Is the automobile the biggest change agent of the 20th century?

I did not know far back the were being used I just knew they were being used for some mining operations in the 18th century.

Perhaps. But apparently there is still much to learn about this field. As I recall there were two fatal 737 airplane crashes, and another 737 nearly crashed, all were apparently caused by a small hydraulic valve that controlled the plane’s rudder. Just the normal spring loaded piston configuration in a cylinder. The ultimate diagnosis was that piston would stick if the outside temperature was cold at the same time the hydraulic fluid was hot. This unfortunate problem was made worse b/c the stuck valve could switch left/right rudder operation, which caused the pilot to push the wrong rudder pedal to attempt right the plane’s orientation.

Vaccine cut it close for Polio, 1955

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Sanitation: clean water, ‘waste’ disposal.

The way we are going, clean water will be harder to find as the 21st century progresses.

I think that problem already has a solution. Clean water is as simple as a de-desalination plant.

I think you mean cheap clean water.

I’m thinking of our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

I’d vote for rampant consumerism and obsession with “new.”

Pre-20th century we weren’t as rapaciously invested in snarfing up all the goods, comforts, and luxuries we could get our hands on. The new consumerism drove every industry. People will trade in perfectly good cars to get the new model. If the TV breaks, you throw it away and buy a new one instead of taking it to a repair shop. No one patches clothes or darns socks anymore, we just buy new ones when the old ones get holes.

That boils down to continuous economic growth, which itself boils down to the continuous expectation of economic growth. And what that translates to is an attitude that no matter what, we must not step backward in our lifestyles or economy, and in fact everything must continue to get bigger and better.

That attitude is fundamentally incompatible with what we need to do in order to stop the global warming trend that is now unquestionably causing problems. The farther we get into the 21st century, the worse these problems are going to get, and unless we shed ourselves of that “me-first, greed and growth are all that matters” change agent, eventually those problems will change life as we know it into something nearly unrecognizable.

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true enough…

Internal combustion engine. It was the prime mover of autos, trains, trucks, aircraft, farm tractors, lawn mowers, chain saws.

Smallpox vaccine was in the 1800s.

That depends on where you live. In the Middle Atlantic, there is plenty of clean water. Not so much anywhere in the west.

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Not saying that bar codes and microchips are THE agent of change, not by a long shot. But it is interesting how the development of bar coding and microchips has dramatically affected the production, movement, and point of sale for all sorts of goods and services.

Most of us think of bar codes as merely what gets scanned at the cash register. But their greater use is in tracking materials and components in production and inventory control, and even in such things as automated sorting of luggage at airports.

My brother specializes in sales and installation of bar coding hardware and software. I think that has expanded also into microchip reader hardware and software. His work takes him into a wide range of industries, both hard goods and service based. He has been into all sorts of factories and even into some areas onboard a docked nuclear submarine.

The pervasive integration of such technology into the economy is both fascinating and daunting to contemplate, everything from nuclear subs to toothpaste.


Perhaps not the biggest but nonetheless important was refrigeration which allowed food to be transported and stored more safely. When my parents were young their families each had an icebox which had to be restocked with a new block of ice each week. Transporting of perishable foods was very limited back then unless the food was canned. With refrigeration not only can perishable food be stored more safely in the home but it can also be easily transported to very remote areas of the world without requiring canning.


I’m in central FL. Lots of polluted water.

Perhaps this is a version of post materialism

Well not in South Dakota until rural electric. I don’t disagree that the auto was a major, maybe the major, I dunno. But there were just lots and lots of developments including electronic, electrical distribution, locomotives and the rails moving products, and so on. One just fed another.

Of course my FIL was involved in rural electric so I always got an earful of what it was like before the 50’s. At my wife’s uncle’s farm auction it kind of hit home. In his machine shop was the long over-head axle and pullies with leather belts feeding the various machines. The tractor supplied the power for the whole thing. Then along came electricity making motors possible. I suspect each area of the country had a different answer.

Fission not fusion that’s still 30 years away just like 30 years ago :wink:

I would hope to be optimistic and say the respect for our natural world some are regaining may serve us well in the coming century. That is a wait and see…:deciduous_tree:

The Space Force is interested in using fusion power in new satellites.