This is very problematic for the Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think view of the world because science itself has become much more complex. For the most part, we’ve moved on from one guy with a microscope making discoveries in his basement to large teams of scientists, working with millions of dollars worth of equipment, and spending untold sums to make advances. Debatably, even these moves forward are inferior to those we made in the earlier parts of the 20th century, as Mark Steyn ably explained in his book After America: Get Ready For Armageddon,
Picture a man of the late nineteenth century, perhaps your own great grandfather, sitting in an ordinary American home of 1890. And now pitch him forward in an H.G. Wells machine, not to our time, but about halfway — to that same ordinary American home, circa 1950.
Why, the poor gentleman of 1890 would be astonished. His old home is full of mechanical contraptions. There is a huge machine in the corner of the kitchen, full of food and keeping the milk fresh and cold! There is another shiny device whirring away and seemingly washing milady’s bloomers with no human assistance whatsoever! Even more amazingly, there is a full orchestra playing somewhere within his very house. No, wait, it’s coming from a tiny box on the countertop! The music is briefly disturbed by a low rumble from the front yard, and our time traveler glances through the window: A metal conveyance is coming up the street at an incredible speed — with not a horse in sight. … What marvels! In a mere sixty years!
But then he espies his Victorian time machine sitting invitingly in the corner or the parlor. Suppose he were to climb on and ride even farther into the future. After all, if this is what an ordinary American home looks like in 1950, he imagines the wonders he will see if he pushes on another six decades!
So on he gets, and sets the dial for our own time.
And when he dismounts he wonders if he’s made a mistake. Because aside from a few design adjustments, everything looks pretty much as it did in 1950: the layout of the kitchen, the washer, the telephone. … Oh, wait. It’s got buttons instead of a dial. And the station wagon in the front yard has dropped the woody look and seems boxier that it did. …. And the refrigerator has a magnet on it holding up an endless list from a municipal agency detailing what trash you have to put in which colored boxes on collection days. But other than that, and a few cosmetic changes, he might as well have stayed in 1950.
People may protest that this is too cynical of a read. After all, we have the Internet, artificial hearts, and microchips in the last fifty years. But where are the flying cars, holodecks, laser guns, cybernetic enhancements, and the universal free energy? You may laugh, but that’s the sort of revolutionary progress we’d need to see from 1960 to the present to compete with the sort of changes men like Einstein, Edison, Tesla, and Marconi managed to make possible in their time. Meanwhile, we’re no longer even capable of going back to the moon and getting the flag we put there in 1969.