I make the assumption that when people in the past
were conceptualizing ideas for the future
(inventions, mainly), they were likely looking at how their ideas would revolutionaize at least one part of society
. They may not have even thought far enough ahead as to how their contributions will have a chain reaction through other areas.
I got one of those feeling from watching (dare I say it) Peggy Sue Got Married, where a woman, after her class of 1960 reunion is sent back in time to her teenage years in high school. I saw her mother, making dinner. I saw mothers making clothes, never getting to sit down at meals because they were always up tending to others. And then I thought about all those new inventions people came up with to make domenstic life easier around that time, all the gadgets and hooey. And then I thought about how dual income households came to be the norm 20 years later.
It's hard to be as idealistic now not so much that world is not worth saving or improving, but because there is so little of it left that is uncharted. We are at a point where instead of coming up with brand new ideas, we are simply working out the kinks of the old ones, upgrading. I wouldn't say this is sad or depressing, but more something that was bound to happen. While technology is boundless in what it can do, the ways in which it is done, I would say are finite. I believe that it is this understanding that is causing most of the malaise.
And so, we do simplify our wants. We are going to be prone to seeking simpler satisfaction in our lives. That is how we evolve. When one avenue seems exhausted, we take another route. That route will also become overdone, and likely when that happens the old avenue will seem fresh by comparison. To be happy as humans is to realize that we can and do go from one extreme to the other in our search for newness when everyone knows there is nothing new under the sun. To accept it and move on.