Over the weekend, my wife and I took in the Perot Museum. One highlight was the showing of the movie Living in the Age of Airplanes. Narrated by Harrison Ford, it was a wonderful brief history of the airplane.
Well, not quite. It was a wonderful look at the impact of the airplane. This is closer.
But, in reality, it may have been the best overview and explanation of globalization I have ever encountered.
We’ve all seen some version of this graphic: the GDP growth over the history of the world. Basically, there was no growth—ever – until the Industrial
Revolution. And then, straight up! Take a look at the graphic:
(This reality was covered very well in the excellent book The Second Machine Age).
In the movie Living in the Age of Airplanes, they had a visual showing something similar, with a moving timeline. I can only describe it: they had a moving time bar, covering the entire 200,000 year history of human beings on planet earth. For 194,000 years, humans could only travel as far as they could walk, or, maybe, ride upon an animal. In other words, most humans never took one step past the 20 mile marker from where they were born, for their entire life.
And then came the wheel.
And then, only in the last 200 years, or so, came machine power… Thus came the train, and then the car, along with machine powered boats and ships.
And the time bar moved to 199,900 years… and then… the airplane.
It was the airplane that enabled us to go anywhere on earth, in the blink of an eye. I don’t have the exact words, but at one point, the narrator Harrison Ford commented that a brief glance out of the window of a commercial airliner enables a person to see more of planet earth than all earlier humans saw in their entire life.
But, it was the capture of global commerce – globalization – that was especially breathtaking. The movie showed a man in Kenya cutting some roses. And then, they started a stopwatch. A dozen roses basically have a 14 day period that they can look good in a vase in someone’s home. From cutting, to truck, to plane, to Memphis (FEDEX), to a dining table in Alaska, it took 3 days and some hours, leaving just over 11 full days of enjoyment of the beautiful roses. In other words, today we cut roses in Kenya, and then display them in vases anywhere in the world. What makes that possible? – the airplane. (And, the incredible business logistics behind such globalization).
I am not a move critic. But I say, without hesitation, check out the web site for this film, watch the trailer, and when it comes to your city, go see it. (I don’t know when it will end its run at the Perot Museum in Dallas). You will understand this modern world just a little bit more clearly.
And, maybe, on your next flight, you will look out the window of the plane and rediscover a touch of wonder.