What person, idea, or invention deserves to be applied to these last 40 years (1970-2012)? (Example: "Age of Jackson" or "Jacksonian American," 1829-1841) What would you call this era?
I would go with "Age of Globalization" because it seems that globalization has been influenced and facilitated by technology, but is larger in its impact on the organization of our world. Corporations and money have reformed the world stage - just look at the EU - and continue to do so and this is true in large part because economic borders have become porous as a result (or facet) of globalization.
I agree with the comments about globalization and technology. I would also add that a recent book by historian Daniel Rodgers has argued that it is an "Age of Fracture." Rodgers argues that we have begun to think of ourselves not as a unified, organic society, but as individuals, beholden to nobody. He claims that this is the result of what he calls the "metaphor of the free market" which has gained hegemony over the way we think in Western society. It was a period when national consensus in the United States collapsed. I cannot do justice to the book, which is very sweeping and complex, in this discussion forum, but here are links to a series of reviews by intellectual historians, as well as a synopsis from the book's publisher:
I would call it the "Age of Communication" or the "FLAT Age", because, like the book says, our world has, indeed, gone flat. It is communication which serves as the backdrop to all the technological advances of the last years. Because of it, we can finally reach places where we have never dared to explore before. The gadgets created by the greats are meant to help us communicate not only with each other, but with our own selves as far as reaching within and creating further things. This is also the "Age of Cybercreativity" as even the least educated person is able to become a superstar by developing the right application. For this, I would also call our current times the "Age of Chances".
Technology wise, it could be known as The Jobsonian Era, as in Steve Jobs. His company has revolutionized the way people use and interface with technology on a daily, even hourly basis. Yes, this is the 'Age of Communication,' but Steve Jobs had a mighty big hand in making that a reality.
I think the cell phone is probably the greatest invention of the last forty years. It has changed the way we communicate with each other and brought us closer together over the years. Not only can we call each other with ease, we can text and keep in touch more readily. Nearly every person, young or old, has access to a cell phone and the technology just keeps getting better and better. There are even features on phones now that allow parents to keep track of their children; police use the same features to pinpoint the exact location of prime suspects in criminal cases and track them down. They can also use a person's cell phone records as evidence in court.
I think we should call the last forty years "The Age of Communication."
I think it's the Age of Globalization. This is the major thing that is changing the US right now. We are experiencing so much competition from foreign countries that our economy is changing and with it our society. We were once an industrial nation that was clearly dominant in the world economy. Now we are a nation whose economy is built on services (causing more inequality within our society) and which is in competition with many foreign countries.
This question should be moved to the History Discussion Forum so you could get suggestions from more people with other ideas.
I would suggest that the invention of the digital computer has been and will continue to be the driving force of change in society in the recent past and for the foreseeable future. Made possible by the advent of personal computers has been the explosion of communications methodologies now being called "social media." The Internet has opened up avenues to access knowledge that were unimaginable before the advent of the computer.
Businesses and governments can now track activities and expenses and can make predictions that were impractical due to the volume of data required. Computer-aided design programs are allowing for the development of new materials, methods, and equipment that will continue to revolutionize life as we know it.
Whether you want to call it "The Age of the Digital Computer" or "The Age of Technology," the impact has been farreaching and continues to grow.
If we think of globalization as the decrease in time between place, then cell phones are one aspect of globalization, which has accelerated since the beginning of the electric telegraph and the steam railroad; so I wonder if future historians will associate the last forty years with communication.
Or if communication during the last forty years becomes the hot topic in history books, maybe they will call it the Bardeen-Brattain-Shockley Age because the transistor invented by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley made cell phones possible. Seems like it might be called the Descartes-Bardeen-Brattain-Shockley Age because cell phones use conic sections invented by Descartes.
Also, I wonder if the last 40 years might become the Age of Titanium (titanium necessary for cell phones) in the same way that the beginning of the twentieth century could be called the Age of Aluminum (no aluminum no airplanes), and the end to the nineteenth century might be called the Age of Steel.
As much as Democrats worshipped Jackson, the Whigs must have reviled him. Seems to me, that description fits how Republicans and Democrats feel about Ronald Reagan.
Maybe historians will call the Age of Prosperity, which began in the 1980's, the Age of Reagan.
Also, I note that the USS Ronald Reagan is called "The Gipper" because Reagan, as an actor, played The Gipper in a movie.
So the last forty years might become the Age of Gipper.