technological developments, influence on extraterrestrial speculation

Whatever has been the leading-edge technology or scientific speculation of the day has colored how we imagine intelligent extraterrestrials to be. The Victorians began this trend in an age when no scheme, however crazy or ambitious, seemed impossible. A host of engineering marvels and scientific breakthroughs had convinced the public that the potential of technology was almost limitless. Between 1860 and 1900 came the invention of the internal combustion engine and automobile, telephone, electric motor, phonograph, radio, motion pictures, hand-held camera, electric lamp, typewriter, microphone, rigid airship, and electric tram. During the same period, the first skyscrapers were built, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower were erected, dynamite came into use, antiseptic surgery and antibiotics were introduced, and X-rays, radioactivity and the electron were discovered. Suddenly it seemed there might be nothing to which humans could not turn their hands and minds. The same capabilities, but to a higher degree, were projected onto other races in space. Thus Martians could not only build canals, they could construct a global network of them and irrigate their entire world by this means. As radio and telephony became a routine form of communication, so speculation began that beings on other worlds might be trying to send us radio messages. Nor is it coincidental that the first wave of unidentified flying objects, described as "mystery airships," appeared in the skies at the same time as airship technology reached a practical level on Earth. Fifty years later, as the first giant radio telescopes came into use, the talk of the times switched to interstellar communication by powerful, beamed radio waves, while UFOs had made a quantum jump in performance, just as humans had harnessed the jet engine and were learning how to escape the confines of their planet.