Showing posts tagged politics

NOW AND THEN… (#BysterChat)

I used to love Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid.  One of my favorites was The Jetsons;  I couldn’t wait to see what George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, and Astro were up to each week.  And I loved to dream about whether the life of the Jetson family really reflected what it would be like in the 21st century—with flying cars, robotic maids, and three-course meals served piping hot to you at the push of a button. Even though these luxuries are not part of everyday life today, so many inventions that we now have are things the Jetsons lacked, like email, the Internet, smart phones, DVRs, and paper-thin computers, All of these were created and continually improved upon by brilliant outside-the-box thinkers.  Innovative technologies are typically developed by one company to stay ahead of the competition.  But, in areas where there is not much corporate competition, technology has not advanced much from the time I was in my pajamas watching those classic, forward-thinking animations.

Take, for example, the automotive and transportation industry. True, automobiles are so much nicer and reliable than when I was growing up.  My uncle bought a used car when I was a kid and when he drove us around we had to keep our feet on the seat because there was a hole in the floor and you could see the road go by as you drove (more like the Flintstones than the Jetsons).  Twenty-first century cars are much more high-tech and luxurious than they were back then.  But, today I live less than a mile from where I grew up and it still takes close to an hour to get to downtown Chicago during moderate traffic times, just like it did for my dad decades ago. If there were companies striving for your business in this industry, we might see commercials saying “Take our twelve-lane uncongested route to Chicago and you will get there in twenty-five minutes with rest stops and gas stations every two miles.”  And to stay ahead of the competition, corporations would find a way to make it happen. Toll roads do exist in many cities to divert traffic and lure drivers willing to pay for a shorter, faster route, but this area isn’t nearly as competitive as other industries so there’s less incentive to build more toll roads (and probably a lot more red tape to cut through with local government and cities).

When I was young every year or two we would have a bad storm that knocked out electricity for a few hours.  Now, many years later, we still experience storms that cause power outages for several hours.  In fact, last year in the Chicago area and this year on the East Coast hundreds of thousands of people were without power for several days after a bad storm passed through.  If there were a bunch of companies vying for your electric business, we might hear ads that say, “Our newly improved power lines are made to withstand winds up to 150 miles an hour, and if you are ever without power for more than twelve hours you get the next month free.”

Sixty years from now when my great grandson is watching cartoons on Saturday morning on his 300-inch super high-definition television with 2,500 stations—including the technology to pop in and be part of the cartoon whenever he pleased—he will be enjoying experiences I could not even begin to imagine.  But, if a storm passes through town or his family wants to go to dinner downtown, will he experience the same inconveniences that his great grandfather did?

-Mike Byster


Great video to check out on education and the economy (via Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)