Old Encyclopedia Year Books – What Can You Learn In Hindsight?

Not long ago, I was at a local thrift store which also happens to have a good selection of used books. I frequently go into see what’s there and the inventory turns over every couple weeks or so. On the free shelves they had half a set of encyclopedias. Now then, no one really wants a set of encyclopedias these days, no one except for me that likes to do research to help with my writing, and I suppose even fewer folks would want half a set of encyclopedias.

Nevertheless, I rescued these books from the free pile. In scanning through all this information and yes I have read the Encyclopedia before, I noticed some interesting things in the yearbooks, those add-on books which come with an encyclopedia subscription, or at least they used to when people were still buying these books. In each year book they had all the major events; natural disasters, scientific discoveries, major developments in all industries, and the big events in governments around the world.

What I found quite fascinating is many of the things that we think are new inventions today, were actually invented decades ago. We might think that something is a new development, or a breakthrough area of science, but the predecessor discoveries which are only backdated a couple of incremental notches of the chain came old about long ago. What it also tells us is that whenever a new discovery is a made, people think of all the potential applications and how this will change everything right away. Things never happen that fast.

In fact, it takes years for this stuff to come to fruition, and for it to become reliable enough for some entrepreneur to pick up this new technology and run with it. Sometimes the defense department, or the entertainment industry, or perhaps the healthcare sector will advance the technology as fast as they can, but even so it could be five years until it has proven itself reliable, and even longer until that percolates into the consumer markets.

Although it appears that we are making incredible leaps in technology every single day, and as we read the press releases from various universities and research divisions, it’s as if everything is changing so fast, but the reality is that humans resist change, and so do industries. After all, why should they change something that is currently working for something that is not guaranteed to work in the future, even though it will bring significant advances someday – if they are making money now, why risk something new?

This overall lesson of the speed of technology to market and into our everyday lives is something you can learn by merely paging through the old Encyclopedia yearbooks. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

Pungky Dwiasmoro Hiswardhani

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