Is it a reason to be optimistic?

We paid a visit to the Ford Museum and the Greenfield Village yesterday. Most striking during this trip is a tiny white board besides the model of the first airplane in the Wright’s cycle shop, on which it says:

“…Unbelievably, just sixty-five years after this, Neil Armstrong took his first step on the Moon.”

A touching story at first sight.

This sentence saved me, although temporarily, from my recent lament over the pessimistic future of man’s space exploration. Is it a reason to be optimistic again?

Yet, I soon recognized that the shockingly short period of sixty-five years is no promise, nor premonition for the future. I had been overconfident because I overlooked the difference in marginal return of technological progress. Looking backward, the six-five years between man’s first plane flight and man’s first moon walk reflect a rocketing era of industrialization and technology boom. In that era, man’s horizon of cognition, imagination and aspiration about what technology can do for us exceeds the supply of technological tools back then to an enormous extent. Thus the marginal benefit of technological progress, particularly with the benefits of loosening political suppression, was steep. Looking forward, today our constraints tightens more in the latent innovation, creativity, insights and will of human species and the coupling institutions than in the technological deficiency. So the technological progress no longer yields high return, as it did at the turn of last century.

I will remain cautiously optimistic, at best.

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