In earlier times, people wished for jet packs and automated kitchens. Today, we are seeking a good to-do app.
We're all used to hearing pundits decry the belief that "technology will solve all our problems." You hear it in the business world; you hear it -- a lot -- in education. And we have to admit that the pundits often have a point: plenty of people look to technology to provide fixes for problems they can't think of any other way to address. We could all cite examples.
In fact, I would suggest, everyone at some time or another, and for some purpose or another, dreams of a technological fix for some intractable problem. A lot can be learned from Matt Novak's fabulous Paleofuture site, but most of all we see the problems that our ancestors were especially eager to solve. To judge by the ongoing fascination with automated kitchens and jetpacks, half-a-century ago some of our deepest frustrations involved time wasted in commuting and cooking.
Americans have to some degree addressed the cooking problem by learning to eat out all the time -- or, for a few at one end of the socio-economic spectrum, rediscovering cooking as an art form for family and friends; commuting remains agonizing for many, but now instead of jetpacks we dream of Google-driven cars. In general, though, it seems to me, our hopes are now directed elsewhere.