It’s easy to be disenfranchised with the state of our lives. And those thoughts can lead to an idea that some other people in the past had it better. And it’s true, SOME people in the past had it better, but currently the average person has more opportunity than the average person of any other historical period from what we know. Much of this can be attributed to mobility.
When talking about mobility, there are two types I’m concerned with, geographic and economic.
As far as geographic mobility goes, there is no doubt, that it has drastically increased. A 1000 years ago, most people were born, lived and died in a small geographical range, likely the same village. There were horses and boats to move around, but that’s about it.
100 years ago, the automobile was already invented and the railroads were built, and so geographical mobility increased. Commercial air travel, wasn’t yet a reality, and 10 years ago, we are well established in commercial air travel. Not much mobility wise has changed in the last 10 years, and there isn’t much to be improved upon with actual range, other than space exploration. Efficiency and speed improvements are mostly what remains from a technological standpoint.
Economic mobility has a similar trajectory, and is tied to two things, education and connection, with connection itself being tied at least partially to geographical mobility. Economic mobility is mostly about sales. Can you sell your services, or goods to people who can use them? Education allows for the goods and services to be more marketable through higher knowledge, such as a doctor, or an engineer making a car as opposed to a door stop. And connection helps people find their customers. Even if you’re an employee, you sold yourself to get hired.
What does connection of the past look like?
A 1000 years ago, a medical practitioner probably worked under nobility or the church. They helped people nearby who came to them. In times of war, they may have been called upon to help the soldiers stay healthy. 100 years ago there was two shifts from most of the centuries before, the phone existed, and the car was invented. That lead to the invention of house calls. A doctor could travel between numerous towns in an area, and since the technology wasn’t as advanced, most times this was fine with just equipment the doctor could carry. 10 years ago, the doctor could fly across country if he was specialized enough for an operation to warrant it.
The doctor example leaves out a bit on the sales side of things. So, imagine an enterprising individual selling his goods. 1000 years ago, he may ride town to town. 100 years ago, he may drive town to town. Or try to find customers by calling. 10 years ago, he’s building a website to market his goods, advertising on tv, and advertising on radio. Today, he’s connect on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, as well.
The ability to find and connect with people who want what you are selling, which may be yourself and your skills, is the limiting factor in economic mobility, it’s at the highest level that it has ever been in history.
The problem now isn’t “How would I ever connect with the right people?”
It’s, “Which people do I want to connect with, and what do I want to share with them?”
If there is a negative to the current era, it’s that connecting is so easy, competition for finite attention is rising. That is a new change, one that hasn’t been seen before in history, but the answer that is starting to manifest itself, and will continue will be differentiation. Smaller brands, more products, all seeking their own aesthetic, usefulness, quality, etc, in order to serve specific groups.