Sputnik was in the 1950s, computers happened in the late 40s, and yes, we're calling the time period these things were invented to be 1909 through 1959 or 1919 to 1969; whatever. Compare to the following 50 years of 1959 to 2009... Or compare 1969 to 2019; whatever; doesn't matter. One chunk of time; the EARLY chunk of time demonstrates enormous and obvious progress. The other one contains the iphone and "personal computers." One of them represents a preposterous increase in actual, measurable human power over nature. New things were possible that were not possible before. The other one represents an increase in distractions available to individuals.
>Your military-usefulness definition is interesting, but I think limited, and ignores how competition between societies has changed in non-military ways.
Indeed it does ignore this change, very self consciously so. Imagine if we're playing a game of "Civilization." Which invention, which requires the limited resources of the civilization to be dedicated to its development, confers advantage over the other civilizations? Atom bombs and antibiotics and the invention of computers in the first place, or personal computers and smart phones? Pretty sure the first couple of them are giant leaps forward which means your civilization dominates the other one. Maybe networked computing helps too, if you can use them to subvert the other cultures, but it sure don't look like it from where I am sitting!
>But this is wrong? Productivity stalled in the '70s, just as chip improvements really started to skyrocket!
Yes: that's the point! It may have stalled because the smart people were fucking around uselessly with chips and their useless biproducts when they could have been, say, building better solar or other non-carbon power technologies, or, like Gerald O'Neil's space colonies!
Anyway, it's been fun! Thanks for the conversation.