The Good News is that Technologies accelerate exponentially
And because of their exponential growth, the green technologies required to fixing most—if not all—of today’s biggest challenges already exist or will soon be invented. Below, some historic examples to demonstrate this point:
Today, one hour of artificial light costs you less than a second of work on average wage. Had you been using a kerosene lamp in the 1880s, you would have had to work for 15 minutes to pay for that light. And from a sesame-oil lamp in Babylon in 1750 BC, you would have had to work for 50 hours… a 350,000-fold time-saving difference between those Babylonian times and today.
In the 1800’s, going from Boston to Chicago via stagecoach—the fastest way—took two weeks and cost a month’s wages. Today, it takes two hours and costs less than a day’s wages.
Stagecoach in the American West, ca. 1869.
“Osborne 1” by Bilby licensed under CC BY 3.0.
The Osborne 1 was the first commercially successful portable computer. Released in 1981, it weighed 23 pounds and cost $1,795. Compared to the Osborne 1, the first iPhone—released in 2007—weighed 1/100th as much, at 1/10th of the cost, with 150 times the processing speed and 100,000 times the memory.
The average American enjoys a better quality of life than the world’s richest men enjoyed 100 years ago. Today, anyone with a smartphone has better access to information than an American President had just 30 years ago.
Henry Ford, American industrialist, and founder
of Ford Motor Company.
Similar exponential trends can be observed in green technologies. As an example, crystalline silicon solar cell prices have fallen from $76 per watt in 1977 to $0.76 per watt in 2012—an impressive 99% improvement in 35 years. Yet, the Department of Energy currently projects a 75% cost reduction in photovoltaic technology in just 10 years (2010-2020).
In recent years, scientists at American federal research labs have invented more than 18,000 energy efficient and renewable energy technologies. Many more green technologies are periodically conceived at American Universities and around the world.