I have this book on my shelf:
Editor T. White, "Our Wonderful Progress, The World's Triumphant Knowledge
and Works," (1902). 768 pages.
It turns out the complete text is now available at Google books:
Have a look. You will see how the public viewed technology and progress in
1902. I think this was a popular book, because printed copies are widely
available today from used bookstores for around $50. You will see the
extent to which ordinary people understood technology and basic science.
This was an optimistic era, as described by Walter Lord:
The spirit of an era can’t be blocked out and measured, but it is there
nonetheless. And in these brief, buoyant years it was a spark that somehow
gave extra promise to life. By the light of this spark, men and women saw
themselves as heroes shaping the world, rather than victims struggling
(Quoted by me: http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJcomparison.pdf)
This world fell apart in 1914. As British Foreign Sec. Edward Grey said
then: "The lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit
again in our life-time." He was right. We have never recovered, and perhaps
we never will. I doubt that mankind will ever be so blithely optimistic
again, or so willing to trust in science, technology and progress. Perhaps
that is a good thing.