That was interesting to read and think about -- thanks. I hope this isn't the only response.
Absolutely. You hit the nail on the head.... there been an exponentially puzzling increase in innovation and technology over the past hundred plus years? Although these past decades are a grain of sand in the shore that is human evolution, the technological advances we have made just seem to be too much for the timeframe they have occurred in.
Modern technology (which is really applied science) is a runaway "success". (So, from a historical P.O.V. look for the rise of modern science in the early modern period, which is tied to moving away from Aristotle and seeing the importance of the quantitative: as Voltaire said, "Newton taught men to weigh and measure".)
I put success in inverted commas above, because I think there are genuine questions around whether technological advance has made us any better or happier. And it has its downside.
Tolkien, among others, expresses those doubts well. Tolkien was distressed at the destruction of the landscape (and aspects of the traditional way of life) of the English West Midlands:
Americans might find it closer to home, and therefore more relevant to them, to read some of the accounts of North America in the early colonial period, and reflect on what European colonization in the long run has meant. I don't mean that U.S. civilization is all bad -- there are many worse things in the world -- or that what preceded it was some kind of perfection -- that had it's narrownesses and its brutalities -- but it seems to me that when all's said and done there is a kind of force to the thought that people went into paradise and trashed it.Once it had been green and filled with avenues, and groves of fruitful trees, watered by streams that flowed from mountains to a lake. But no green thing grew there in the latter days of Saruman
America As Seen by Its First Explorers: The Eyes of Discovery (Dover Language Books & Travel Guides): John Bakeless: 9780486260310: Amazon.com: Books
But that's a digression.
To return to the main theme, the fact, and pace, of technological advance can't be doubted. I think people often make the mistake of thinking that as with science and technology so with everything. I don't believe that's true. It's not clear, to say the least, that there is any "advance" in culture. Is Aaron Copland better than, say, Bach just because he comes later in time? And how about the genius who wrote Sir Gawain and Green Knight? I'm looking at that not just as a work of art, but as a reflection of the best of that age. The 14th century could be crude and violent, but there you have a serious-minded culture where piety, moral obligations, and courtesy really could mean something, and conflicts arising from what might be expected from a man are explored with great intelligence, sensitivity, and feeling. Many of our contemporaries, including perhaps ourselves, might looks like louts in comparison.
Science and technology are different. There there definitely is advance. There are occasional setbacks -- glassmaking can go into abeyance for a few hundred years, for example. But in the long view, it moves in a straight line. And, yes, it accelerates with time. It's like a snowball rolling down a hill. Take communications. If you compare how long it took for radio, from its inception, to spread with how long it took television to do the same, with how long it took the internet to take off, that can be clearly seen.
Part, at least, of the explanation for that would be that technological knowledge is cumulative. Those who come later are able to easily take possession of what were originally impressive hard-won achievements.