The progress that our civilization experiences now is entirely within the first category. The technological primitives your life experience relies upon are are the integrated circuit and the laser. These came about in 1958 and 1959. AJAX and web2.0 turned the web into a much more pleasant version of the green screen terminals of the 60s, and it is certainly nice having that sit in my pocket. The increase of connectivity is certainly a thing, but there is not much a shift in quality of life from people in the late 60s until now. We just have nicer software.
Contrast this from the skyrocketting of Western civilization from 1860 to 1960. In 1860 the quality and expectancy of life of men differed very little from the previous hundred years. No new hygenic technologies had appeared in the past century. There wasn't running water, or lightbulbs.
A long-lived man born in 1860 was witness to antibiotics, the automobile, radio, television, the airplane, the first satellite in orbit, the computer, the nuclear reactor, and the atom bomb.
When I look down at my Android device I just do not feel that sense of awe.
The West carried all this innovation to the world. It was a unique part of our spirit as Europeans to always seek a new frontier. The true power of the West in previous generations was that we were never satisfied with what was before us. We were better because our wanderlust and desire knew no bounds. When there was no frontier of land left, we found new ones in technology.
What I see now is that spirit caged and sedated by a single malevolent force: government.
If you have a serious staph infection in a US hospital, you might have a limb amputated. You might get extreme infusions of antibiotics until your organs fail. In Georgia (the ex-bloc Republic of Georgia, not the US state) they will custom engineer a bacteriophage specifically to eat that strain of staph. It is the best treatment available for a condition which, every year, continually becomes more problematic in US hospitals. Our prolific strains of MRSA are on the cusp of becoming vethicillin resistant, and then we are fucked. The FDA requires each new engineered bacteriophage to be put through clinical trials. You cannot get a bacteriophage treatment catered only to you in the USA. It is illegal. The best option is unavailable to us because it is against the rules.
Want to launch drones in the air, and have them speak TCAS so they won't collide with planes? Too bad, the FAA says you just can't do that. There is no licensing process. There is no way to get approval for you. Stop thinking outside the box, Western man.
Need to power a satellite with Strontium-90, so to balance out your launch costs on a 15 year timeframe of operations? HA. Good luck getting permission from the NRC to for that, buddy. Ain't happening.
I see so many engineers now working tirelessly to get the best solution for a problem and finding out that it is against the US code. That's even before ludicrious systems of civil liability (like patents) in which attorneys gleeful in their subhumanity lord over people actually trying to contribute something useful to humanity.
Me personally? I am awaiting sentencing on two five year felonies for incrementing a digit at the end of a URL on a public webserver. I am going to prison for arithmetic. Fuck this country.
Most disturbingly, even our visionaries have stopped looking forward. I see all the cyberpunk authors writing these "nowpunk" novels about people doing things on blogs. While quite enjoyable reads, I find them a sad reminder that everyone has forgotten how great our future was supposed to be. We are a people that looked at the fragile illusion of success in front of us and said, "yeah, that is good enough I suppose."
We've come to a point in our civilization where innovation is truly despised, and largely banned. You remember the conversation at the end of Brave New World where Mustapha Mond is telling Bernard, who is being exiled, that he too was almost exiled once for some scientific research and had to make a conscious choice to not innovate in a way that could be disruptive to general society? We are there. We've been there for 50 years. Wake up and rebel, you goddamned sniveling morons. We were supposed to be a better people than this.
Confronting all this, I am tearful in the manner of Moneta weeping at her father's frozen state.
Innovation, sleep on.
Me thoughtless, I canst not see thy shackles wrought of US code.
Tyranny forbids me to fan thy dying flames.
Innovation, sleep on, while at your feet, I weep.
I'll see you all in prison.