Was connectivity the greatest achievement of the 20th Century?

The moon landing was the most watched television event of the 20th century. That’s the claim and it’s hard not to believe it. Most people who were around at the time, in July 1969 and had access to a television set can still tell you what they saw and where they watched it.

There was no social media back then. Just cinema, television, radio and print. But the message was out there that a man had walked on the moon and the excitement was ubiquitous. On one of the documentaries I watched celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, one celebrity claimed that it was the most monumental event of the 20th century. That got me thinking.

It certainly was big. It was the first-time man had walked on a solid object that was not earth. But it happened in the same century as a human first flew in a powered machine. Surely that was momentous, just not witnessed by as many people.

After that first manned powered flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903, it was just 66 years to the successful manned landing on the moon. Which had the bigger impact on society? It is claimed that today there are more than 16,000 planes in the air at any one time. (Travelweek Online 2017.)

The 20th century also delivered plenty of conflict and many exciting scientific discoveries. Nuclear weapons, with the power to obliterate the planet were designed and built. (The United Nations claims there are 14,500 nukes in the world today). Countries were created and borders redrawn in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In communications, television and the Internet were born (to support the invention of radio and telephony in the previous century) and connectivity boomed; it became a major global industry.

I think this was probably the most amazing achievement in the 20th Century. This enhanced connectivity enabled globalisation, international collaborations and the opportunity to explore beyond Earth.

Douglas Wright