The average person lives about 80 years. There has been some form of human civilization for about 20,000 years. Because of that, it’s really hard to think about how other people lived, not that long ago.
100 years ago many people still lacked electricity, running water, and telephone service.
50 years ago most families had only one television, one telephone, and one car.
35 years ago most homes didn’t have a computer.
25 years ago most people didn’t have a cell phone or even a pager.
10 years ago most people didn’t have high-speed internet or a smartphone.
We barely think about these things as we go through our lives, but the way we live today, just the ability to turn on a light switch, was something that 99.9% of civilization didn’t have. Looking at how people lived 200 years ago, that seems like a long time. Yet, it’s only 1% of the time that people have lived in cities and towns. Life in 1816 was quite different and we all know it. There was no modern medicine, no anaesthesia, no real-time communication at all. Traveling more than a few miles meant packing for an overnight stay and going cross-country meant never seeing your family again.
When you really sit down and think about it, the life we live today is an incredibly recent invention and as quickly as it has all come, it could all go. That’s a scary thought when you realize how reliant we are on modern forms of communication today. How would you cope if you couldn’t look on your phone for information? How would you survive without modern medicine? How would you understand the world around you if the only thing you had to light your way was a gas lamp?
Of course, we all hope we never have to find out what it was really like just 200 years ago, when the average life expectancy was 45 and when the only food you could get in the winter was food you’d put in storage three months ago. Let’s all take a moment to stop and be amazed at just how far we’ve come in just 1% of recorded history, and gaze with wonder at what the next 1% of recorded history could be like.