Saturday, June 06, 2009

Man on the Moon

As I was putting my four year old to bed this past week, she looked at the moon.She was climbing under the princess covers, in her cute little pajamas, and looking out of the window. As she looked up into the heavens, she turned her gaze on me and said quite seriously, " Daddy, I think we should live on the moon".

"Not tonight, dear" was my response. This is the same response I would have given if she had asked to live with Dora and Diego, or to drive herself to preschool in the morning. With very little thought I respond to many such requests with "Not tonight, dear". I imagine that this is not that unusual a response for a parent of a preschooler. Nothing more was said of it as she settled in for the night.

I thought about the comment, briefly, the next day. She had not asked what the moon was made of (Green Cheese, of course), but whether we should live on the moon. I can safely say that I do not know what the future holds. On its face the idea of living on the moon is pretty silly. The more I thought of it though the more intrigued I got.

I decided to see what strides technology has made in the average person's lifetime to get an idea of how far we have gotten. Give me a minute I need to google...

Here are some facts about 1929 America...
-The Federal Budget was $3.13 Billion
-The US Population was 121,767,000
-Penicillin was first used to fight infection
-Life expectancy: Male 53.6 Female 54.6 (for some of you this might be scary)
-Average annual earnings $1236; Teacher's salary $970
-It took 13 days to reach California from New York There were 387,000 miles of paved road.

I found these bits of information at American Cultural History and at Information Please. A couple of other things I did not put on the list, Vatican City was founded by The Lantern Treaty in 1929, and Leon Trotsky was still a major world figure. This is to say that much has changed since 1929.

I wonder how many American households didn't have a phone in 1929, I would bet that those people did not opt out of a land line because their Blackberry would suffice. I've heard stories of the early 1950's, where people would go to a neighbor's house to watch television because there was only one TV set on that block. I would imagine the majority of American homes have more than one television set. Even without computers and the internet it is safe to say that communications have come a long way since the day of the "flappers".

What else has changed significantly since 1929... How about everything! Medical care while not perfect, as evidenced by the difficulty in getting insurance, is significantly better for everyone than it was in 1929. Diseases like Polio were very scary and very real in 1929, today Polio has been eradicated. If you look just at life expectancy, it is obvious that the quality of medical care has improved tremendously. Thoughts of the hospital at Andersonville are not memories of my grandparents, but confined to horror stories, and history books.

Politically, we have a President who could not realistically have voted if he were alive in 1929, He visited a country (Saudi Arabia) last week that did not exist until 1932. He visited two memorials (Buchenwald and Normandy) to the victims of a war now in our distant memory that would not happen for another ten years. There are any number of other political changes that show significant change in the last eighty years.

If you even look at some popular icons from as late as the 1960's and 70's, you will see the progression of technology. The Foodamatic 3000 that is prominently featured in the Jetsons cartoon by Hanna Barbara is remarkably similar to that microwave I just used for my lunch. It is also easy to take some of the carousel of progress at Disney World as the prototype for Home Shopping Network and even on line sales to some degree.
These are not even the most obvious benefits to technology.

Considering planes now get us coast to coast in three hours, instead of 13 days transportation has made significant leaps in a relatively short timeframe. Commercial air travel started in or around 1914, with the Ford Trimotor being the first American airline in 1925. While air travel was basically in its infancy back then, there is now talk of space tourism (Richard Branson) today.

With all of these technological advances I feel it would be foolish of me to tell my daughter that her dreams of living on the moon are impossible. While I would not bet on it, who would have been able to foresee the last 80 years of advancement. Now if you will excuse me, I need to upload pictures of my daughter to my IPhone so that my friends in Kuala Lumpur can see her visit to Disney.

I relied a good bit on google for information in this piece


Blogger Jen said...

For an interesting read, try "1939: The Lost World of the Fair" by David Gelernter. While he beats some of his points to death (IMO), it's an interesting read about the vision of "the future" in the setting of the 1939 World's Fair compared to our vision of the future today (and why we don't seem to vision utopic futures anymore).

At the least, it'll be something to read over the summer. ;-)

9:26 PM  

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