Are we living in an age of increasing change?

A couple of month ago I listened to a consultant saying that the last 150 years have seen more change than any time before. On this I can mostly agree. But then he said that the speed of change is increasing. On this I can only disagree.


To see how fundamentally wrong he was, let´s imagine a scenario where someone has fallen asleep in 1870 and wakes up again in 1920. Among the things this person has to learn are cars, airplanes, telephones, cinema and radio. He or she has to learn that women gained the right to vote in a significant amount of countries and are allowed to attend universities. That person has to learn that three emperors have lost their throne, that the map of Europe has significantly changed, that bolshevism and fascism have entered the political stage. In science our sleeping person has to learn words like genetics, relativity, quantum physics and psychoanalysis. In the meantime the second industrial revolution has seen the rise of huge chemical and electro technical companies. And nights are no longer what they used to be thanks to light bulbs.


Now try the same scenario for the years 1970  to 2020. The fall of the Berlin wall, the collapse of communism as well as the rise of the Internet are all truly impressive events but beyond this the list of changes soon comes to an end. Everything else is just an endless amount of footnote of inventions made around 1900. It seems that change, in fact, is becoming slower and we just believe that it is getting faster because Western society is getting older and receiving more information about things of lesser importance. This is why we should give up the thought that change is increasing. If history is still a subject in the year 2200, students will still learn about the amazing years between 1770 and 1820 as well as 1870 and 1920. The years 1970 to 2020 will not feature prominently in history books.