Living in 2024, one of the big questions we have to ask ourselves is: why aren’t there flying cars? And where’s our colony on Mars? If I wanted to break the moment of levity I could ask: why do people still die of cancer? There’s actually a whole debate about whether and why the pace of invention — or, relatedly, scientific breakthroughs — has slowed compared to the first half of the 20th century. But let me not get ahead of myself.
These questions occurred me because I’ve been working on a project that requires some research on family history. And yesterday as I was putting my iPhone in a locker at my gym, this occurred to me: how would I explain the iPhone to my mother, who died in 1981?
When I thought of this I was thinking about photos and social media and a third, really big thing that is made up of many other, little things — not huge individually but vast and ubiquitous taken together — that we do with this small device. What analogues would I use to explain it?