If we are to follow the beliefs and trends in technology, it should be accelerating. Everything from Moores law, to the concept of accelerating returns coined by likes of futurist Ray Kurzweil, to what seems like to be a general belief: technology is ever-accelerating.
I’m actually a strong believer in this “faith”. I buy the argument technology is improving faster and faster, and I think that when we dig into the numbers and graphs, it’s quite true. However, I’m also disappointed. For the last last 5 years, I’ve followed technology development very much. I’ve read *many* books, blogs and listened to podcasts. I’ve added Singularity University events. I’ve even been through a special 5-day program introducing all these new amazing technologies.
And I’m somehow disappointed. It’s awesome to hear about technologies such as machine learning/AI, cryptocurrencies, self-driving cars, drones, graphene, biology and all that get all the “amazing headlines”, but I don’t really feel it touches my life. It all feels very much like hype; all hype that doesn’t really revolutionize how I brush my teeth or how I sleep.
After reading about this whole “ever accelerating technology” movement in 2013, I thought 2018 would look very different. I thought drones would deliver products, some cars would at least be self-driving and my clothes would have some chips in them. Heck, at least I thought Siri could at least understand what I’m saying.
But the reality is that none of above has touched my life yet – probably because of way-to-optimistic deadlines.
Because of this, I thought it would be fun to compare my life from 2008 to 2018. How do my mornings differ? How does work differ? How does entertainment differ?
We can easily get used to technologies. I don’t think about Facebook Messenger and how that has really changed how I communicate with pretty much everyone every day; yet when I think back to 2008… Communication was a mess and I was stuck with MSN (Microsoft Messenger).
To look at these changes, I’ve made up two “rules”.
The first rule is I will look at my life. I will not look at society or how labs work – I will look at how technology has changed MY life. I’m from Denmark and will look how life has changed being a Dane. Denmark is a rich country, and I will probably have experienced significantly fewer changes compared to someone from the Philippines or China – two of the fastest growing economies in the world. But exactly because of that reason, when looking at developments from a technology perspective, a Danish development is more interesting. When you look at the developments in a fast-emerging economy, it’s difficult to differentiate which changes are caused by technology and a growing economy.
The second rule is I will rate a quite a lot of areas on a 1-5 scale. 1 Being “2018 is worse than 2008”, 2 being “pretty much the same”, 3 being “2018 is slightly better”, 4 being “2018 is significantly better” and 5 is “2018 is life changing and going back would be a huge pain”.
To me, before reflecting, I would expect to see A LOT of 4’s and 5’s. If it’s true that technology is improving faster and faster, we would expect 2018 to be MUCH better than 2008, significantly more than 2008 is better than 1998.
This is of course not accounting for S-curses: the idea that a technology has multiple phases, specifically: research and development (R&D), ascent, maturity, and decline… Which we will get back to.
But first, let’s look at 2008 vs 2018. Just a brief summary:
- In 2018 I am 28 years old. I’ve been doing startups for the last 7 years. I live in a rented apartment and I travel a lot.
- In 2008 I was 18 years old, just moved away from my parents and moved to a collegium to study at the university. I lived in a rented room and I traveled a lot.
2008 vs 2018
Starting with purely day-to-day, we will look at the activities that I spent most time on
Sleep in 2008 vs 2018
In 2008 I went out to buy my first bed. I was HORRIFIED by the prices. Any half-decent bed would cost at least 500 Dollars – a lot of money to a poor student. I went out of my way and bought one anyway, and slept very well ever since.
In 2018 it’s pretty much the same. My bed is just a bit better than my 2008 bed, but that’s because my 2018 bed cost more.
Sleep – despite accounting for one-third of our time – has not improved. Or declined. At least in my case, the television in the sleeping room has been replaced by a smartphone, but neither is more damaging to my sleeping than the other.
Maybe there are beds out there that is “changing the way we sleep”. I’ve heard a lot of hype from a company like “Casper”, but I’ve just not seen them in Denmark – or tried them when sleeping at friends. So for now, it just doesn’t count.
I will rate it 2: 2008 and 2018 are similar to sleep.
House chores in 2008 vs 2018
House chores are pretty much unchanged to me.
In 2018 I still have to vacuum, clean my clothes, use a dishwasher and removing hairs from the sink is still a bitch.
You could argue I should buy a robotic vacuum cleaner. But are they really better in 2018 than 2008? I remember I had a friend who bought 5 “Roomba vacuum cleaners” in 2008 to clean a big production floor, and it worked pretty well. And it works pretty well in 2018, assuming it probably works a bit better.
The biggest change in 2018 for me is having more money. I can afford a cleaning lady – and that is a GAME CHANGER. But she was also for hire in 2008. The biggest game-changer for house chores in 2018 to me is a Danish company called Washa. I pay Washa ~15$ a week, and they pick up my 5 shirts from the week, wash and iron them.
To me, I will take rate house chores a very weak 3 – just slightly better in 2018 and 2008, but it could easily have been a 2.
A small note here is that if you look at statistics I’m sure we’re getting closer to a 4. My guess would be the amount of people owning a dishwasher/washing machine/dry cleaner has exploded – so for society, I’m sure it has actually improved – just not in my day-to-day life.
Eating in 2008 vs 2018
I love food. And this is a difficult one for me. In 2008 my budget was ~150$ a month – in 2018 I just buy whatever I want from the supermarket without looking at the prices. This is not even mentioning restaurants: in 2008 I never went to restaurants without a “free invite” from my parents. In 2018 I go out at least a couple of times per week.
Supermarkets and eating home:
However, I think for the basic products, 2008 is pretty much the same as 2018. But 2018 has a lot of very nice surprises for us:
Lots of ecology, lots of healthy products (for whatever food-religion you prefer: low fat, high protein, vegan, no-glucose) and many interesting new products you can use in your food.
I personally feel that going to a supermarket in 2018 compared to 2008 is quite different. The products I can buy is significantly healthier and better tasting – but also more costly. The interesting question then is: is this because I’ve gotten more money between my hands in 2018, or is 2018 just better when it comes to food?
Personally, I think 2018 has improved in two significant ways. First, the products in the supermarket have improved. In addition, I believe that people make better food. The globalization has made people travel much more, so I experience grown-ups making much more varied dishes and of a higher quality. Most of my friends are super good at cooking, and I prefer this food over whatever my friend’s grown-ups made back when I was a teenager I 2008.
Restaurants, I think, have changed the most. The food we have today in restaurants and cafes are generally amazing. If you go to any capital in the world and go to some of the top 100 rated restaurants I the city, I’m always impressed. Food is getting amazing.
I think this is partly caused by the Internet. Restaurants are competing not only on review sites such as TripAdvisor, Google or Facebook – they’re competing on social media where everyone takes amazing pictures and post to Instagram. Delivering amazing food experiences gets tons of likes, which results in more visitors to the restaurant. And this competition happens worldwide, meaning restaurants are in an ever-growing competition to make even more impressive food. I would go so far to say that I think we have a “Moores law” going on in the improvement of restaurants and cafes – they are getting absolutely amazing.
But again: is this because I’ve gotten more money, or because things has actually improved? I believe the latter, but I could be wrong.
I think eating is an area that has benefited A LOT from social media, and it’s significantly better in 2018 than 2008. I will rate it 4.
Communication in 2008 vs 2018: A new world
I think I sent a billion text messages (SMS) in 2008. In addition, I probably also sent a billion messages on MSN Messenger.
Communication between friends and family actually worked quite well in 2008. It was easy to text a friend or call a family member. But not that easy. The communication was often flat and seldom had graphics.
2018 Is very different. Because of Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat and plenty of chat apps I don’t even know, we communicate A LOT more. Not only does out communication contain videos, gifs, images, texts, voices and game requests, we communicate a lot more. I’m writing this blog post while I’m in the Philippines, and I send some images every second day to a shared family-chat in Messenger.
Another thing that 2018 has changed is how easy it is to communicate to people you’re not that well friends with. Back in 2008, you needed to ask someone for their phone number or e-mail, which you just wouldn’t do for a lot of people. In 2018, you’re most likely Facebook friends with hundreds of people, and you can write so easily. This is not even including how easy it is to reach people you don’t even know yet: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and even Facebook makes that extremely easy.
I think communication is a clear “5”. Communication is just a different thing in 2018, and it’s much … more.
Transport in 2008 vs 2018: Where are flying cars?
In 2008, I had a couple of options when I wanted to go somewhere. I could use public transport (bus, train, and metro were available), rent a car or I could hail a taxi.
2018 is better. Public transportation is mostly the same, but we have Uber and other hailing apps. Taxi companies also have apps.
But looking at transport like this is too one dimensional. This forgets a very, very important invention: Google Maps.
Google Maps has changed transportation. It has not changed the transportation options in Denmark, but it has changed transportation. Google Maps are powerful in a couple of ways:
- I never get lost. Ever. This is a big thing, and people simply forget how often they got lost before. I remember a vacation to France in 2007 with my family, and we had to find a hotel in Menton (south France). We missed it by 30 kilometers – 1.5 hours of driving. In 2018 that would never happen
- Transport goes faster. Last week I was transported back to 2008 back when we didn’t have Google Maps. I took a Shuttle Bus, and the driver didn’t use Waze or Google Maps. Result? He didn’t know about the traffic, and instead of driving the full trip in 1 hours which was possible, it took 3 hours.
I don’t know how many times Google Maps has saved me from traffic – either by giving me new directions or simply making me postpone leaving when it’s traffic. Or how many times Google has made me leave early (or late), because I knew the conditions. Amazing.
- I dare go to new places. I’m never nervous to go somewhere new. Next week I’m going to Taiwan, and I plan to just take a train to the country side to hike. I am not going to bother to worry about directions – I can just open my phone and look at Google Maps: what are my options? And it always works. In 2008 I would have to plan
- Google Maps opens new traffic options in cities I don’t know. When I lived in Berlin, I always just trusted the fastest public transport – metros, trains or buses. I never used busses when I travelled in 2008 simply because I didn’t know when to get off. With Google Maps, you can not only see the fare, you also know exactly when to get off and how it works
- You can prepare for a trip in a completely new way. By using Google Street Maps, you know how your destination look. This has really saved my life many times
Google Maps has also changed traffic options in many places. My transport experience in cities such as Bangkok, Manila or even Miami – using Uber makes transport work so much better.
We still need the “real” innovations, such as space rockets that allow us to travel to the other side of the world in 45 minutes, flying cars, a hyperloop or even self-driving cars – but until that happens, I will still give transport a 5 rating because of Google Maps and GPS technology. To me, these technologies has definitely changed the world.
Dating in 2008 vs 2018: Has Tinder changed the dating scene?
These websites worked pretty well. You could write real girls, and they would write you back. The only problem, was that online dating wasn’t really socially accepted. That meant that the girls you would find online often were… A bit weird and special. And come to think about it, that probably also means that the guys were – including me.
So is 2018 different?
My first gut reaction would be “HELL YEAH”. But looking at statistics, not really. Around ten percent meet their significant other through “dating apps”. And it actually makes sense. People in a relationship often assume that you just open Tinder, swipe a bit and you have ten dates setup.
The problem with dating apps is that if you believe you’re a 7/10 in attractiveness, you want at least a 7/10 but preferably someone higher. The underlying challenge is that we have a bias that makes us think we’re more attractive than we are. So dating apps, and especially Tinder, is people getting matches from people they find less attractive then themselves.
I know the feeling myself: I used to get matches with overweight and unattractive girls only. The solution?
Two tactics worked: 1) I went to Asia to poorer countries and got 100+ matches in two days 2) I Photoshopped an extremely good image and suddenly I got matches from attractive girls in Denmark.
My point? Move to Asia or get a better profile picture!
No, seriously. There is an underlying problem with online dating, and that is also why it works for so few people. I would argue that dating apps are probably where people spent 90% of their time trying to find a significant other, but around 10% actually succeed.
Dating apps have improved dating a lot for those few that plays the game and get great photos, but for the rest, it’s a big waste of time. Statistically speaking.
But where do people then meet? Broadly speaking: friends, social settings or through work (or none at all). So the real answer to this question: has technology improved dating through friends, social settings or through work?
And here I think we’re getting close to a very positive result. Earlier, I argued that getting someones phone number or e-mail is a pretty scary and direct thing. And if you work with someone or meet them at a social event – are you brave enough to ask for the contact information?
Well, chances are, you’re much more likely to just click “Add friend” on Facebook – and then you can write.
I’ve no statistics on this, but I would argue that dating IS significantly easier in 2018 than 2008. However, the main reasons are NOT dating apps – those deserve a 1 rating making dating even worse in 2018 – but because of social media and making it easier to reach out to people.
I will give dating a 3 rating. It’s slightly better in 2018 than 2008.
Health in 2008 vs 2018: Are we getting fitter?
In 2008 I was 105kg and had never run more than 2km. In 2017 I ran a marathon. Thereby, we can conclude that exercise in 2018 is much better – right?
Well, unfortunately not. Statistics show that we’re getting fatter. Even more unfortunate, this is a world-wide problem. Just an example in Germany: 60% Overweight in 2007 and 67% in 2017. Just try to add any country and add “obesity” afterward – and we quickly realize we have a problem. Lately, I was in India and was shocked how this poor country had so many fat people.
But while, statistically speaking, this is not better in 2018, that was not the idea of this blog post. Is exercise and health better in 2018 for me?
To this, I will give a clear YES. The following reasons are the game-changers for me:
- Exercise apps such as Endomondo and Google Fit / Apple Health are extremely motivating for me. They make it very easy to track (and show others) where I’ve been running and how far
- Connected smart-weights such as Withings makes it extremely easy to see my weight on an app, and more important, the development of such
- Google Maps make it extremely easy to plan interesting running routes – and when I’m traveling doing a search such as “Running in Berlin” gives hundreds of amazing routes
- There are plenty of books that design easy-to-live-by diets and eating patterns
Are these really unique for 2018?
Well, not entirely. But the technology has made things much more accessible and to me, tracking everything from exercise to eating really helps me.
But the main reason I’m (much) more fit in 2018 than 2008 is not technology, but the fact I’m motivated by other reasons. But I do feel health is better and better in 2018 than 2008 for me, so I will rate it 3.
Entertainment in 2008 vs 2018
This one is supposed to be easy. Netflix, Spotify, and smartphones shouldn’t leave any room for doubt – and entertainment should be a “5 – a game changer”.
But I don’t entirely agree. Compared to 1998, for sure, but I’m not so sure if you compare to 2008.
Follow me for a second:
Supply: In 2008 I had access to ANY movie ever made. Downloading movies illegally was extremely easy in 2008: none of the trackers were blocked and everyone had huge external hard drives with all movies that I knew about. I even remember a guy at high school that had more than 1TB (1.000GB!) of porn on a hard drive.
In 2018, I might have Netflix – but let’s be honest – Netflix sucks. To have the same access I had in 2008, I need Netflix, HBO, iTunes and probably some more streaming services – and I need some database of where I can stream the specific movies. I can still pirate movies in 2018, but it’s much more difficult, I need a VPN and which sites I can use change monthly because they’re blocked.
So the movie supply has probably decreased for me.
(This is again one of those situations where Netflix has improved vastly over the existing cable TV, but compared to the IT-adept (and prior immoral cheaters like myself) population the access has actually decreased)
Quality: Are movies better in 2018 than 2008? Well, they have bigger budgets. But I will actually argue movies are not any better in 2018 than 2008. Because of how the economies work around movies, we mainly have franchises (anyone tired of Marvel?), and very, very few fresh attempts.
I could be wrong, but I see no valid argument that movies, in general, are better in 2018 than 2008 – unfortunately! TV series, however, is a different story. They’re bigger than ever, and we have some amazing shows compared to 2008. Try to rewatch Prison Break and compare it to the production quality of Game of Thrones. Mind-blown.
Seriously, not much left to discuss. Spotify is amazing and makes both finding music and exploring new music much easier. Unlike Netflix, which has so limited supply, I’ve yet to have problems finding specific songs on Spotify.
Spotify is amazing.
Quality: I see no arguments that music is better or worse in 2018 than 2008.
Events & concerts.
Because of how economies work today for artists – and probably also how “great performances” get spread through social media – events are generally really good today. To me, it feels like both events in general but also concerts, has improved in quality. Today a musician cannot afford to be famous for “releasing good music but delivering bad concerts”, because a big share of his/her profits comes from concerts.
This is also more general. Events are a bit like restaurants: they get ratings and they get shared on social media like crazy. This leads to people expecting more and more, and that means more energy and effort are put into events – so events are probably also getting better.
The last thing worth looking at is our options.
Take the extremes of the year 2000. A famous artist would be a “superstar” and everyone would know this artist. And yes, most likely everyone reading this has heard of Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift… But it’s different today.
Back in the year 2000, we would probably have to LISTEN to them! But because I don’t like Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, I can listen to music tailored for me. Options in 2018 are just very different. Not only can I listen to more niche music, I also have more niche options.
Do I like computer games? Well, I have plenty of e-sport options, including 24/7 available Twitch.
Do I like a specific person? I can follow this person on Twitter and Instagram, and see all their videos on Youtube. This has lead to the concept “YouTubers” which I personally don’t understand much of, but, it’s huge none-the-less.
There are no doubt the options of entertainment in 2018 are much better.
So is this a clear “5”? Yeah, it probably is. We haven’t even started to talk about the smartphone and how games, social media, news apps and much more has changed “micro entertainment”. I think that we probably forgot how it feels to be bored today. If I’m at a bar with a friend, and my friend goes to the toilet. My natural instinct is not enjoying my drink or going to talk with a girl; my natural instinct tells me to open my smartphone and look at some stupid app. This obviously brings a lot of ethical discussions (are smartphones are a good thing?), but it’s pretty clear that entertainment in 2018 is very, very different. It’s a clear 5.
Education and information in 2008 vs 2018
In 2008 I just finished high-school. I remember acing biology because I was able to read the English Wikipedia and impress the teacher by dictating articles I did not understand.
In 2008 we had books and the Internet. People still could imagine using this thing called the library.
However, it’s a mistake to say: “they had Wikipedia in 2008, we have Wikipedia in 2018, so it’s the same“. Wikipedia is *not* the same in 2008 and 2018. Wikipedia in 2018 is amazing, it’s trustworthy and it’s one of the most impressive collections humans ever made.
2018 Is extremely impressive when it comes to information. Not only is Google MUCH better at finding whatever you want, there is MUCH more searchable content. We have videos. Apps. We have online courses.
I think information access, and the access to learning anything is probably the biggest improvement the last ten years. Yes, in 2008 you could do this, but people simply forget how bad the online content was. 2018 Is just a completely different ballgame.
So is education also better?
Well, unfortunately, technology has not changed the classroom. Yes, many students now have a tablet or a computer, but unfortunately, that is not really changing the classroom.
I think teachers today have the ACCESS to great and amazing content. I’m pretty sure that a teacher using KhanAcademy in his or her class would be extremely productive, but fundamentally I don’t think the classroom has changed a lot. Yes, the students can get help on any subject online and re-watch ten different explanations of a subject they do not understand, but it’s support to an old system.
I think in 2028 we will see that AI and machine-learning will have significantly revolutionized the classroom, but for now, it’s mostly the access that has completely changed.
However, I will also rate the access 5 stars. Learning new skills or finding some information today is absolutely amazing.
There are obviously some areas I’ve forgotten.
Parents would probably say “where is parenting?”. I’ve no kids (that I know off), so I decided to leave it out. I would assume parenting is more difficult in 2018 because of the many options the kids have today.
Where is work? I found it difficult to rate work, because is work better or worse today? To me personally, hell yeah, but on a more broad scale? Not sure. We have better tools available, but does work feel more rewarding and can you work less and enjoy more free-time? Probably not so much.
Travellers would say “where is traveling?”. Well, I don’t feel it’s a day-to-day activity. Travelling has significantly improved in 2018, probably to a 4 rating for me.
People in spirality or religion could argue this is missing. Well, it is. And that’s because I’ve little idea if this is better or worse. I would guess it’s easier and more accepted today, but that has little to do with technology and more to do with how society sees it.
2008 vs 2018: a summary
We’ve now been through sleep (2), house chores (3), eating (4), communication (5), transport (5), dating (3), health (3), entertainment (5), education/information (5).
It’s also clear that what I rate 5, both society and my granddad would rate differently. Take transport which I rated 5 mostly because of Google Maps and Uber – my granddad uses neither and probably just see we have more cars now and would rate it 1.
This is also why technology is so difficult: for some people, it’s an improvement, for others, it’s absolutely not.
However, being an ego-focused 28-year-old tech-optimist, we have arrived at a pretty nice conclusion: life in 2018 is significantly better than in 2008.
I truly believe that especially entertainment, communication, and information-access in 2018 is so much better than in 2008, that going back would be a huge challenge for me. I also love the gadgets and apps helping me with health, Tinder for dating and much better food – but they’re not life-changing.
So is 2018 disappointing?
Well, to answer this. I will share two graphs:
This is a graph of classic market adoption. I think that I tend to be on the very left side – either innovators or early adopter for many technologies.
I was on the very left side in 2008 when I downloaded movies, and basically had access to every movie ever made. During 2008 to 2018, Netflix has moved all the way from innovators to the late majority with a fully legal solution.
This is obviously very good for society. This is where the “real progress” is: when the late majority and laggards finally get Netflix, a dishwasher or more importantly, access to modern health care. However, as an early technology adopter, it’s less interesting.
I think that the period from 2008 to 2018 has moved a lot of very interesting technologies from the left side to the right side of the graph. Social media, smartphones, entertainment, communication and much more, is not some innovator thing – it’s everyone.
To me, however, I still find 2018 a tad disappointing. Yes, I gave a lot of 5-stars, but I do want robots, AI, decentralized blockchain platforms, smart home, IoT, and drone delivery within 30 minutes. And I want advanced treatments so I can live longer than normally accepted today.
I find these technologies interesting because they will change our daily life more. They will change society. They will bring new structures and change how we work and live. They’re not just a bunch of “5 ratings” – they will bring changes bigger than the internet.
However, this brings us to another image:
I am a very firm believer that all the technologies I studied back in 2013 are on this graph very much on the left side. Autonomous driving, drones, robots, AI, biotechnology, nanotechnology… None of these has started the growth yet.
These technologies are still on the left side of the adoption curve – even on the left side of the left part: “innovators”. IF we had working autonomous cars, it would explode in growth. I don’t know if we’re talking 1 year, 3 years, 10 years or more – but it evolves slowly until the breakthrough happens.
So yes. 2018 is a pretty awesome year. I do love how tech enhances my life, but I do look forward to some aggressive growth rates when life-changing technologies enter the next part of the S-curve. And I do believe if this article was written in 2028, it will dwarf this article.
To the future!