and higher standards of living while also potentially killing many jobs due to the rise of automation. In terms of the average price of goods and services, they generally rise about every year, with exception of one decrease in the price level during the Great Depression.
    In 100 years, society will think fondly of today's science trends while focusing on how to adapt to some of the challenges; however, many of the social trends of today may be looked at in 100 years with many rolling eyes.

  5. I often think about how extremely lucky we are to be living in the 21st century and how we are in a limbo between an old world and a new one. 100 years ago we wouldn't have dreamed of the technology that we have today, but at the same time the small "silly" technology is the foundation for all the breakthroughs that we've had.
    To be a contributing member of a post industrial society we need more education than in the past, and rightfully so. 100 years into the future I see the literacy rate being at 95+ percent, if not 100%. Internet acccess to everyone is the most important key to bringing the whole world the privilage of information, and in conclusion more opportunity. The cost of living and the luxury of life has increased too.
    In the future, this time that we are currently living in, will be looked at as the turning point for our civilization. With robotics, biochemistry,and genetic editing, and technological breakthroughs it is crucial for us humans to be involved in in our future. The importance of slowing down climate change cannot be emphasized enough. We are living longer and we are growing as a species, we need to take care of Earth. In 100 years i would honestly be surprised if my descendants are able to live in the same way that I am now. Will they experience a white winter? Will there be enough clean running water for their children to have water fights? The future in the way that we are traveling and how long it will take to get to a place will not matter if our offspring cant breath fresh air.

  6. It's crazy how convenient life is with technology. It's even crazier to think that what used to be a three month journey can now be completed within a day with a plane. This is an idea that would have sounded profound a hundred years ago. The amount the human race has accomplished in just a century really is amazing, and it's only getting better. It seems like humanity have accomplished more in the first seventeen years of the twenty-first century than we did in the entire twentieth century.Everybody owns a computer that they can fit in their pocket that can answer any question they want, whenever they want, within seconds. I think the amount of technological advancement is proportional to the amount of people who have received a formal education. This is a figure that has augmented more than ten times what it was a hundred years ago. I think a hundred years into the future humanity will do the same we do now when we reflect a hundred years back and just laugh. I can't even imagine what we'll get accomplished in the next century, but I have faith it'll be amazing as always. (cliche warning) All we've done and continue to do is prove that the impossible is possible.

  7. Looking at the comparison to the world back 100 years, it's interesting to see how today's world is significantly more advanced in many ways and how lifestyles are changing. While things may seem advanced now, I wonder how life will be within the next 100 years of this time. Will everything continue to improve and life quality gets better or will things remain the same as they are now? Either way, there is no denying that the accomplishments made in this timeline has become part of history and it'll continue to expand for a while.

  8. It is insane how technology developed for the last one hundred years. In the present time, our technology is so advanced that the development of even more futuristic equipment is not too far from our hands. It honestly excites me and scares me at the same time. We never know what kind of devices we will be making in the near future. Will technology turn against us? Will the technology that we are developing everyday the root of human kinds extinction? I fear that advanced technology will fall on the wrong hands and turn it against the human race. But we should all be optimistic because we live in an era where anything is near possible. I hope that future technology will improve our daily lives rather than destroying it.

  9. Looking back 100 years in the past it's crazy to see how much we have grown with technology and rise in population more people making more money and having a large portion of the population having at least a high school education. Although one thing that hasn't advanced all that great in the economy which although people are making more money but money isn't worth as much as it did in the early 1900's when the adjust it for inflation. But looking back we do advance greatly in just of a span of a hundred years which is a long time but who knows what the next 100 years has to come with advancements in technology, economy, average salary, etc. Only time can tell.

  10. It's 2017 and there's still no flying cars or jet packs. In my physics class, the book we use is probably no older than maybe ten years and it already is outdated. Hybrid cars were just a concept and for a few year now they have been a widely popular choice for a vehicle. Movies like Spy Kids and shows like Jimmy Neutron kind of sparked my interest in imagining all the things that might or might not be invented. What doesn't seem practical may become the norm in another decade or so. Especially living here in the Bay Area we have to keep ourselves prepared to adapt to these new gadgets and gizmos.

  11. So much has happened in the past 100 years that we all take for granted. Technology has come a long way in such a short amount of time is astounding. The amount we have progressed in the last 100 years was very accelerated compared to the progress of centuries past. We went from barely having cars to going into space in during these 100 years. If we could do that with the technology of yesterday, what can we do with the technology of today? We are still not through with breaking technological barriers and the next 100 years will probably have so many new things in store for us who knows what could happen.

  12. I find it so interesting to see how much the world has changed over the years. I can't wait to see the new things to happen in these up coming years. I want to see how much to world will change in 10 to 20 years. I wonder when they're will actually be flying cars and weird things like that. What I'm kind of worried about for future generations is pollution and all the trash we produce. There has to be a more efficient and green way to prevent the world from getting destroyed more and more. Other than that I wonder when it'll be like or if it'll ever be like the Jetsons. I really used to like that show growing up. Maybe within the next 10 years there will already be robots doing all 90% of things.

  13. It's really interesting to see how much the world has changed in 100 years. And just reading how much of a difference it is from then to now its really amazing. Just looking back 100 years we didn't even have half the stuff we had now, so if I was to fast forward 100 years from now I would say the exact same thing. And we are already progressing towards the future we almost already have self driving cars, that's something I didn't expect to get until I was in my 40's. Also if we can shorten a 5 day trip to a little over 8 hours in 100 years imagine what we would be able to do in another 100 years.

  14. I personally really love reading books based on futuristic utopian societies that eventually go wrong. And I think that it could be possible that in 100 years all these different aspects that are apart of a society will eventually just keep on growing. We humans only want more and more advanced things in our world. But what will happen when it goes to far? Perhaps a war could get started and then what? Maybe it'll be like in the books, a Utopian society like from The Giver or one like from The Divergent Series could be created. Either way our trends will be looked down on or may not even be remembered. For all we know the robots we create could eventually take over.

  15. With time, we are able to learn more about topics we have studied, put ideas into existence, and discover brand new things. Therefore, I believe that in 100 years, a lot of social aspects will be different. I believe that we will be able to reach more people who aren't as educated as we are and literacy rates will increase all over the world. I think we will create new means of transportation that will allow us to get places quicker, decreasing travel time. I think that as time progresses, we are becoming more and more advanced with technology. However, with all these advances, there must be money to support this, and I do think that the average price of goods and services will rise. In 100 years, I feel like science and society will be more advanced and educated in all aspects. 100 years is a long time, and I think that scientists, engineers, and doctors will all make great advancements such as discovering new planets, creating more energy-efficient machines, and more cures to disease. Although this is what I hope to happen, I'm sure that there will be negative discoveries to make in the years to come as well. However, I'm sure that we will be able to move forward from them, just as we always have.

  16. I believe that everything changes for the better, even though it may seem like a huge change or as if it is really crazy, it is really good. Looking at how society has changed over time can just tell us how much advanced we have become, starting with the high school graduate percentage. The reason why all of these high advanced technology things are taking place is because everyone else around is getting educated and are striving out there to expand more ideas. In 100 more years into the future, i believe that everything that we see in movies about the future would come to life. For example robots would be a pals new friend, imagine we already have cars that park themselves. How long until we see a car driving itself? To add on with the things that will occur in the future is that there will be cell phone with holographic and many advanced projects. Technology would always advance and will catch everyone by surprise but i believe it will happen. All these facts just state how much we have grown as a whole over time and things will keep getting better and better.

  17. The progress the world has made over the past 100 years are great, but is it for the better? Travel time compared from the travel time in 1917 is a real improvement, people can get to one place to another more quickly, so that we don't have to waste our time on about for 3.5 months just to deliver mail form London to Australia. But there are some things that we do have to consider that the progress we think we are making, is actually hurting us.
    There are concerns following over population, and technology advances contributing to the problem of global warming. Scientist believe that the problem with global warming starts with humans. Some believe that humans are killing the planet, and it can cause human extinction.
    We can say that over the past 100 years we have made epic advances like higher graduation and literacy rates, and the creations of technology that can save lives, but with success and progress there are consequences.

  18. It really blows my mind away to see how far we have come as the human race and I'm more than sure that if you were to tell someone about the future technologies or inventions they would for sure think that you are crazy. I think that all this new things we have done were made the greater good but then again everything comes with a price not everything is so simply. For instance planes have not made traveling easier but most of all it cut time to far distance place dramatically. Even though it is a great thing it has its cons which is it releases a lot of bad chemicals into the air causing harm to the environment. That is why we need to keep on improving and inventing things that will save money and most of all time.

  19. In my opinion, in 100 years from now, we will be able to travel from country to country in a really short amount of time. We might be able to just "teleport" from places to places by then. It's just amazing to see the technology we have keep advancing as we live. Also in a different prospect, in 100 years, we will probably be communicating with aliens. And I believe that in 100 years we won't need gas. We will find other things to replace gas and invent sustainable energy. And I think at a certain point the population will fall.

  20. 100 years from now, a lot of people are going to think that the technology is as great as it would be then. Just like how a lot of people now think that about the early 20th century. Maybe because the hourly wage went up since 1917, it will be a lot higher in 100 years or maybe the economy will go down. Anything can happen in 100 years. Of course the technology in the future will be a lot more advanced and maybe easier for everyone to use because a lot of people today were exposed to the advanced technology today. It would be great to see how the word will turn out to be in 100 years.

  21. It's so bizarre to see the huge changes there has been in compared to the last 100 years. It's crazy how what used to take days to get to one place from another can now take just a couple of hours. It's also unbelievable how the money value has changed. Try buying a car now for $400. Insane. In 100 years, I'm excited to see what technology will be like then. I can't even begin to imagine what it will be like in the next few years let alone 100 years more. I'm sure prices will rise as that is what seems to happen. I guess we just have to wait and see


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