This weekend I went to the big aviation museum in Lelystad.

There was a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane as well as a complete 747. A mere 66 years separates those two. Even less time separates the Wright Flyer and space flight.

Not much has changed as far as airliners go. Yes, new airliners have become more efficient. Crew have been largely automated away. But nothing matches the progress in that glorious first half century of aviation, which makes me all the more interested in ideas like Peter Thiel’s theory of stagnation.

It’s also amazing how resilient some older technology is. The DC-3 first flew in 1935, and is still in commercial operation.

In the early days of aviation, the practical applications of flight weren’t obvious. During WWI, a lot of people understood that airplanes would play a vital military role, but they weren’t exactly sure how or what they’d do. I suppose this is a bit like drones, LLMs, and other advances. It will take decades before we figure out how or even if something is useful.