In the “Ends-of-the-World Every Year Since 1970” post, we focused on some of the most harrowing events over the last 50 years. Now, we get to explore the positive events since 1970. But before we do, it’s important to state the obvious here, and that is that the mainstream media isn’t interested in providing good news to you. Yet, it is these events that will likely have far more impact on our lives over the coming decades than the negative events will. I’ll explain why down below.
As you read through these positive events, note however ironically, that it was much more difficult for me to choose just one positive event than it was to choose just one negative event. This is because each year, human energy, innovation, and capital around the world is trying to make our collective lives better than ever before. Commentary to follow.
1970: Technology: IBM introduces the floppy disk.
1971: Technology: Intel introduces the microprocessor.
1972: Science: CAT Scan is developed in England.
1973: Technology: First cell phone call.
1974: Economic: OPEC ends the oil embargo.
1975: Technology: Introduction of the personal computer.
1976: Technology: Apple Computer company founded.
1977: Technology: First all-in-one personal computer introduced.
1978: Technology: First-ever cellular mobile phone.
1979: Political: First woman elected as Prime Minister in the UK.
1980: Technology: 3D printing is born.
1981: Technology: MS-DOS used as an operating system for IBM’s personal computer.
1982: Medical: First implant of a permanent artificial heart.
1983: Technology: TCP/IP introduced to create the groundwork for the modern internet.
1984: Science: DNA profiling developed.
1985: Technology: The first .com is registered.
1986: Science: Human Genome Project is launched.
1987: Science: First heart-lung transplant takes place.
1988: Technology: First transatlantic fiber-optic cable laid.
1989: Science: Launch of the first GPS satellite.
1990: Technology: World Wide Web introduced.
1991: Science: Internet made available to unrestricted commercial use.
1992: Technology: First SMS text message.
1993: Technology: Mosaic web browser allows the display of images on the internet.
1994: Convenience: Amazon is founded.
1995: Technology: Windows 95 is launched.
1996: Technology: First handheld organizational device, the Pilot, is introduced.
1997: Technology: The MP3 is developed.
1998: Science: Researchers learn a method to grow stem cells in a laboratory. Also, Google is founded.
1999: Technology: Bluetooth technology unveiled.
2000: Technology: Flash drives introduced.
2001: Medical: The artificial heart is created.
2002: Science: Scientists map genomes of a mouse, rice, malaria parasite, and mosquitoes.
2003: Science: Entire human genome sequenced.
2004: Science: Scientists isolate graphene allowing advancements in solar panels, water filtration, and defenses against mosquitoes (#1 killer of humans).
2005: Technology: Google Maps introduced.
2006: Medicine: Nanoparticles designed to guide drugs into cancer cells leading to safer treatments.
2007: Technology: First iPhone introduced.
2008: Science: Large Hadron Collider unveiled.
2009: Technology: Increased use of 3G networks.
2010: Technology: iPad introduced.
2011: Medical: First successful synthetic organ transplant.
2012: Science: Researchers find that CRISPR could be used as a gene-editing tool to remove pieces of harmful DNA.
2013: Science: Voyager 1 makes it to interstellar space.
2014: Medical: 3D Mammography is proven to be effective.
2015: Science: Development of multi-use rockets.
2016: Medical: World’s first artificial pancreas.
2017: Technology: Electric cars becoming mainstream.
2018: Technology: 3D metal printing.
2019: Medical: Scientists at Tel-Aviv University print the first 3D heart using a patient’s own cells.
2020: World: Entire globe coordinated effort for COVID vaccine.
Here’s the thing about the negative stories versus the positive stories. As I said in the Ends-of-the-World article, negative stories are often, one-time events. That’s not to say that some weren’t (aren’t) extremely tragic, disheartening, and downright scary. Part of that has to do with the fact that negative events are discussed on a continual loop on the nightly news. Just think about how many times you have heard the term coronavirus or COVID over the last six months. But for the most part, we move past these events over time.
In sharp contrast, most of the great scientific, medical, humanitarian, and technological breakthroughs listed above (and countless others missed or overlooked) are largely ignored by mainstream coverage and the general public. In large part, most of the events listed occurred with little to no fanfare outside of the community in which the breakthrough occurred. And yet, virtually all of these advancements are not one-time events but offer compounding benefits. This means the impact of these advancements isn’t linear, but exponential.
Look no further than the microprocessor invented in 1971.
Even though the microprocessor was invented 49 years ago, its effects are more evident today than we could possibly imagine. As a result of the microprocessor, the phone you hold in your hands (if you even want to call it a phone given its unbelievable capacity to do other things) and just about every other electronic device that makes our lives easier requires them. And the capabilities that the microprocessor enables has led to countless new innovations that could have never been possible otherwise.
Despite the exponential growth of technology in our daily lives, as we adapt to each individual breakthrough, these advancements become commodities in short order. Back in 1980, could you have envisioned the ability to access almost 100% of the world’s collective information from the palm of your hand using today’s smartphone technology? Something few people could even fathom just a couple of decades ago is now something we throw down on our coffee tables without a single thought.
When we focus on the negative news, pessimism rules our emotions because we can easily observe these types of negative events in the physical world while positive advancements fly under the radar until they become entrenched in our everyday lives without us even realizing it. And when we zoom out as this thought exercise encourages us to do, we realize that pessimism is quite counterintuitive.
The entirety of our lives has shown that pessimism is the exact opposite feeling you should have when it comes to advancements in human progress and, by extension, that of the stock markets.
The market, when it comes right down to it, follows human progress. How could it not? As one of the hundreds of possible examples, most of the component parts that make up the smartphone (and the companies that manufacture them) likely didn’t even exist the day you were born. And now the company that manufactures and sells the iPhone is one of the most valuable companies in the world. This is what I mean when the market actually follows human progress.
If we focus on the progress of the human race and what is likely to lie ahead, it becomes increasingly difficult for me to be anything but extremely optimistic. We must remember that what is being reported to us is the 1% of news that is likely to capture our attention and not the advancements that are likely to lead to a positive, and yet, unforeseeable future.
I am personally convinced, as Nick Murray would say, that optimism remains the only realism. I hope this offers some valuable perspective.
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I am a Financial Advisor in Pittsburgh and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional with Shorebridge Wealth Management. I enjoy helping clients and readers find sensible answers to retirement’s big questions. If I can answer any questions for you, feel free to Contact Me or if you think you might be a fit for our practice, see Who We Serve.