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History and the change in human civilization are driven by scientific and technological innovations. Below is a timeline of some breakthroughs in the last 500 years; the list could be a lot longer, and the pace of innovation has increased dramatically in recent years. One of the reasons for this acceleration is synergy: we can use innovations like computers to invent even smarter things and revolutionize every area of life.

Technological progress does not translate into real progress for humanity.

  • Mid-13th Century: Gunpowder. 1
  • 1453 Gutenberg invents the Printing Press.
  • 1769 Steam engine, around 1769. This drives the industrial revolution.
  • 1821 Michael Faraday invents the first electric motor.
  • 1876 Alexander Bell makes worlds first long distance telephone call.
  • 1903 First airplane flight, Wright brothers.
  • 1910. Haber – Bosch Process: Fertilizer Revolution. 2
  • 1945 Atomic bombs were invented, and the United States used two of them to end the war with Japan.
  • 1969 First man lands on the moon.
  • 1977 The first personal computers come on the market.
  • 1991 CERN publicizes the new World Wide Web project.
  • 2003 Decoding of the human genome complete.
  • 2015 Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes mainstream. It is based on machine learning and increased sensor capabilities and data collection.
  • 2019 We are approaching “quantum supremacy,” the point when a quantum computer can beat a classical one in useful applications. The convergence of AI and quantum computing will introduce a new technological period with unforeseeable technological opportunities.

 

Notes:

  1. Gunpowder is discovered in the West, probably introduced to the Islamic world by the Mongols who got it from China. It seems the Chinese invented gunpowder already in the 9th century. The invention was introduced to Europe, and it revolutionized warfare. Castles became obsolete after the introduction of gunpowder.
  2. This is a chemical nitrogen fixation process and enabled the industrial production of ammonia. Nobel prizes for these breakthroughs were awarded in 1918 and 1931.