RANKED! The 20 Biggest Changes to Modern Life in the Last 20 Years
Life didn’t always look the way it does today. In fact, just 20 years ago frozen yogurt was barely a thing, porn had not yet overtaken the internet, and the ‘80s still very much sucked. So much has changed since the world handily kicked Y2K’s ass, that in some ways, life is totally unrecognizable. As we hurtle toward the year 2020 (cue the hindsight puns) what better way to take stock of the past two decades than by ranking the biggest changes to have transformed the modern world since the 21st century began? Buckle up, because the past 20 years have been one hell of a ride.
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20. TV and Streaming
TV has evolved like nobody's business. Story arcs are bigger. Production value has multiplied. New types of characters are being represented. Screens are sharper. And the invention of streaming services has made the whole thing possible, all the while delivering premium content right into the palms of our hands. Oh yes, it has been a wonderful time for TV lovers everywhere.
19. Nationalism and Political Correctness
Nations appear to be fending off the rise of globalization by embracing nationalism. A dozen major countries have already elected bullheaded egoists to stoke the fire. Meanwhile, on the flip side, political correctness has gone nuclear, turning opinions into social manacles. The growing divide is oh-so-21st century.
18. Online Dating
Fate has taken a backseat to functionality. Now that we can target and swipe through hundreds of romantic partners a day, chance encounters are a thing of the past. With all of our personal information out there, we're predicting that one day there will be a dating app that links you up with your soulmate after a very precise three-second calculation of all available matches. Score!
17. The Gig Economy
Twenty years ago, having a career in the gig economy meant you were a weirdo. Now, over one-third of Americans rely on the gig economy for their primary source of income. How crazy is that?
In 2003, humans mapped the genome. Since then, our knowledge of DNA structure and the way things fit together on a cellular level has expanded rapidly, leading to developments in gene therapy, cell repair, and nanotechnology. Your grandkids will probably take field trips on a Magic School Bus.
15. Food Science
Human's understanding of how to manipulate our food has grown by leaps and bounds, so much so that we are now creating laboratory-grown meals like the Impossible Burger to help deliver us nutrients while reducing our carbon footprint. At this rate, it won't be long before the replicator from Star Trek becomes a household item you can buy at Costco.
14. The Universe
Our library of universe selfies has grown like a weed. We now have a clearer picture of what our universe looks like. And it turns out the Milky Way is just a cheap solar system in a boring suburb way outside of town.
Back in the day, people had to go to libraries, carry paper maps, and ask around until you found an expert, just to figure out simple stuff like who invented baseball. Now, we can just Google it between bites of macaroni salad.
Everything you do in the digital world is recorded and stored in a giant ugly building somewhere in the desert. This vast archive of information is beyond anything we could have imagined 20 years ago, with billions of bits of new information being collected every second. If you plan on committing any crimes, make sure to moisturize and put on your best blazer.
Wi-Fi is like water. We literally can't live without it. And if yours isn't working, expect an immediate and total meltdown. Though it was invented in 1997, it wasn't until the 2000s that the speeds and coverage areas upgraded to become the ubiquitous utility it is today.
10. LGBTQ Rights
Social justice and human rights have come a long way since 1999. Not only is gay marriage legal, but our acceptance of the vast spectrum of human conditions has finally gone mainstream.
9. Algorithms and AI
Algorithms make the world tick. From social media to search engines, this mathematical tool has gotten so refined that it is used in nearly every industry on the planet. Meanwhile, all of these algorithms are trickling down into the creation of AI.
8. Reality TV
Donald Trump would not be president if not for reality TV. Twenty years ago, shows like Survivor and Big Brother made it clear to network execs that they could fill the same hour of prime time with "reality" for a fraction of the cost of a scripted show. Budgets were slashed, bars were lowered, and orange-faced, purse-lipped buffoons were elected.
From the rise of the pharmaceutical opioid crisis to the legalization of weed in dozens of states, the drug landscape in America is night and day from where it was back when Clinton was insisting he did not have sexual relations with that woman.
6. Quantum Science
We wouldn't be surprised if the fabric of space and time suddenly ripped apart one Sunday afternoon due to the tinkering of physicists. Graduating from mere theory to actual documented findings, the field of quantum physics has accelerated faster than a particle inside the Large Hadron Collider.
There's a reason why Jeff Bezos is now the world's richest man. Because when we want something, we want it now...or in two days or less.
4. Wealth Gap
Rich getting richer? Poor getting poorer? Yes and yes. In 1999 there were roughly 100 billionaires on the planet. Today, there are over 2,700. Things like crushing student debt, monopolization of industry, and taxpayers bailing out banks after being swindled with subprime mortgage loans and credit default swaps, have only widened the chasm. Oh well, at least Prozac is cheap.
Imagine you just got out of prison after a 20-year sentence. The first thing you notice? Every single person is craning their necks to stare down at their hands. You look closer and spot a small, sleek device glowing inside each person's palm. After a week you realize everyone is addicted to this device. Society's brain chemistry has been altered and you feel terrified. Two weeks later, you get yourself a smartphone and walk into a tree.
2. Social Media
The way humans interact will forever be transformed thanks to the power of social media. Good or bad, the methods of communication and social behavior have shifted. Like some Darwinian leap, this is the new baseline from which humanity will now move forward.
1. Climate Change
Global temperatures have steadily risen, arctic land mass has shrunken, the regularity of catastrophic weather events has increased, pollution is running rampant, significant swaths of rain forest have been destroyed, chicken bones are this century's geological sediment layer, greenhouse gasses are thinning the ozone, and most of the Great Barrier Reef has died. To sum it up in the lightest way possible, it's a real doozy. Let's hope the biggest change in the next 20 years is us.